Born in Genoa in 1974, Francesca Pola is an historian and critic of contemporary art, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy in Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan, where she teaches classes in contemporary art and art criticism.
She has been awarded a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer Chair in Italian Studies at Northwestern University, Evanston (Chicago), Department of French and Italian, Weinberg College for Arts and Sciences, for the Winter and Spring Quarters 2016. Since the early 2000s, she has been teaching at Cattolica University in Milan and Brescia and at the Milanese seat of the Chicago IES Abroad, Institute for the International Education of Students.
Her contributions to historical-critical study and analysis have always had the aim of creating a bridge between the different periods of contemporary and present-day art, focusing in particular on twentieth-century sculpture, American art from the 1920s up until the later post-war period, Italian and international art of the 1950s and 1960s and abstract research from the 1980s until the present day.
From among her published books we can mention Mauro Staccioli in California (Italian Cultural Institute, Los Angeles 2002), Piero Manzoni e Albisola (Archivio Opera Piero Manzoni, Milan 2006; new expanded edition: Una visione internazionale. Piero Manzoni e Albisola, Electa, Milan 2013), Scialoja (Gli Ori, Prato 2007), Manzoni: Azimut (Gagosian Gallery, London – Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan 2011) Agostino Bonalumi. All the Shapes of Space 1958-1976 (Robilant + Voena, London – Rizzoli-Skira, Milan 2013) and Piero Manzoni e ZERO. Una regione creativa europea (Electa, Milan 2014). She has been the curator of exhibitions and the author of catalogue texts treating artists such as Rodolfo Aricò, Agostino Bonalumi, Enrico Castellani, Alan Charlton, Gianni Colombo, Dadamaino, Riccardo De Marchi, Arthur Duff, Igino Legnaghi, Piero Manzoni, François Morellet, Mario Nigro, Pino Pinelli, Bruno Querci, Ulrich Rückriem, Mario Schifano, Toti Scialoja, Atanasio Soldati, Nelio Sonego, David Tremlett, Niele Toroni, Günter Umberg, Grazia Varisco, Elisabeth Vary and Michel Verjux. She has also published essays and articles on numerous exponents of the contemporary arts such as Carla Accardi, Francesco Candeloro, Carlo Ciussi, Pietro Consagra, Lucio Fontana, Giorgio Griffa, Fausto Melotti, Anne e Patrick Poirier, Mimmo Rotella, Emilio Scanavino, Tancredi, Bill Viola and Rudi Wach.
Due to her interest in 'visual contamination' with other specific creative elements, she was nominated curator of contemporary art for the interdisciplinary "Futurfesta" event – art, music and theatre – promoted by the Amici della Galleria d’Arte Moderna of Milan, presented here on the 20th of February 2009 to commemorate the centennial publication of the first manifesto of Futurism which formed part of "FuturisMI" promoted by the Milan City Council.
She has been extensively involved in the safeguarding and promotion of Italy’s historical and artistic patrimony, taking part in numerous cataloguing projects of important collections including those of the Ospedale Maggiore Ca’ Granda in Milan and the nineteenth-century works belonging to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan. On a continuous basis since 2002 she has been involved in the study of the collections and the drawing up of historical-critical files of the historical patrimony of the Intesa Sanpaolo Bank (formerly the Banca Intesa), in particular regarding the works of both Italian and international art of the Twentieth Century, for which she is at present collaborating in the Gallerie d’Italia ( Galleries of Italy ) network of museums as Curator for Multimedia Projects, realized with Zenit Arti Audiovisive.
She is the curator of the Archivio Mario Nigro (Mario Nigro Archives) and of the Archivio Rodolfo Aricò (Rodolfo Aricò Archives) in Milan, a collaboration which has to date resulted in the publication by Skira of the catalogue raisonné of Nigro’s work, edited by Germano Celant in 2009, in Nigro’s exhibition at Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz in 2012 and in Arico’s exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim Collection in 2013.
She has collaborated with the Lucio Fontana Foundation in Milan for the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s drawings, edited by Luca Massimo Barbero and published by Skira in 2013.
She is the curator of the open-air Museo d’Arte Contemporanea all’Aperto in Morterone, which exhibits large scale works by numerous international artists that are expressly created in order to “maintain a dialogue” with the surrounding natural context.
