Alexandra Mazzanti is the founder, director and curator of Dorothy Circus Gallery. Born in 1978 in Rome, Italy, Mazzanti grew up surrounded by art and creativity in all their forms. Descendent of the Hercolani Family of Bologna on her Father’s side, Alexandra Mazzanti inherits the first artworks that will bring her closer to the 18th and 19th century, under the guidance of the attentive and experienced eye of her mother Maddalena Di Giacomo – a pianist, art collector, writer and editor specialised in Dance and Performative Arts – who also instilled in her the passion for art in all its forms and expressions.
While listening to Brahms and Rachmaninov, Alexandra fell in love with the family’s collection of female portraits and began furthering her research in aesthetic narratives from the Romantic and Renaissance periods and the sculpted/documented stories that connected human history with literature, poetry, cinema, and at the same time our psyche. After receiving a classical formation, she moved to Venice. She quickly got involved with the Venetian art scene and began working directly as a studio assistant to sculptors and painters, gaining a multi-faceted, first-hand experience in the art world.
Following her return to Rome, Alexandra continued working with several exponents of the Roman city’s art scene. Thanks to her unique taste for interior design and sense of aesthetics, also reflected in the interiors of her home, she was invited to take part in the theatre scene, working as a scenographer and stage photographer for a ballet theatre company, designing scenery for dance shows that went on stage at the Olympic Theatre in Rome and at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, including the critically acclaimed Alice Around Pink Floyd and Una Rosa per Georges Donn.
Surrounded by art in all its beauty and forms, Alexandra naturally began expanding her private collection. Over time, she started hosting private art salons in her home, where she showcased the work of artists she was involved with. Soon she was giving her friends and acquaintances opportunities to commission original pieces from these same artists. It was then that she began her journey as an Artist Agent, helping artists to promote and sell their works. This opportunity allowed her to travel and study the different art markets. She discovered and fell in love with new artistic movements, particularly with the underground art scene in LA where she noticed that figurative art, pervaded by a surrealistic nuance and deeper artistic research, was still very much alive, despite the ongoing European trends in vogue at the time, oriented towards the survival of the 70s and 80s.
“I’ve made a choice which is to line up a sentimental gallery rather than a commercial gallery the artwork I select is not entertainment but rather a window open on looking over the most personal emotions.”
Travels and Discovery: Pop Surrealism
The period she spent in the USA between 2004 and 2005, allowed her to familiarise herself with the dynamism of Contemporary Art overseas, specifically with Pop Surrealism. This movement particularly appealed to her for its references to pictorial codes that echoed those of the 18th century, perfectly matching the aesthetics of her classical formation.
What’s even more fascinating is that the same artistic unrest and experimentation was also present in Italy at that time, although isolated and suffocated. On the other hand, in America, this new explorative language was able to thrive and gain ground, despite being counter-current to the flourishing Abstract, Minimalist and Conceptual movements of the time.
Alexandra identified in the American Pop Surrealist visual codes a file rouge, connecting the Renaissance art with the contemporary one, actively building connections with music, cinema, technology and pop culture. A new experimental path was arising, leading artists to ponder on visionary distortions of the psyche, with the intention to explore the language of human sentiment, investigating symbolic motifs and emotional codes from history to express their perspective on the contemporary experience. For instance, eye imagery has been one of the oldest symbols and one of the most used by Pop Surrealist artists to reconnect with the past.
Painters such as Margaret Keane, Mark Ryden and Fatima Ronquillo were visibly inspired by old masterpieces and their iconography. In particular, Georgian Lovers’ Eyes, precious miniatures portraying the eye of one’s secret love during the 18th and 19th centuries, have been a source of great inspiration for said artists. Alexandra’s numerous visits to New York City and LA gave her the occasion to familiarise herself with the Pop Surrealism scene and study the origin of the Big Eyes Movement launched by Keane and continued by Ryden, drawing parallels with the Venetian and Roman underground art scenes.
During her time in the US, Alexandra met with the most popular art dealers and artists of the movement, developing a dear and inspiring friendship with Jonathan LeVine. It is during this time that she decided to actively start expanding her historical collection with contemporary figurative art pieces, adding works by Mark Ryden, Marion Peck, Miss Van, Travis Louie, Camille Rose Garcia, Ron English, Alex Gross, Joe Sorren, Ray Caesar, Esao Andrews, Jonathan Viner, Tara McPherson and many others.
“I believe art curating is a mission that requires being aware of the psychological power of the artistic language, and being aware of the revolution that comes with it.”
Art Mission and Curatorial Research
In 2007, following her adventure in the USA, Alexandra decides together with her mother, Maddalena Di Giacomo, to open Dorothy Circus Gallery, the first Italian contemporary art space focusing on Pop and Neo-Surrealism, as well as on the new expressions of figurative art, hyper-realism and Magic realism.
Contemporary figurative art was developing a distinct new language characterised by profound sentimentalism and a new poetic that was immediately threatened to be repressed by major Italian and international critics. Alexandra made it her mission to preserve this style and allow its complete establishment. She focused her attention on the new generation of
arists who have built and structured their creative identity through conscious research and cultured emotional symbolism, reshaping art history in all its forms and addressing an international audience even further, a change that was also made possible thanks to the quick advancements in technology and the ever-growing global societies and online communities. As the world was growing less sensitive to the repetitive and abstruse patterns of minimalist codes, no longer reflecting the needs of society, the need for an innovative elaborate vocabulary that would portray the complexity and beauty of the contemporary sentiment grew stronger.
For Alexandra, this need was met by Pop Surrealism, as it also paved the way for the return of a surrealist-inspired figurative painting. With its pop iconography enriched by a mix of shades and dreamlike details of spiritual intent and by animist symbolism, pop surrealism made itself loved and widely recognised. Completely innovative, yet strongly linked to classical painting, figurative art connects us to the dense network of happiness and pain that links everyone, allowing us to recognise our deepest human traits in others, reflecting the principle of love.
From these beliefs, Alexandra founded Dorothy Circus. With the mission of bringing Pop Surrealism, Asian Pop and Urban Art to the Italian art scene and allowing the audience’s own narratives and emotions to take part in figurative art.
Through time, Pop surrealism has become so largely contaminated that it has now escaped its original definition, resulting in what can be defined today as Hyper and Ultra Contemporary.
Since the opening of Dorothy Circus Gallery fifteen years ago, Alexandra herself worked as its director and curator, personally selecting and curating all the exhibitions scheduled and collaborating with the major icons of the movement. From 2007 until today, she devoted herself to the realization of hundreds of exhibitions, as well as numerous institutional projects. The first of these, “Pop surrealism, What a WonderFool World”, at the Carandente Museum in Spoleto (26 June-16 October 2010), curated in collaboration with Gianluca Marziani, has been the first event in Italy dedicated exclusively to American and international Pop Surrealism, through the exposition of more than 80 artworks. Other noteworthy museum shows were the “Pop new Pop” at the MACRO, Rome in 2012 and the institutional group show “Lacrima Aquarium” in collaboration with Giorgio de Finis at Casa dell’Archittetura Acquario Romano in 2014,
“The Troubles with Angels” a retrospective on the work of Ray Ceasar, leader of digital art, curated by Alexandra at Palazzo Saluzzo, Turin, which later led to the interdisciplinary conference “Talk with Ray Caesar” in collaboration with the council of the City of Rome. Alexandra also collaborated with the publishing house Drago for various bibliographical publications on Pop Surrealism and Dorothy Circus Gallery, as well as its exhibitions and artists, also curating Kazuki Takamatsu’s monograph “Hello Here I Am”.
“The work of art is, to me, an open investigation reflecting the mystery of the human mind able either to connect us to keep us together or to divide us, as art defines us and in art, we cannot lie. So my philosophy as an art curator is to bring on stage what moves us to wonder what can be timeless and still mirroring the present while understanding the past and anticipating the future “
Feminine Language and Social Projects
Throughout the years, Alexandra got increasingly involved in the presentation of the artists, whose expression revolves around the depiction of fragility and the sensibilization towards the right to have said fragility. As a woman and a mother, Alexandra also focuses her attention on themes such as femininity and motherhood, aiming to raise awareness on the latest, most urgent social issues involved with them. Alexandra has thoroughly researched the “feminine” narrative utilised by not only female artists, but also male ones. The female “avatar” embodies sensitivity and it powerfully conveys themes such as protection and care.
Her exhibitions focus on the return of the feminine voice in painting, either as the sole subject of the project or simply as the narrating voice. These exhibitions star artists whose work is dedicated to the delicate theme of social development, immigration, racism and gender, raising awareness on a sustainable life in a world that is constantly evolving.
