Alberto Beneventi was born the second child of a poor family in Pavullo nel Frignano, a town in the Apennine mountains fifty kilometers from Modena.
His father, Joseph, was a bricklayer and was 26 years old at the time of his birth.
Tragedy soon struck his small family. Joseph died in an accident at work the day after Alberto was born. The pain was too much for his mother to bear and she soon became ill. After a few years she also died.
At the age of seven Alberto and his sister Eisabetta, three years his elder, were orphans. The specter of the orphanage loomed over them. However, his mother’s sisters, despite financial hardships, decided to bring them up and in the years to come they were raised with great love and generosity.
His family, however, was no more.
At age of eleven Alberto became ill and had to take time off school for several months. During that time, to overcome boredom and loneliness, he threw himself into two activities that he loved passionately: studying Latin, a subject he had just started at school, and above all painting. His first attempts were with watercolor …
The subjects he tried to copy were always the same: the poor prints hanging on the walls and the religious subjects above the beds in the house.
It wasn’t until later that he made his daring attempts at painting in oil.
The painter who he loved most, and that he tried to copy, was Van Gogh. But he also admired Modigliani, Utrillo, Chagall …
He studied them in “The Masters of Color”, a very popular series at the time, published by Fratelli Fabbri Editori.
When he finally recovered and returned to school he was able to demonstrate his strong Latin skills but he did nothing to show off his passion for painting. This was something he kept strictly for himself.
In fact he was not at all sure that he had a particular talent for painting and the exercises in art class did not interest him.
He hated copying in pencil and using chiaroscuro to decorate capitals, columns, monuments etc … This total lack of interest in academic drawing increased during High School to such an extent that he argued nastily with his art teacher.
His aunt was summoned by his vexed art teacher and was told that Alberto’s behavior was unacceptable and strange: instead of copying the exercises and keeping the blank spaces clean, he would constantly draw landscapes with black mountains in the background, always black mountains, using his pencil or even his fingers. He had little respect for the paper – engrossed in his work he would sharpen his pencil and drop the shavings onto the sheet….his poor aunt, not understanding these reproaches simply referred them to her nephew. Thanks to a complete lack of understanding the teacher and student would not speak to each other in the years to come.
Later on, when studying Law at the University of Modena and then, after graduating, while working as a journalist, his passion for painting continued to simmer under the surface and he produced small paintings.
But his call was getting stronger ….
He soon started working part-time and was able to devote an increasing amount of time to his true passion. But he still kept it to himself… at least until the paintings stacked in the basement and attic were too numerous to keep hidden.
The owner of a frame workshop in Pavullo saw his paintings and encouraged him to exhibit them in one of his show rooms. Alberto was persuaded. The exhibition was a great success with the public and was noticed by some art critics. This was 2001.
By 2004 his works were being shown in collective art exhibitions. He first exhibited alongside Mario Schifano and other artists of the school of Piazza del Popolo at a summer exhibition organized by a Bolognese art expert in Riolunato high up in the Modenese Appenines. This was followed by an exhibition in Turin at a famous gallery in the historic center. Here his paintings were shown alongside works by Mauro Reggiani, the great master of Italian geometric abstraction, Gianfranco Ferroni and other important artists. Exhibiting in Turin opened an important working relationship with the Modena ADAC (Association for the dissemination of art and culture) which continued until 2008.
In 2004 Alberto held his first solo exhibition outside his local circle at the Gallery Renzo Cortina in Milan.
In 2005 he exhibited at the old and prestigious Libreria Edizioni Cardano in Pavia.
The exhibition was organized by Roberto de Caro and Gaspar de Caro whose in-depth essay on Beneventi’s works explained for the first time how the themes of his artistic poetry are inextricably linked to the human condition.
Gaspare De Caro is a scholar who has published several historical and cultural books with Einaudi and other major publishing houses.
His son Roberto, also a renowned intellectual and musicologist, then director of the prestigious cultural magazine Hortus Musicus, wrote important essays in the catalogs for the exhibitions of Paul Klee in Bologna in 2000 and Renzo Vespignani at the Vittoriano in Rome in 2006.
