Exhibitions / If I Had You / Overview

DARREN ALMOND. IF I HAD YOU
Palazzo della Ragione, Milan
November 4 - 23, 2003

For his first solo exhibition in Italy, Darren Almond takes a sentimental journey through time into the romantically seedy ambience of Blackpool, a legendary resort town that in recent years has become a rusty European version of the bright lights of Las Vegas. If I Had You (2003) is based on the artist’s family history, becoming a mirror held up to memory and time.

All of Almond's work is about bringing places back to life, rekindling forgotten passions, rediscovering landscapes of the spirit, and shedding new light onto everyone’s personal story. The video installation If I Had You can be seen as a thematic sequel to another famous piece by Almond, Traction (1999), a three-part film in which the artist interviews his father, who tells the story of his life by describing his injuries as a miner, while Almond’s mother listens silently in the next room. Traction is a portrait of working-class England, and at the same time, a group analysis of our society and the world of labour. The key figure in If I Had You is Almond’s grandmother, who longs to dance once again with her deceased husband. Filmed in the setting of an old ballroom in Blackpool where his grandparents danced on their honeymoon, the work is made up of projections on four large screens that construct a labyrinth of time and space within the vast hall of Palazzo della Ragione, like windows onto a world that no longer exists. One of the videos shows the slowly turning vanes of an enormous illuminated windmill that marks the inexorable passage of time, while on another, smaller screen, a fountain bubbles among colourful flowers like the well spring of life. A third projection shows the feet of a solitary couple dancing to the melancholy notes of an old piano tune; on the fourth is an extreme close-up of the artist’s grandmother, gazing around her as if in a daze, transported by memories of her youth, suspended between past and present. If I Had You is a tribute to memory and family, a monument to melancholy. It also inspired a piece by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, performed at the Barbican Centre in London in 2005.

Palazzo della Ragione in Piazza dei Mercanti is one of the most important sites in the history of medieval Milan, and over the centuries, has become a storehouse of personal stories and memories. At the center of a piazza once surrounded by porticoes, with five gates named after the surrounding streets—Orefici, Armorari, Spadari and Cappellari, indicating that it was once a neighbourhood of jewelers, armourers, swordsmiths, and hatters—Palazzo della Ragione, formerly known as Salone dei Giudici, is the largest, most famous medieval public building in Lombardy. Built in 1233 over a tall vaulted portico, the building has a large rectangular hall divided into two naves by slender pillars. Built as a center of justice, it was the courthouse and seat of city government until the second half of the 18th century, when Empress Maria Theresa turned it into the city’s notarial archives. The building was used to house the archives until 1961. With the exhibition “If I Had You”, this site, for centuries a depository of stories, is once again entrusted with guarding phantoms of memory.

Darren Almond was born in Wigan, United Kingdom in 1971, and currently lives and works in London. He has had solo exhibitions at Parasol Unit foundation for contemporary art in London (2008), Musée d’art contemporain in Montreal (2007), Museum Folkwang in Essen (2006), K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf (2005), Tate Britain in London (2001), Kunsthalle Zürich (2001), de Appel arts centre in Amsterdam (2001) and The Renaissance Society in Chicago (1999). His work has been shown in major group exhibitions at prestigious venues such as the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo (2008), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (2007), Hamburger Kunsthalle in Hamburg (2006), Fondation Beyeler in Basel (2003), Museum Fridericianum in Kassel (1999), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1999), Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (1997) and the Royal Academy of Arts in London (in the exhibitions “Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection” in 1997 and “Apocalypse: Beauty and Horror in Contemporary Art” in 2000). He has also taken part in the Tate Triennial at Tate Britain, London (2009), the 2nd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2007), the Venice Biennale’s 50th International Art Exhibition (2003), and the 2nd berlin biennale (2001). In 2005 he was shortlisted for Tate Britain’s Turner Prize.