The narrative of this feminine language was born from the forced silence and censorship brought upon it by society, which unfortunately persevered until the past century.
This language has now evolved into complicity and union between women, creating an unbreakable bond composed of infinite layers of elaborate thoughts and radical ideas that quietly found refuge in women’s minds throughout time. Alexandra’s curatorial commitment has always been to lead the most sensitive and talented women and artists to their merited place in the deconstruction and reconstruction of the female social identity through an innovative, fresh point of view. A prime example of this is the 2012 collaboration between DGC and Iranian female artist Afarin Sajedi, who had her very first European show “Inside Her Eyes” in Rome, at Palazzo Valentini. Her work focuses on expressing the frustration towards the violence and censorship that keeps suffocating women and their rights, particularly in some geographical areas, repressing women’s emancipation and social reaffirmation. Relevant to this is the group show exhibition entitled “Mother And Child” presented both in Rome and London contemporarily and focused on the theme of maternity. The message conveyed by this exhibition is that of the inherent sense of generating, preserving feminine force present in the iconography of Mother Nature, as well as the acknowledgement of the importance of the role of masculine sensitivity in this equation, often underrated. Hence, the show wishes to shift the audience’s attention onto the theme of Family as a whole, complete nucleus, highlighting the importance of fatherly responsibility in the transmission of love.
Alexandra’s fight for social equality has brought her to also work closely with Graffiti Art and Street Art, giving her the chance to participate in numerous social projects such as “Spray For Your Rights”, “Cross The Streets” and the most recent one “Color For Action”.
“I am art researcher so always exploring further the art history and the contemporary languages at the same time I’m letting the doors open to the art culture, trying to explore the new, the impact, the change”
Past and Future
Following the opening of her gallery in London, Alexandra has been focusing on the research of contemporary figurative Asian Art. Historically linked to the art of Yoshitomo Nara, she has discovered many extremely talented artists. Countries such as China, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan are without doubt the “new frontier” for both the present and future where we can see the figurative making its way back to the spotlight of contemporary art. Originality and creativity are the two main parameters in Alexandra’s curatorial research, favouring artists who have learnt how to harmonically merge avant-garde, innovative elements and the rich, essential tradition of classical art.
Alexandra has always been fascinated with coherence and connection, the common thread connector of past and present, as even in innovation it is necessary to refer back and stay true to traditions. Alexandra’s connection with Asian Art has led her to exhibit, throughout the years, some of the most promising and inspiring talents of these regions avant-garde. The peak of this research has been the group show entitled “House Of The Rising Light” (2020), where Alexandra has brought to light a visual language deeply linked and inspired to the Asian continent’s cultural, historical and heterogeneous roots, moulding a new, subversive perception of contemporary art.
In the near future, Alexandra’s approach will increasingly focus on the exploration of the everchanging qualities of contemporary art, led by the new generations. She invited the artistic audience to ponder on the meaning of a universal cultural and artistic experience, towards a “communion” able to contribute with positive changes in the world.
Alexandra Mazzanti is a first-generation gallerist who, throughout time, has worked towards stirring the pot of artistic traditions, establishing a new way of being a woman and a curator. Her ultimate objective is to leave an inheritance of attentive artistic research, built on emotions and particular care towards themes such as sensitivity, fragility and beauty, themes that repeat in time and transcend all cultural limits.
Being Collector herself and Artist Advisor since her early career, Alexandra Mazzanti is able to deeply understand the personal and aesthetic needs and taste of the collector as well as that of the artist and deepen the link between the Origins of the work of Art and its Fruition. The sentimental approach that AM has with Art is equally reflected in the relationship she has with her clientele and her expertise. She has extensive and professional knowledge of the contemporary art market and by always anticipating its trends, she is both able to source rising talented artists and well known artists to enhance their careers by delivering thought-provoking exhibitions and allocate promising and valuable artworks in prestigious art collections.
AM goes further her expertise and aims to share emotions based on elective affinities. She feels a connection with the collectors who bring art to their homes, wether the art has been acquired from her gallery or not, as if they have just embarked on a journey together. For Alexandra, sharing the art collecting experience feels like having known each other forever. We are all connected by a secret feeling that remains intangible and creates the special bond that only comes with Art. A strong painting has the power to connect us all in different ways, making us no longer strangers, but rather friends with shared memories. This is the reason why AM very carefully selects the Artists for the gallery programme and for your personal collection as if it was for her own.