contemporary art / history of art

Betty Zanelli


Born in Bologna, Italy, Betty currently works as visual artist and professor for fashion design in her hometown. After her painting studies at the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) in Bologna, she moved to New York in the 1980s, where she lived for eight years. Here she investigated in various media starting from painting through photography to installations. She often included found objects in her works.

Despite all the new influences in a different environment, Betty continued with her project of doors she found, started already in Italy. In 1985, she had the exhibition “Apparenze/Appearances” at the “Studio Mascarella” in Bologna, where she presented ancient doors, with artistic supplements like paintings and collages. A few months later, in January 1986, new old doors were on view at the P.S. 122 Art Gallery, East Village, New York. Even afterwards, she continued with the subject. An example is the preparatory sketch “Door, NY, 1986” made in summer 1986. This oeuvre is our artwork of the month / March 2019.

In the first half of the 1990s, Betty participated in the Project Studio Space Program, offered by her first American exhibitor, the P.S. 122 Art Gallery. During this time, she presented her works in several personal and group exhibitions in New York and Los Angeles. Returning to her home country, she continued her artistic researches and placed her works regularly in artistic shows in Italy and abroad, mainly in Berlin, London, Rome and Bologna.

Starting in 2000, Betty approached digital photography and digital print. Here she focused on popular iconography and pop culture, with a special attention on childhood. In 2011, during a period of research in Berlin, the artist discovered the Spreepark, the former DDR Kulturpark (the only permanent amusement park of the GDR). Deserted after several initiatives of revitalization, at the time there were still some of the old structures, struggling against the decay and the re-conquest by the nature. During two artist residencies in 2014 and 2015 at the Berlin based “Institut für Alles Mögliche”, she could deepen her research on inconsistent aspects in urban spaces and her particular interest on abandoned spaces of entertainment like amusement parks. Here she completed her shoots of the Spreepark series, from which our Artwork of the Month / April 2016 is taken.

Since 2017, Betty works on her Transboundary-Project, at first glance a documentation about migratory movements of birds of passage. Nevertheless, it is also about human migration and visible and invisible borders. Varying installations of the project were displayed at the Büro für Bestimmte Dinge, Berlin (2017), at the Biennale Disegno di Rimini (2018) and at the Cobalto Lab (2019).

Artwork of the month / March 2019


Artwork of the month / April 2016