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17 Nov 2023 - 17 Mar 2024
The tour includes a visit to the exhibition and a theatrical performance. Please allow at least one and a half hours for the tour.
The exhibition, followed by James Bradburne, member of the Scientific Committee of the Fondazione Palazzo Magnani and founder of CIRCI – Internazionational Centre for Research in the Culture od Childhood, revolves around the concept of the ‘fourth wall’, i.e. the capacity for emotional involvement that makes a successful performance a reality capable of immersing the spectator in the story being staged. When a marionette or puppet breaks the fourth wall, it conquers the trust of the audience, giving the show the power to blur that division between stage and world, between art and life. This was well understood by those artists – protagonists of the world of Art and Puppet Theatre –who, rather than dismissing marionettes and puppets as mere children’s games, took their enthusiasm seriously and indeed looked to ‘creative play’ as a source of aesthetic inspiration from which to seek new forms of visual expression. While some artists saw the potential of puppets and marionettes to imagine a better world, satirists used transgressive and biting performances to attack the political establishment. Targeting adult audiences and drawing on a solid tradition of political satire from ‘puppet theatre’, hand-held puppets in particular were also used to critique political and social conditions. At Palazzo Magnani, visitors will be welcomed by the life-size costumes designed by Pablo Picasso for Parade, a choreographic ballet that Sergej Djaghilev’s Ballets russes staged in Paris in 1917. Then we come to a whole host of puppets: marionettes (handled from above) and puppets (handled from below), from the oldest specimens, such as the Pulcinellas or Harlequins of the Commedia dell’Arte, through to those of Otello Sarzi – an honorary citizen of Reggio Emilia – made from experimental materials.  

The dream of breathing life into objects and the consequences of their autonomy have fascinated writers and artists from Collodi to Capek, not to mention many Italian artists such as the futurists Enrico Prampolini and Fortunato Depero. Indeed, marionettes expressed an abstract, mechanical aesthetic, and after the devastation of the Great War, fittingly captured the sad reality of amputated and mutilated returning soldiers, as illustrated by Sironi, Carrà and De Chirico.

Thanks to Oskar Schlemmer’s rediscovery of Kleist’s classic On Puppet Theatre (1810), puppets, toys and children’s games became a central element of Bauhaus practices in 1920s Weimar, as may be seen in the work of Paul Klee, Andor Weininger, Lothar Schreyer, Sophie Täuber Arp and Oskar Schlemmer.

The investigation then shifts to the Russian avant-garde with the section ‘Marionettes and the Revolution’. When Lenin and his wife Natalia Krupskaya decided to combat illiteracy and educate the new Soviet citizenry, they realised the use of such puppets was ideal and, working with leading artists, architects and writers, figures such as Natalia Sats, Samuil Marshak, El Lissitzky, Aleksandra Ekster and Nina Efimova began to experiment with new forms of children’s theatre.

At the end of the nineteenth century, on the wave of Orientalism, classical Javanese puppets began to appear on the European stage. The Austrian artist and illustrator Richard Teschner, in particular, developed the art of stick puppetry to a high degree, influencing artists from Paris right to Moscow.

The exhibition comes to a close with a tribute to Otello Sarzi (Vigasio, VR 1922 – Reggio Emilia 2001) thanks to close collaboration with the Fondazione Famiglia Sarzi. Born into a tradition of puppeteers that had lasted for generations, Otello came into contact with many of the protagonists of the Italian artistic, theatrical and cinematographic scene of the time and represents one of the highest and most important moments of italian puppet theatre post-WWII.

Two stages (a shack and a castelet), set up in the rooms on the ground floor, will allow all visitors to try their own hand at puppet theatre. Thanks to collaboration with the Compagnia Carlo Colla of Milan and the Associazione 5T of Reggio Emilia, a rich programme of mini-shows/performances, interpreted by puppet theatre professionals, will bring the weekends to life for the entire duration of the exhibition. Seeing them at work, we might wonder: “Do puppets go to heaven when they die?” – an entirely natural question, for puppets occupy a grey area, midway between living creatures and inanimate objects.

This exhibition will be carbon neutral: Fondazione Palazzo Magnani is committed to totally offset the tons of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere for the production of the cultural activities it organises.

Animals are not permitted in the exhibition, with the exception of guide dogs.
A fee-based dog sitting and dog walking service is available with Bauadvisor and can be booked at least 24 hours in advance at this link

Buy your ticket online or at the ticket office of Palazzo Magnani

Early bird 9 €
Full rate 12 €
Sustainable ticket 13 €
Reduced 10 €
Students (19-26 years old) 8 €
Kids (6-18 years old) 5 €
Families 14-32 €

Early bird: open-date ticket purchasable online until Thursday 16 November at 23.59

Sustainable ticket: to help offset your environmental impact. We will buy sustainability credits from the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park. More info here

Concessions: over 65, people with disabilities, groups of at least 10 people,  membership card affiliated institutions, “FELICITAZIONI! CCCP-Fedeli alla linea 1984-2024” ticket, Card Cultura Bologna, YoungER card

Students: students from 19 to 26 years old with a university card

Free admission: carers of people with disabilities, children under 6 years-old, members of Fondazione Palazzo Magnani, press-accreditated journalists, members of Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Palazzo Strozzi and Camera, ICOM members

Family tickets (to be purchased only at the ticket office of Palazzo Magnani) :
2 adults + 1 kid  24 €
2 adults + 2 kids  28 €
2 adults + 3 kids  32 €
1 adult + 1 kid  14 €
1 adult + 2 kids  18 €

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  • Date: 17 Nov 2023 - 17 Mar 2024
  • Location:Palazzo Magnani

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