She is also the curator of the exhibitions forming part of the pluri-annual project Arte Contemporanea a Villa Pisani, begun in 2007, which commissions contemporary artists to carry out works ideated specifically for Villa Pisani in Bagnolo di Lonigo, a juvenile architectural masterpiece by Andrea Palladio.
She is Italy’s representative member in the International Scientific Advisory Board and Research Group of the ZERO foundation in Düsseldorf. In this role, she was among the advisors for the exhibition ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s – 60s, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 2014. On January 7, 2015, in the related international panel
Among her most significant collaborations during her curatorial and scientific activity, is the one with A arte Invernizzi , Milan.
Her books and essays have been published by important publishing houses including Allemandi, Electa, Gangemi, Giunti, Gli Ori, Kerber, Marsilio, Officina Libraria, Rizzoli-Skira, Silvana, Skira, Steidl and by prestigious institutions , both in Italy and internationally, such as the Archivio Opera Piero Manzoni (now the Fondazione Piero Manzoni) and the Forum Austriaco di Cultura in Milan, the Institut Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, the Kaiserliche Hofburg in Innsbruck, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Kunsthaus of Zurich, the Langen Foundation in Neuss, the Piedmont Region in Italy, the Fondazione Roma Museo in Rome, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna “Carlo Rizzarda” in Feltre, the Civic Museums of Udine and the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.
Since 2006 she has been commissioned by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice to carry out specific historical-critical studies regarding the museum’s collections, for the catalogues of the exhibitions curated by Luca Massimo Barbero. From among these contributions we can mention the following essays: in 2007 Percorsi e contaminazioni della scultura contemporanea. Linee di trasformazione dagli anni Sessanta for the Peggy Guggenheim. Un amore per la scultura exhibition catalogue; in 2012 Piet Mondrian: un maestro dell’avanguardia attraverso il XX secolo for the exhibition catalogue I giganti dell’avanguardia: Mirò Mondrian Calder e le collezioni Guggenheim; in 2013 Gli anni Sessanta, tra Europa e Stati Uniti. Alcune trasformazioni radicali di un decennio cruciale, in the exhibition catalogue Gli anni Sessanta nelle Collezioni Guggenheim. Oltre l'informale verso la Pop Art; and the exhaustive historical-critical essays related to specific works compiled in 2007 for the catalogue Peggy Guggenheim e l’immaginario surreale, in 2008 for the catalogue Peggy Guggenheim e la nuova pittura americana, and in 2010 for the catalogue Peggy e Solomon R. Guggenheim. Le avanguardie dell’astrazione.
In 2008 she was a member of the scientific committee for the exhibition Carlo Cardazzo. Una nuova visione dell’arte held at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice; in 2012 has filled the same position for the exhibition entitled Capogrossi. A retrospective at the same venue. In 2014 she has been responsible of curatorial research and coordination for the exhibition Azimut/h. Continuity and Newness, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice and for the bookpublished on this occasion by Marsilio Editori.
From 2009 until 2011 she was the Curator of MACRO (Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma), under the Director Luca Massimo Barbero: in this role, in particular, she developed the experimental project “MACROradici del contemporaneo” (MACROroots of the Contemporary), extensively reviewed by both the Italian and international press (on more than one occasion, on the part of the “Financial Times”). The aim of this project was to ‘discover’ and present historical protagonists of Rome’s art world by means of formerly unexhibited nuclei of works and documentation shown in innovatory ways (with the use of touchscreens and showcases, with which the visitors were invited to interact, films and video projections). The following exhibitions were the fruit of this project: Cesare Zavattini inedito, A Roma, la nostra era avanguardia, L’Attico di Fabio Sargentini, 1966-1978; Bice Lazzari. L’equilibrio dello spazio.
She has curated with Barbero and Archivio Mario Schifano the exhibition Laboratorio Schifano, held at MACRO in Fall-Winter 2010-2011, and selected by “Artforum” as the “Critics’ Pick” in April 2011.
Since May 2015, she is contributor from Italy to the influential contemporary art magazine “Artforum” (New York), for the section “Critic’s Pick”.