From North to the Deep South: Two Italian Examples of the Connection between Art and Nature

Our Coordinator for North-East Italy, Nicola Valentini, gives us a taste of Italy and two incredible insider tips on what contemporary art fans should not miss: Trentino – Südtirol and Sicily.

There is no question that Italy has an abundance to offer for all nature and art lovers. The Italian landscape is highly inspiring. Every region is full of natural and artistic beauties irresistible to capture in photography or paint. It is not a surprise that the peninsula is home to dozens of sculpture parks, including some at an international level. It is here in Italy, that historical landscape gardens, forests, urban parks, and cities have been turned into picturesque outdoor galleries. Visitors can stroll among works by contemporary masters.

Here are the two tips from our Italian sculpture expert:

Arte Sella – The Contemporary Mountain
Michelangelo Pistoletto, Arte Sella
Michelangelo Pistoletto, Third Paradise.
Photo: Ilaria Specos

“The first sculpture park I would recommend visiting to those who are travelling in the North-East of Italy is Arte Sella in Borgo Valsugana (Trento),” Nicola states. “I can’t say it is the best sculpture park in an absolute sense or that it exhibits the most beautiful works, but one thing is sure: this place conquers a transversal audience thanks to the excellent overall consistency of the project,” he continues. Sculpture network could not agree more!  

What began as a sort of Biennial Festival in the 80’s subsequently became a permanent collection located in three different sites of the Sella Valley (approximately one hour drive from Trento). Every year, international artists are invited to create works designed to dialogue and integrate deeply with the mountain and to be absorbed by nature.

Arte Sella: Jaehyo Lee, 0121-1110=115075.
Jaehyo Lee, 0121-1110=115075.
Photo: Ilaria Specos

The result is a great harmony between the natural environment and human intervention. Today, Arte Sella is an international reality in continuous evolution promoting collaborations between the “Maestri” of Art in Nature. A few of these collaborations include Nils Udo, Arne Quinze, John Grade and Michelangelo Pistoletto.

The most representative work of the entire park is the impressive and iconic Tree Cathedral by Giuliano Mauri. This conceptual work perfectly expresses the deep spirituality that surrounds this place.

Giuliano Mauri - Cattedrale Vegetale - 2001 - Copyright Arte Sella - Ph Giacomo Bianchi--
Giuliano Mauri, Cattedrale Vegetale, 2001 - Copyright Arte Sella. Photo: Giacomo Bianchi

The Town of Gibellina – Sicily

Gibellina is not your typical sculpture park in the common sense of the term, but an entire city dotted with installations by many international artists. “The town of Gibellina (Province of Trapani) is one of the most evocative areas in Italy,” Nicola ensures. He visited all of Sicily on a moto trip a few years ago.

Alberto Burri, Cretto di Burri. Photo: Nicola Valentini

Unfortunately, Gibellina only became famous after a strong earthquake completely destroyed it in 1968. The old demolished centre was abandoned. Then in the 80’s it was transformed into the Cretto di Burri; an emotional land artwork by the artist Alberto Burri. The work, a large concrete casting covering twelve hectares of old Gibellina, stands above the rubble of the old town and it is alone worth a flight to Sicily. The deep silence that surrounds the alleys is surreal and invites the viewer to reflect with compassion on the unavoidable power of nature..

The new town, known as Gibellina Nuova, was built approximately 11km from the previous one. Prestigious city planners, architects and top Italian artists were called to contribute to the “Dream in Progress,” the name given to the project. They created a town with wide streets surrounded by gardens, piazzas, public gardens, and buildings of postmodern architecture. Modern sculptures that adorn every piazza and road junction were gifted by artists.

Alberto Burri, Cretto di Burri
Alberto Burri, Cretto di Burri. Photo: Nicola Valentini

According to Nicola, both towns, old and new, are worth a visit because “they are a powerful symbol, even if imperfect, of how a city torn apart by an earthquake can seek a new identity through a deep cultural strategy. Gibellina is the most powerful example of public art I have ever seen in Italy” he concludes.

Cover picture: Giuliano Mauri, Tree Cathedral. Photo: Giacomo Bianchi - Copyright Arte Sella


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