Together with his father, Roberto de Caro was the first to sense and to publicly affirm the importance of Alberto Beneventi’s works and not only published several of his paintings in Hortus Musicus but also dedicated two magazine covers to his works.
In 2005 and again in 2007 Beneventi was invited to participate in the “La Fenice et des Artistes ” contest in Venice. In both cases, his works gained a place in the competition’s permanent collection.
That same year, Philippe Daverio, already well-known and established in the Italian cultural and artistic world, together with Milanese gallerist Jean Blanchaert and their other partners, came out in open opposition to the choices made by the Venice Biennale management, which up till then had completely overlooked Italian artists. In defiance they set up the alternative and independent Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Their call for entries met with enthusiasm among artists both known and unknown to the general public, from Kunellis Chia to Zorio. The only entry restriction was to produce a painting no larger than 13 x 17 cm.
The work sent by Beneventi was selected and, along with many other artists, he began a long tour of the Italian peninsula. Milan, Naples, Rome, Palermo and other cities welcomed the “Italian Pavilion”, an event that inspires enthusiasm and lively debates.
In 2007 the publishing house Rizzoli Press printed a book catalog of the works selected for publication. Beneventi’s paintings were among them. The catalog, entitled “1000 artists for an eccentric survey on art in Italy”, was a success and was a prelude to an exhibition at Palazzo Fava in Bologna in June 2011. Here the works were exhibited for the last time before becoming part of the collection belonging to the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna, which had sponsored the “Italian Pavilion”.
But let’s go back to 2007 – a particularly busy year. Beneventi took part in a collective exhibition at Villa Carcina in Brescia, once again organized by ADAC.
An entire room was devoted to his works. Works by Piero Dorazio and Mauro Reggiani hung in neighboring rooms.
2007 was also the year of Alberto’s first major exhibition in a public place: the wonderful Sforza Castle in Dozza Imolese.
This was promoted by DozzaTown Council, together with the Foundation “Dozza for art.” The Curator was Marilena Pasquali.
Marilena Pasquali, the iconographic consultant for Hortus Musicus, is known to the public as the co-founder of the Museo Morandi in Bologna. She is a scholar and expert on the Bolognese master as well as many other important twentieth century artists, such as Paul Klee (she was curator for his exhibition in Bologna) Zoran Music and Folon (she was curator for his extraordinary exhibition at Forte Belvedere and Palazzo Vecchio in Florence in 2005).
The catalog accompanying Beneventi’s exhibition also included a text by the art historian Eugenio Riccòmini.
Over forty paintings, divided into pictorial cycles, hung from the walls in the Sforza Castle’s numerous rooms.
Here the “Walls” were exhibited for the first time.
Beneventi’s images of peeling plaster, reduced to crumble, his colors faded yet exuding charm and memories, depict the last trace, the last echo of the emotions and feelings which the men and women have lived behind those walls in the past.
Through his paintings, the artists seeks to preserve and cherish those emotions forever, despite being aware of the enormity of this challenge.
Marilena Pasquali in her writing speaks of “lacerations of the heart, mind and soul”, of an entirely intimate time dimension, of “the hope for time to stand still, of an attempt, even if entirely human, to stop time, to hold onto to it tightly “.
This was followed by Alberto’s first exhibition of “Fields of snow”, this too in the Sforza Castle in Dozza. Marilena Pasquali speaks of “the sleeping earth being enveloped in white and of the intense grey of the sky which weighs a ton, as a threat.”
In September of the following year, 2008, the entire Dozza exhibition was moved to the wonderful fifteenth century Palazzo dei Principi in Correggio.
Here the curator was once again Marilena Pasquali who also wrote a book catalog devoted entirely to the works of Beneventi where she describes “density of expression” and “the dramatic encounter between matter and surface” and of the ” light sinking into the dark layers beneath the layer of color.”
The following year sees yet another great exhibition, promoted by IBRIT Milan in the fifteenth century Antiquum Oratorium Passionis of the Basilica of St. Ambrose. Several “Muri” were exhibited here, among which the large triptych, now in a private collection, which aroused great interest among the public and critics. The front wall of the oratory housed a large diptych, one meter in height by four long, where the existential drama of illegal immigration is summed up in the title “The sky, the horizon, the sea. Homage to human migrants “.
