Richard Demarco is without doubt a remarkable man, an Italian Scot, a founder of the Traverse Theatre, a man who is an artist, a writer, a philosopher. He is a man who has brought contemporary visual arts to the Edinburgh Festival. He has been involved in more than 50 Edinburgh Festivals, and has brought great artists like Joseph Beuys and Kantor to thousands of people. He has also brought the visual arts from other parts of the world, from Eastern Europe, long before other people were interested. And he has inspired us all…
Sir Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate Gallery, 1999.
‘Richard Demarco: The Italian Connection’ is an AHRC funded research project based at Duncan of Jordastone College of Art & Design (University of Dundee). The aim of the project is to investigate Richard Demarco’s under-examined connections to Italy.
A book will be published by John Libbey to present the results of the project, which is expected to be released in 2021. This will include articles by the research team, who will also edit the publication, with further contributions by various international scholars with expertise on Italy and Richard Demarco.
Richard Demarco – artist, gallery director, educator, promoter of theatre and cultural commentator– has been a key figure in the promotion of the European avant-garde in Scotland and internationally since the 60s. Although some research and publications have been devoted to Demarco’s endeavours, little is known today about his exchanges with Italy, how he promoted Italian visual and performing arts in Scotland and how he influenced the Italian cultural context.
This gap in the historical canon of knowledge is extraordinary because in the Demarco’s archives – a portion of which is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA, (representing activities from 1963 to 1995) and a portion at the Demarco European Art Foundation (at Summerhall in Edinburgh) – are many traces of exchanges between Italy and Scotland promoted by Demarco as part of his larger European network and contribution to the Edinburgh Festival. These documents include photographs, ephemera, notes, catalogues and artworks that feature events involving relevant Italian or Italian-based artists, producers, performers, directors, critics including: Palma Bucarelli, the Count Panza di Biumo, Giulio Paolini, Jannis Kounellis, Bruno Ceccobelli, Toti Scialoja, Carlo Quartucci and Carla Tatò, Mimmo Rotella, Mario Merz, Fabrizio Plessi, Achille Bonito Oliva, Maria Gloria Conti Bicocchi, Giuseppe Chiari, Guido Sartorelli.
It remains the case that an extensive body of largely un-catalogued documentation in the Demarco Archives has still not been fully assessed or researched and the strong associations between Scotland and Italy have been overlooked. The network built by Demarco around his Italian connection has only been partially identified and is under-acknowledged. This project will highlight the most important of the exchanges, discussions, and relationships thus far marginalised in previous projects and publications. It will inform those existing materials, and give an underlying context to the history of the Edinburgh Festival and the Fringe.
Ultimately this project aims to retrace and re-assess the cultural bridge between Scotland and Italy, built by Demarco in the spirit of European cooperation and collaboration.
A previous AHRC funded project, also based at DJCAD (University of Dundee), was the Demarco Digital Archive. This project digitised around 10,000 images from Demarco’s extensive personal photography collection, the website and database can be accessed here.
An exhibition retracing some of Demarco’s European connections was the held at Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture (27 November 2010 – 9 January 2011) with the accompanying book by E. McArthur & A. Watson (2010) (Eds.), 10 Dialogues. Richard Demarco Scotland and the European Avant Garde, Edinburgh: Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture.