The Kind Cruelty

León Ferrari, 100 Years

15 December 2020 – 12 April 2021 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 4
León Ferrari, Santa María (Saint Mary) (Caravel, detail of Justice/1492–1992. The Five Hundredth Anniversary of The Conquest), 1992. Installation
León Ferrari, Santa María (Saint Mary) (Caravel, detail of Justice/1492–1992. The Five Hundredth Anniversary of The Conquest), 1992. Installation

The exhibition The Kind Cruelty takes its title from the book of poems and collages published by León Ferrari (Buenos Aires, 1920–2013), where he warned of a “cruelty so intimately blended with kindness that it hides it.” He also devoted a few lines to his written visual art, which he defined as an “ecological art” made only of words, the most renewable of resources, allowing the image to pass through the wall to the eyes of the viewer, thus firing their imagination.

An engineer by profession, León Ferrari began practicing as a self-taught artist in the 1950s in Rome, where he made his first terracotta sculptures. From then on, his work developed in a process of continuous metamorphosis. He explored various materials, from the plaster and cement, wood and wire, in his sculptures, to the diverse pigments and inks in his drawings. He introduced conceptual strategies to his work by linking drawing with writing, and he experimented with thinking in images through the use of collage.

Through his visual and object montages and his literary collages, Ferrari experiments with forms to readjust the gaze, stir up emotions, and, at the same time, challenge the viewer to adopt a position. Moreover, his aesthetic-political investigations explore the communicative fault lines in language, blindness, error, illegible writings, or humor as ways to tense the literality of the word and the image, exploring other forms of beauty in order to extend the limits of the possible and the expressible.

The Kind Cruelty: León Ferrari, 100 Years, is a collective and polyphonic curatorial project that proposes a nonlinear journey through the work of León Ferrari. In an attempt to dissolve the binary distinction between an abstract phase and a totally differentiated political phase, a distinction that in the past has led to aestheticized and distant readings of Ferrari’s work, this exhibition instead seeks to interpret his modes of action, intervention, and creation on the basis of the frictions and continuities between formal experimentation and politicization as two poles that are resignified at different moments of his career.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid), Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven) and Musée national d'Art moderne-Centre Pompidou (Paris)
In collaboration with:

Fundación Augusto y León Ferrari Arte y Acervo (FALFAA, Buenos Aires)

With the support of:

The Embassy of the Argentine Republic


Fernanda Carvajal, Javier del Olmo, Andrea Wain and the FALFAA team

Exhibition tour:

Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven: 8 May – 26 September 2021

Centre Pompidou, Paris: April – August 2022

Exhibition information sheet: The Kind Cruelty. León Ferrari, 100 Years