Visitors are introduced to the exhibition by a mirror reflecting the busts of Palladio and Thomas Jefferson. This raises the initial question in the show: how are forms and ideas “reflected”? Why, in this case, was an architect from a province in Northern Italy adopted as a model for the construction of the architecture of the New World?
The answer is linked to another fundamental question: what is Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the man who drafted the Declaration of Independence and was the third president of the United States, doing in a museum of architecture? The reason is that he more than any other American shaped the face of the new nation through art, architecture and regional planning. Visionary but also pragmatic, he was both a man of action and an intellectual who knew Latin and Greek. And he was convinced that the New World could only be built through reason and beauty.
Jefferson and Palladio. Constructing a New World is the first-ever exhibition dedicated to the great American Palladian in Europe. It will enable visitors to explore Jefferson's world, his art collections, architectural designs, dreams, and also his contradictions, through drawings, sculptures, precious books, architectural models, films and multimedia. The exhibition also features 36 photographs by Filippo Romano, the result of a photographic survey specifically conducted in Virginia in Spring 2014. There are also three precious original bozzetti (models) by Antonio Canova for a statue of George Washington, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson.
Visitors can enhance their experience of the exhibition by downloading a free smartphone app with descriptions by the curators and so move through the rooms accompanied by their words.
The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Mario Valmarana, the still greatly cherished professor at the University of Virginia who devoted his life to creating bridges between Palladio’s Veneto and Jefferson’s Virginia. Sponsored by Roberto Coin, the exhibition has been made possible thanks to the support of the Regione del Veneto, the Fondazione Cariverona and Dainese, and is the result of collaboration with the Fondazione Canova di Possagno and the Stiftung Bibliothek Werner Oechslin, Einsiedeln, Switzerland. The exhibition is also part of a joint project developed with the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, which in October 2014 staged the photographic exhibition Found in Translation: Palladio-Jefferson. A narrative by Filippo Romano.
The exhibition has been curated by Guido Beltramini and Fulvio Lenzo, with the support of an Advisory Committee, chaired by Howard Burns (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa), and composed of James Ackerman (Harvard University), Bruce Boucher (University of Virginia), Travis C. McDonald (Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest), Damiana Paternò (IUAV, Venice), Mario Piana (IUAV, Venice), and Craig Reynolds (University of Virginia). The catalogue (available in English or Italian) is published by Officina Libraria.
The exhibition layout has been designed by Alessandro Scandurra.