29011 - Historical Avant-garde and Neo-Avant-garde Movements (1) (2nd cycle)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Industry, innovation and infrastructure Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have learned about historical-artistic relationships between the historical avant-gardes of the early 20th Century and the neo-avant-gardes, from the 1960s to the present day. The course will take an international perspective, which will also account for new forms of exploitation and diffusion of contemporary artistic heritage. More specifically, the students will acquire the skills to use his or her knowledge to conduct autonomous research to understand and critically analyze the main contemporary artistic expressions.

Course contents

The course aims to analyze the spread of the avant-garde of the twentieth century by investigating ways of production and the circulation of works and ideas, as well as the promotion and evaluation systems that have accompanied the emergence of these artistic phenomena. In particular, the course aims to critically examine the formation and promotion of the groups of artists and movements called “avant-garde".

The lessons are organized around case studies, for example of an exhibition or group of exhibitions, a personality, a network of relationships or the activity of a gallery. The course aims to demonstrate the complex network of relationships, conditions and situations that characterise the art ecosystem, which includes artists, critics, gallery owners, patrons, curators, journalists, merchants, museum directors and so on.

The course is divided into two parts. The first part is conceived of as a theoretical preparation provided by the teacher, who in a series of lectures introduces and examines the evolution of avant-garde phenomena over the course of the twentieth century. The second part focuses on a specific topic. This part has a laboratory structure and is intended to allow students to practically apply what has been learned.

Part 1: Avantgarde and the art world. From the beginning of the XXth century to today

The lectures follow a chronological organisation, starting with the emergence of the dealer-critic system and the spreading of the first European avantgardes. We then examine the international emergence of contemporary art movements from the planetary affirmation of conceptual art, to more recent cases as the Young British Art of the 1990s and Chinese Pop. For each lesson, readings in the form of scientific articles or book chapters are assigned. Students must read the texts and actively participate in the discussion.

Avantgarde movements are analysed from the point of view of their affirmation and relationship with the system. Particular attention will thus be given to key figures or topics such as: artists as leading personalities, gallery owners as promoters of emerging artists, the relationships of merchants and collectors with artists, museum directors and curators as figures who have allowed some movements and concepts to be placed in the public attention and so on.

For each lesson, readings in the form of scientific articles or book chapters are assigned. Students must read the texts and actively participate in the discussion.

Part 2: Contemporaneity and the "exhibitionary system" 

The second part of the course focuses on the evolution of the recent art system. In particular, this part is devoted to the understanding of the "exhibitionary system" of major international exhibitions and to the dissemination of the the concept of 'contemporaneity'. Seminal episodes will be taken as points of departure for analysing specific issues (biennalization, globalization of the art market, and contemporaneity theories).

Linked to this second part of the course, is the preparation of a paper. Each student is required to submit a final paper, to be delivered before the exam. Details and guidelines for the preparation of the exam assignment are provided at the beginning of the course.


The proposed bibliography consists of scientific articles, essays and book chapters.

The essays are made available to students via the 'teaching resources on virtuale' link.

Selected readings are taken from these and other volumes:

Alle origini dellarte contemporanea, a cura di Giuseppe di Giacomo e Claudio Zambianchi, Editori Laterza 2008

Antonello Negri, L’arte in mostra. Una storia delle esposizioni, Bruno Mondadori 2011

Clarissa Ricci, Aperto 1980-1993, La mostra dei giovani artisti della Biennale di Venezia

Alessandra Troncone, La smaterializzazione dellArte in Italia, 1967-1973, Milano 2014


Non-attending students must contact the teacher in time and must integrate the readings with the following volumes:

Roberto Pinto, Nuove Geografie Artistiche, Postmediabooks 2012

Hal Foster, Il Ritorno del Reale. L’avanguardia alla fine del Novecento, Postmediabooks 2006

Francesco Poli, Il sistema dell'arte contemporanea. Editori Laterza


Teaching methods

Lectures and seminar meetings.

Assessment methods

Learning is assessed taking into account performance on both the written and the oral exam.

50% written work

The topic of the written paper is agreed on with the teacher, and the paper must be delivered within one month of the end of the course lessons. The paper is part of a project that is carried out in the second part of the course. All students participate in this project.

50% oral exam

The oral exam is aimed at verifying the student’s knowledge of the material covered in the lessons and the readings assigned during the first part of the course. Therefore, questions will be asked both on the readings in the bibliography and on notes taken during the lessons.

Teaching tools

Interactive presentations, videos and PowerPoints

Office hours

See the website of Clarissa Ricci