FORO ITALICO PHOTOGRAPHS BY GEORGE MOTT
Boasting that his forum would be grander than the Coliseum, Mussolini created the Stadio del Marmi (Stadium of Statues), an arena built outside Rome for the 1944 Olympic games. Believing a fascist state required the highest level of physical fitness, Il Duce provided inspiration for his nation in the form of monumental art, commissioning sculptors from all over the country to create sixty Herculean statues to surround the stadium. The statues embody the glorification of the athlete and the mannered heroism of the soldier. Hauntingly erotic, each statue stands twelve feet tall, nude but for the occasional headband or sandals. So blatant was their sexual presence that the statues later provoked furtive attempts at “decency” involving fig leaves and loincloths.
“The Foro Italico… sustains a guileless, perhaps unique, male eroticism which is at odds with the grandiloquent intentions of its planners and creators in Mussolini’s fascist regime,” explains George Mott, who first glimpsed the statues in 1962 and photographed them twenty years later. His exceptional black-and-white and color photographs of the statues are collector’s items throughout the world. In Foro Italico (published by powerHouse Books), these photographs are being shown collectively for the first time.
In his introduction to the book, designer Giorgio Armani writes, “The Foro Italico has always possessed an eternal and overwhelming beauty: a stadium crowned with sixty perfect and majestic statues, each dedicated to the world of sport and expressing a virility that seems to have been conferred directly by the gods. There is something eternal and absolute about these figures, matched by an ultra-modern vision of the future and a sense of individual identity so intrinsic to our own age.”
With an artist’s eye and a poet’s heart, photographer George Mott magnificently captures the spirit of youth, beauty, and achievement that is the essence of the Foro Italico .
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