“The Festive City” Salon At Athenaeum

The Festive City (2.1) It’s hard to say which is more mind-blowing, the fabulous engravings in “The Festive City” exhibit at RISD or the historical events they depict. Learn about both at the Friday Salon at the Providence Athenaeum — “Curating the City: Temporary Installations, Permanent Impressions” Part 1. Join Providence Preservation Society Executive Director James Hall in a conversation with collector Vincent Buonanno on Buonanno’s contributions to the exhibit “The Festive City.”

Hall and Buonanno discuss a different role for architecture, that of temporal marker and narrative device. The prints Buonanno loaned to the show depict the 18th century Chinea Festivals in Rome, in which enormous architectural constructions were featured as the festivals’ centerpieces and then ceremoniously destroyed by fire at their conclusion.

Festival prints from other collections are featured in the exhibit as well. This was how popes, princes, and doges all broadcast their wealth and power to the world, and they knew how to party.

Elaborate festivals transformed European cities from the 16th to 18th centuries. Occasions such as coronations and royal visits, civic and religious processions, and carnival races used public spaces as an interactive backdrop on a scale rarely seen today — replete with dazzling ephemeral architecture and decorations (giving artists and artisans a steady supply of work), impressive firework displays, musical and theatrical interludes, and free food and drink. The Festive City brings together rarely seen festival prints and books, among our only traces of these staggeringly expensive but fleeting events.

The RISD exhibit will be on display through July 14th at which time the curators will pack the museum with fireworks and blow the whole thing up. Well, probably not. But that is Bastille Day, they should do something.

Even if you can’t make the salon, do not miss this exhibit. You won’t believe your eyes.

Salon, 5pm to 7pm, Friday, February 1, Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street

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