Corriere della Sera
Text by Gianluigi Colin
9 November – 28 January 2023
A Journey Around My Room (at the Corriere)
‘The pleasure to be found in travelling round one’s room is sheltered from the restless jealousy of men, and is independent of
Fortune’: these words, which introduce Xavier de Maistre’s novel Voyage autour de ma chambre (in English, A Journey Around
My Room), returned to me after seeing the images that Per Barclay captured, in 2015, of my office at the Corriere della Sera.
After all, it seemed to me that that ‘room’, where I had lived day and night for many years, was my symbolic but authentic
portrait: a chaotic environment in which art and journalism engaged in perpetual dialogue. A space flooded with energy,
overflowing with images, newspaper clippings, documents, keepsakes of exhibitions, drawings, designs, photos of friends –
and everywhere books, books and more books. In short, a place of freedom.
I had set a scrawled epigram between window and desk, containing a famous quote from Nietzsche: ‘One must still have chaos
in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.’ Who knows, a sort of alibi to atone for that unpardonable shambles, which
horrified Ferruccio de Bortoli in particular when he came to pay me a visit.
I had met Per Barclay at Francesco Pantaleone’s gallery many years previous. I was well-acquainted with his work, which I
admired for its formal qualities, its inventiveness and its expressive intensity. I had also put his work on one of the covers of La
Lettura, the Corriere’s cultural insert. It was also for that reason that, when I was due to leave that office on account of
renovations to the historical building at 28 Via Solferino, I asked him to immortalise that space, which was such a part of my life,
with his photographic gaze. Per responded with immediate enthusiasm.
My ‘room’ was in the new part of the building, designed by Vittorio Gregotti, overlooking the inner courtyard; I would watch all
my colleagues pass by. The newspaper came to life inside my office, but also at its exterior. There was a constant inside and
outside. One afternoon I had been confronted with a surreal vision: Maradona was taking penalty kicks for a small group of
journalists from the Corriere and the Gazzetta dello Sport. I couldn’t believe it.
‘Of these joys, none, to my thinking, is more attractive than following the course of one’s fancies as a hunter follows his game,
without pretending to keep to any set route. Hence, when I travel in my room, I seldom keep to a straight line. From my table I
go towards a picture which is placed in a corner; thence I set out in an oblique direction for the door’: so concluded Xavier de
Maistre. I do also, beholding Per Barclay’s photographs.
I see the many exhibitions that I have staged and the endless pages that I have laid out, some drenched in photos and
clippings. I remember dramatic developments with which I have had to contend, along with invigorating encounters with
curators and artists. Time becomes substance in these photographs, the raw matter from which to launch a personal journey of
memory that duly bears witness to a cultural project.
I see La Lettura’s first issue, bearing the work/self-portrait of Ai Weiwei, dating from his house arrest in his Beijing studio, but
also portrait works of artist friends: Christo, Nanda Vigo, Italo Lupi, Daniel Buren and Per Barclay himself. And then the portraits
of Piero Manzoni and Mario Dondero, photographer extraordinaire, an old friend and a great awakener of latent energies.
Of course there were also reproductions of works, works that I have always loved, such as Piero della Francesca’s Madonna del
Parto, or a work of Frida Kahlo. But also my own, half-hidden in the wall.
Imposing in the centre, a public work by Alfredo Jaar, with a phrase that becomes both an invitation to reflect and an
admonishment: ‘Cultura dove sei?’. Culture, where are you? Per Barclay’s works pose the same question. With visionary force,
he invites us to see reality through a dystopian lens, like Alice’s mirror that leads to a new and unexpected state of wonder. But
Barclay’s is a true and impartial mirror, all the while crackling with prodigious conceit.
Once more the words of Xavier de Maistre come to my rescue: ‘Never did I more clearly perceive that I am double than I do
now […]. A thousand agreeable visions float before my eyes. Yes, there is that mansion, that door, that staircase! I thrill with
Thank you, dear Per. Thank you for your collusion on this journey into the secrets of my ‘room’. And for having consecrated, in
art, the truth of my own life’s two souls.