Designed by Edwin Lutyens for the 1911 International Exhibition and located just a stone’s throw from the Villa Borghese gardens and the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, the British School at Rome - BSR is the largest British international research center for the arts, humanities and social sciences in Europe. Since May, its majestic neoclassical architecture has been adorned with the latest work by Bridget Riley, one of Britain’s greatest contemporary artists, best known for the dizzying op-art works she created in the 1960s.
Bridget Riley has created many murals and wall paintings but this is the first ceiling painting by the now 92-year-old artist. Titled “Verve”, it is a gift of sorts to an institution that, since it was founded, has nurtured the bonds between Britain and Italy and with which Bridget Riley has strong ties, for example through the Bridget Riley Fellowship for young artists. On the ceiling of the British Academy foyer, stripes of varying widths follow the curve of the barrel vaults in the familiar blues, reds and golden yellows of the “Egyptian palette” Riley developed after visiting the Valley of the Kings in Egypt in 1979. However, the combination of colors used also evokes the intense, luminous blues of the Italian Renaissance and the pop sensibility of 1960s swinging London.
To admire the new fresco, visitors can book online (on Eventbrite) one of the guided tours organized once a month by the BSR or participate in the program of Wednesday evening events, which are free and open to the public.