Documents on Raphael: A critical discussion about an “untouchable” master

On the occasion of the release of the book Documents on Raphael by artist Stefano Graziani, Fotogalleriet, in collaboration with AHO organizes a presentation dedicated to the reception of an “untouchable” master: Raphael.

Raphael is a universal master of the High Renaissance. He is the author of many masterpieces, and his influence has only grown in the 500 years since his untimely death at age 37. His masterpieces served the naked power politics of the day, commissioned by influential churchmen, bankers, and Pope Julius II, known as the “warrior pope.” Giorgio Vasari romanticized Raphael's life in Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1550). The insertion of his work into the inception of the Western art historical canon contributed to the perpetuation of certain ideals of order, beauty in both art and architecture, and the way we keep imaging the norm.

Aesthetically, the reach of Raphael spans significantly beyond the Church's geopolitical desired expanse during his lifetime and broadly coinciding with the Protestant revolt in the northern part of the European continent. The Reformation set ideals of more efficient government, limiting privileges, exemptions, legal rights, and authority within and outside kingdoms to levy taxes. Social order corresponds to aesthetic order.

What does it mean to look and deconstruct such a politically and socially motivated cementification of art and architecture history and seeing it through the photographic medium? How can we imagine a masterless future, with a critical eye to take apart and study the problematics of these figures and not just their images which have become so present into our imagery which become mythologies – something which has become meaningful without needing explanation. It also speaks about a constructed separation between the artwork and the artist and the ideology of his life.

In a continuous quest for social justice, how can we look today at an undiscussed master like Raphael: the reproduction of whose work immortalizes the same ideals of harmony, organization, and sameness?

“Graziani demolishes certainties to generate questions. He takes up the theme of the relationship between original and copy so dear to art history (at least since the very act of collecting instigated the multiplication of reproductions during the Hellenistic period) and that of photography. Only here, original and copy would be the same,” says photography critic Francesco Zanot.

This afternoon conversation and presentation examines some of these critical issues today with practicing artists and experts working with image-making and its critical reception.


Active at the crossroad between photography, art, and architecture, Stefano Graziani contributes with an unconventional voice to the contemporary artistic discourse. His works have been exhibited internationally by institutions such as Fondazione Prada in Milan, the Venice Architecture Biennial, or the European Art Biennial Manifesta. Monographic and collective publications have featured his work. He has also authored and edited several book projects. Public and private collections such as CCA Montreal, Fondazione Prada in Milan, MuFoCo in Cinisello Balsamo, Maxxi in Rome, Fondazione Fotografia in Modena, ICCD in Rome have acquired his work. Stefano Graziani lives in Trieste and teaches photography at IUAV University in Venice, NABA in Milano, and ISIA in Urbino. He has also taught at AHO in Oslo for a few years now. https://www.stefanograziani.com

Emilie de Rohan Birkeland is an artist working with performance and images in an associative manner, piecing together concrete experiences, references and objects often related to the domestic space. She holds a MFA from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. She a co-founder of the artist-run space Destiny’s in Oslo, and a member of Rose Hammer, an artist persona and agitprop theatre group.

Dora García is an artist, teacher and researcher who draws on interactivity and performance in her work, using the exhibition as a platform to investigate the relationship between artwork, audience, and place. She has participated in numerous international art exhibitions, including Münster Sculpture Projects (2007), the Venice Biennial (2011, 2013, 2015), the Sydney Biennial (2008), the São Paulo Biennial (2010), dOCUMENTA 13 (2012) and the Gwangju Biennial (2016). Recently, she participated in osloBiennalen (as part of the collective Rose Hammer), Art Encounters Timisoara (Romania), and AICHI Triennale, Japan. García lives in Oslo.

Antonio Cataldo is a curator and writer living and working in Oslo. Since August 2018, he has been the Artistic Director of Fotogalleriet, a publicly funded institution and the oldest of its kind in the Nordic region. Together with his colleagues, he runs a research-based program questioning the social role of images in today's society. Cataldo has actively sought out novel institutional structures and challenged these machines' given technology and economies. He earned his MA from the University of Venice under philosopher Giorgio Agamben; and a BA from the Second University of Naples. In parallel with his curatorial work, Cataldo pursues a Ph.D. at ZHdK in Zurich, Switzerland, on notions of labor within the arts. He has contributed to several large-scale exhibitions and discursive programs. Over the last two decades, Cataldo held curatorial and other positions at OCA – Office for Contemporary Art Norway, La Biennale di Venezia, and the University of Venice. Cataldo serves on the board of directors of Kunsthalles in Norway and the Sandefjord Kunstforening Art Award jury.

Further Acknowledgments
Documents on Raphael is a book by artist Stefano Graziani, edited by Francesco Zanot and published by Mousse Publishing, Milan. The book includes texts by Guido Beltramini, Frank Boehm, Bruce Boucher, Pablo Bronstein, Antonio Cataldo, Emanuel Christ, Emanuele Coccia, Ana Debenedetti, Victoria Easton, Kersten Geers, Manuel Orazi, Maddalena Scimemi, Pier Paolo Tamburelli, Ellis Woodman, and Francesco Zanot. The project is supported by the Directorate-General for Contemporary, and the Creativity by the Italian Ministry of Culture under the Italian Council program in 2019. It is directed by Guido Beltramini and Stefano Graziani, and presented at Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, in collaboration with Atelier Kersten Geers, Accademia di Architettura, Università della Svizzera Italiana, Mendrisio, Fotogalleriet, Oslo, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, Stiftung Insel Hombroich, Neuss, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Photo credit: Stefano Graziani, Jan van Tieghem and Frans Ghieteels (workshop), after Raphael, tapestries of the Acts of the Apostles , c. 1549-1557, wool and silk, Palazzo Ducale di Mantova, n. 1, Mantua 2020.