Postcard #17: Never forget.

First thing this morning, almost, I went downtown to the Picasso exhibit at the Palazzo Reale. Even though it doesn’t include “Guernica,” the show starts with a massive projection of the piece in the amazing Sala delle Cariatidi, the Caryatid Room. (A caryatid is a sculpted female form which takes the place of a column.) “Guernica” is about the horror of war, and contemplating the painting in this particular space is, to say the least, moving. The room, once a splendid ballroom for royal events, was heavily damaged during the bombings of World War II, and it was left that way so that anyone who enters it might remember…

The female figures that surround the space are missing limbs, breasts and noses—like the real, human victims of war. Damaged, ghostly goods, they urge even those of us who can’t technically remember (we weren’t alive yet) never, ever to forget. The room stands peeling, layers exposed, pitted and scarred. Yet it is, as empty spaces go, dignified despite the painful blasts it sustained. To see the projection of perhaps the world’s greatest artist’s interpretation of war in a space so defined by war tricks you into remembering that you too, in spirit, were there. That we all suffer wars. That the collective human spirit is damaged and disfigured by them. And that our best defense may well be to never forget this fact.

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5 Responses to Postcard #17: Never forget.

  1. Anna Harrison says:

    Very beautiful, very moving. And not that many people know that Guernica was a Basque village destroyed by Hitler’s forces with the complicity of Franco, to terrorize and intimidate the Basque people, which he (Franco) continued to do until his death. Picasso wanted the world to know and made this horrific event the subject of this amazing piece of art.

  2. ron says:

    there’s something i love about an empty room. simple drama. but to only have ONE thing in it is even more dramatic. this painting in this space seems perfect and moving. connected and focused.

  3. Anna Harrison says:

    … an addendum to my previous post:
    A German officer, pointing at “Guernica” asked Picasso, “Did you do that?”
    Picasso answered, “No, YOU did that!”

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