Tenley Bick


In August of 2020, I wrote an essay on debates in contemporary art, race politics, and activism in Italy, in which I questioned the ongoing racial inequity of Italian institutions of contemporary art. While recent scholarship in Italian studies is bringing the so-called postcolonial turn to bear upon studies of contemporary Italian culture, the need for postcolonial art historical studies of contemporary Italian art history is marked and overdue. As an art historian of global postwar and contemporary art, with focuses on European (especially Italian) and African art (continental and diasporic), my current research addresses contemporary art, race politics, and postcoloniality in and around Italy.

Mapping New Directions in Contemporary Italian Art

“As Italy begins to address the presentness of its colonial past, the absence of Black Italian artists in Italy’s museums and galleries persists. […] What might happen if the innovation of Italian arts programming and centrality of the arts to Italian identity made space for the multi-ethnicity of Italy today?”

–Tenley Bick, “‘My world now is black in color’: Pandemic-Era Programming, Anti-Racist Activism, and Contemporary Art in Italy,” CAA International News (August 11, 2020).

In response to this problem, I founded and premiered COSTELLAZIONE (Constellation), an online, bilingual program of live-recorded artist interviews on contemporary Italian art and activism, materials from which you see here.

COSTELLAZIONE includes field-changing artists, both emerging and well known, focused on one work of art of the artist’s choice. The program introduces emerging figures—such as Jem Perucchini, an Italian artist of Ethiopian origin, Afro-Italian artist Luigi Christopher Veggetti Kanku, and Palermo-based art collective Fare Ala— alongside maestri with shared affinities in the exploration of resistance, activism, and identity in Italy and its cultural geographies, past, present, and yet to come, thereby mapping new directions and complexities in contemporary Italian art. As a platform for creative azione (action), COSTELLAZIONE constellates a new community for dialogue, research, and exchange in our current moment of distance and global crisis.

Tenley Bick, interview with artist Jem Perucchini recorded live on Instagram, COSTELLAZIONE (@costell.azione), Tallahassee and Milan, October 16, 2020: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CHgFcxfnhnx/. Languages: 0:00–10:27 IT; 10:28–end ENG.

Tenley Bick, interview with artist Luigi Christopher Veggetti Kanku recorded live on Instagram, COSTELLAZIONE (@costell.azione), Tallahassee and Milan, October 30, 2020: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CHJgvB9gwWv/. Languages: 0:00–12:00 IT; 12:00–end ENG.

Wu Ming 2 + Wu Ming Foundation in collaboration with Fare Ala, Viva Menilicchi! (2018), Manifesta 12, Palermo. Photo: Roberto Romano (Fare Ala), courtesy of Fare Ala.

Viva Menilicchi! included interventions in street signs around Palermo. The interventions on Via Generale Magliocco, which memorializes the Palermitano leader of Italy’s fascist air force, featured images of victims of Italian chemical warfare, organized by Magliocco in Ethiopia during fascist Italy’s colonial invasions. The caption added to the street sign tells us that Magliocco: “Organized and directed bombings with chemical weapons during the fascist invasion of Ethiopia.”

Jem Perucchini, Senza titolo (Costellazioni) [Untitled (Constellations)], oil on linen, 15.75 x 11.8” (2020). Collection of Tenley Bick.

Luigi Christopher Veggetti Kanku, Oggi per domani (Today for Tomorrow), oil on canvas, 73 x 53” (2020). In conversation with Dr. Bick about the work, Veggetti Kanku remarked: “Lei rappresenta la libertà di essere se stessi nel proprio paese” (She represents the freedom to be yourself in your own country).

Tenley Bick, interview with Luca Cinquemani (of Palermo-based collective Fare Ala), recorded live on Instagram, COSTELLAZIONE (@costell.azione), Tallahassee and Palermo, November 20, 2020: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CH1PHUpAKNc/. Languages: 0:00–16:00 IT, 16:00–end ENG.


Art History



Connect With Tenley


While there is no overarching theme that unites every faculty member in this exhibition, everyone is connected to someone else through a web of ideas and provocations. We encourage you to use these tags to navigate from one scholar to the next, while understanding that these concepts do not fully account for the depth and nuance of the work you are encountering.

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Denise Bookwalter

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