The focal point is an illegal immigrant who, along with many others, is on a boat trying to reach the shore in the middle of the night. Above and below, the sky and sea, although magnificently beautiful, are depicted as hostile elements. At that moment, although there is no storm, nature is neither benign nor comforting. Nature, as Leopardi states, is indifferent to the fate of men. The only hope lies in a thin, blurred, bright line on the horizon. Because there, on land, are live men and women. Only among them is it possible, if you are lucky, to find a little comfort and solidarity.
The exhibition, curated by Roberto De Caro who also wrote the catalog (published by Oreste Genzini and Philippe Daverio), was visited, among others, by Cristina Muccioli, art critic and professor at the Brera Academy. Cristina Muccioli would be called by the author the following year to curate the exhibition at the gallery in the Palazzo Ducale in Pavullo Frignano, the former summer residence of the Este Dukes of Modena.
Cristina Muccioli in her text about Beneventi’s works, speaks of “unworldly painting, anti-naturalistic, introspective and non-descriptive yet tragically unfinished, infinite: everything is evoked, not naively illustrated and resolved … the walls speak of visions which have remained intact and are indescribable in memory just as plaster adheres to the wall and its interstitial wounds decay and destroy it radically…. the walls will crack, deteriorate but have the same function as art. They resist and remain. They outlive us, they are the keepers of our stories which make up our History. ”
The catalog also contains an enlightening text by Paolo Donini, Gallery Director, who, when speaking of Beneventi’s work describes it as “overcoming postmodernism through mindful and living painting and as being new, totally heretical and contemporary .. ‘the artist devotes his entire interest to the existential core of research: the relationship between sign and finiteness, painting and death. On the subject of “Walls” Donini speaks of “paintings which have held back the abrasion of loss, the little straw fire burnt out in an instant, the chalk line of childhood, the voice of a passerby, the ocher glow, glimmering in the late summer hour. ”
The following year, the vast Mobalpa show rooms in Paris, in rue Diderot, invited Beneventi to hold a solo exhibition curated by Paolo Donini.
The exhibition catalog also included texts by Cristina Muccioli and Michele Fuoco.
The opening on March 3, 2011 was attended by the French minister Anne Marie Montchamp.
Although the exhibition was scheduled to close mid April it was extended for more than a month thanks to the large number of visitors who were able to see not only the “Walls” and “Fields of snow” but also the “Houses”, which are depicted as a shelter but also a prison of suffering humanity.
In the same year one of Beneventi’s paintings, a large pink wall, was one of the works to be reproduced in the catalog by the National Institute of Culture and the Ministry of Education dedicated to the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale that year. The catalog was edited by Vittorio Sgarbi.
The spring of 2013 saw the opening of another solo exhibition in Milan, at Studio Bolzani near the Cathedral where thirty works were displayed. The exhibition was curated by Cristina Muccioli.
The spring of 2014 saw the premier of the video “On the walls of the abandoned house at Café Concerto in Piazza Grande, Modena, accompanied by a speech by Cristina Muccioli. The video depicts Beneventi’s “Walls” and “Fields of snow ” hanging on the external walls of an old abandoned house. The text is by Paolo Donini, who, as well as being director of the Town Art Gallery in Pavullo, is also a nationally well-known and esteemed poet.
The Original music was by Gerardo Felisatti, an emerging Italian composer who donated this work to Beneventi as a sign of friendship and communal artistic interests. The piano pieces are performed by Felisatti himself and the cello by Luigi Puxeddu, a great performer of this instrument at La Scala in Milan. The video was directed by Leo Lo Russo.
Thanks to his work with Studio Bolzani, some of Beneventi’s “Walls” were exhibited at the Hodara showrooms in Via Morone, Milan on September 18, 2014 at the famous designer’s fashion during the Milan fashion week.
In the same year Alberto Beneventi was asked to take part in the Morandi Study Center.
On 6 November 2014 an important solo exhibition of twenty-six works, some of which are large, all belonging to the “Walls” and Fields of Snow” series, opened at the Art Virus Gallery in Frankfurt. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalog by art critic Cristina Muccioli and closed on 19 December 2014.