ABSTRACT

During the Ethiopian Campaign (1935–1936), the Fascist government started to take seriously the promotion of contemporary art in the United States and continued to do so until Italy entered the Second World War (1940). The regime acted in two ways: at first, during the years 1935–1938, it sponsored private initiatives of Italian dealers and critics operating in America; then, starting in 1939, it directly participated in international fairs and exhibitions held in the United States as organizer and lender of contemporary Italian art shows. This chapter considers five main enterprises. The first two are the exhibitions organized by two Roman gallery owners with the government's financial and bureaucratic support. In 1935, art critic and dealer Dario Sabatello curated the Exhibition of Contemporary Italian Paintings, a large survey, which traveled the country for more than one year. In 1937, the renowned art patron and dealer, Anna Laetitia Pecci-Blunt, established in Mid-town Manhattan the Comet Gallery, a permanent branch of her Galleria della Cometa, preexistent in Rome. In 1939, the state sent contemporary Italian art shows to three events: the two universal expositions, the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco and the New York World's Fair in Queens, and a smaller show, International Women Painters, Sculptors, Gravers organized by the National Council of Women of the United States at the Riverside Museum, in Manhattan. Italian diplomacy worked hard to be present at all of these exhibits in spite of the official American rule forbidding a single state to be simultaneously at both the San Francisco and the New York fairs and in spite of the protests, raised by many in America, against the attendance of the Fascist state after the legislation of the anti-Semitic Racial Laws in 1938 and the alliance with Nazi Germany of 1939 (Fig. 2.1).