Situated in the center of the island of Sicily, and specifically in the Trapani area, is Gibellina, a new town full of amazing artwork which is one of the largest open air contemporary art museums in the world.
On 14 January 1968, a violent earthquake hit the Belìce valley in Western Sicily and the town of Gibellina was completely devastated. Following the quake, the mayor of Gibellina, Ludovico Corrao, a unique and visionary person, together with a group of artists and intellectuals (including Leonardo Sciascia) called for the town to be completely rebuilt through art. Among the artists who assisted in this rebuilding were: Alberto Burri, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Pietro Consagra, Mario Schifano, Joseph Beuys and Carla Accardi. Thus, the extraordinary experiment of rebuilding Gibellina took place – a natural and human catastrophe followed by the cathartic energy of art and culture.
The “Grande Cretto” of Alberto Burri covers the ruins of the old city and is a huge open air art masterpiece famous worldwide. It has recently been completed in 2015, reaching 90.000 sqm.
Gibellina Nuova, located 15 kilometers from the old city, has been studied by many for its important architectural works and open air sculptures. It is one of the largest open air contemporary art museums in the world.
Il Baglio Di Stefano
Originally built in the 18th century as a farmhouse, Le Case di Stefano following the earthquake, was restored by the architects Roberto Collovà, Marcella Aprile and Teresa La Rocca. Today this building is the headquarter of the Foundation Orestiadi and the Museo delle Trame Mediterranee in which are preserved important contemporary art collections. The exterior of this construction hosts the “Salt Mountain” by Mimmo Paladino, and has provided the backdrop for “La Sposa di Messina”, presented at the Cretto di Burri for Orestiadi in 1990. The courtyard hosts the annual Orestiadi di Gibellina, an international theatre review now in its 40th year.
The large Piazza XV Gennaio 1968, which is overlooked by the city hall, was designed in 1972 by Giuseppe and Alberto Samonà with Vittorio Gregotti. It is surrounded by a portico decorated with large ceramic panels by Carla Accardi and Pietro Consagra (1985). One of the sides of the square is bordered by the sculpture entitled “City of Thebes”, by Pietro Consagra; it was the backdrop for Oedipus Rex 1988. The space is closed by the sculptures “Città del Sole" by Mimmo Rotella (1987) and the “Torre Civica" by Alessandro Mendini (1988).
Sistema delle piazze
A system of five interconnecting squares, designed by the architects Franco Purini and Laura Thermes, of which only three were constructed by the end of the 1980s, was created to connect the ‘piazze’ to other parts of the cities urban installations. The first square is accessed through a grand entrance and hosts the “Tracce Antropomorfe” by Nanda Vigo (1978).It was constructed with fragments originating in the old city and is bordered by pyramids of steps. The longer edges of the other squares are bordered by a double-level portico, the second level of which is an open walkway, with square windows looking over the square.
Palazzo di Lorenzo
The Palazzo di Lorenzo, designed by the architect Francesco Venezia in 1981, was originally designed to serve as a Museum. The building spreads around one side of the Palazzo di Lorenzo, which survived the earthquake and was subsequently moved to its new location and ultimately reconstructed on one of the long sides of the inner courtyard. A ramp originates here: it evokes the inclined roads of the old city and leads to the upper level, which consists of a long corridor with windows on one side overlooking the “Piazza System” and on the other, the open rural area.
This square forms part of a large urban project designed and built in the early 1990s by Pierluigi Nicolin. It is dedicated to the German artist Joseph Beuys, who spent Christmas in 1981 in Gibellina, thinking about a Sacred Forest made up of three-hundred oak trees that would have been planted on the site of the former slums. Two buildings overlook the square: these are entitled “The Meeting" and “The Theatre” - they have been designed by Pietro Consagra and are examples of the unique “Città Frontale”.
The project for the theatre, which is still being built, is a prime example of the concept of the Città Frontale, devised by Pietro Consagra (1920-2005), a concrete example of which can be seen in the Meeting and the Star. Consagra designed the building to be delineated by curved unbroken planes and without right-angles, promoting a plastic image and a communicative aesthetic. The building of the theatre had a profound cultural significance as a site representing collective myths, that are currently staged in the ruins of Gibellina.
The monumental and civic nature of this church, designed by Ludovico Quarioni and Luisa Aversa in 1972 and completed in 2010, is one of the most imposing and fascinating pieces of architecture in the city. It is composed of a parallelepiped structure which is grafted on one side to a 16-meter high sphere which forms the apse. The construction is dominated by the contrast between these two shapes, which reinterpret the material representation of the sacred motif with the dome, which has Arabic and Christian origins.
The Meeting, designed by Pietro Consagra in 1974 and completed in 1983, is the first building constructed in the proposed “Città Frontale”. It is a building characterised by sinuous curves whose facades are studded with oblique glass shapes. Today it houses an art gallery and bar.
Giardino Segreto 2
Il Giardino Segreto 2 is an architectural work by Francesco Venezia, built in 1992. It is a quadrangular space without a roof and accessed via two narrow cracks. At its centre is the “Renaissance” a sculpture by Daniel Spoerri, while on the travertine walls the second “Città del Sole” by Mimmo Rotella is installed. On the external wall that oversees the road, there is a stone tub, originating from the Castle of Charamontano, in old Gibellina.
A project for the center of Gibellina
The exhibition space sits on the outer end of the “Project for Gibellina City Center” commissioned to Oswald Mathias Ungers in 1981. The German architect’s intervention connects the town hall together with the rest of the city by initiating a long walking path going towards the Consagra’s Theatre. One of its big central arcs acts as a frame for Fausto Melotti’s 1984 sculpture entitled “Sequenze”, which lies in the nearby hill.
The botanical garden covers an area of three hectares divided into four areas. It is crossed by a network of avenues that invite you to walk through the variegated vegetation and the following artworks: “The door of the Kremlin" by Pietro Consagra; “Qanat - the routes of the sky" by Medhat Shafik; and “Meridiana / Ellittica" by Ettore Colla. Inside the botanical garden are the “Labyrinth" by Pietro Burzotta and the Ethnoanthropological Museum, today closed.
The building that has hosted the CRESM in the artisan quarter of Gibellina since 1997 is part of the original detailed plan designed by the German architect Oswald Mathias Ungers in 1982. The building represents one of four service centres made available to the enterprises situated in the artisan quarter. It covers an area of around 400 m² on two levels designed for exhibitions and offices. Since 2011 the entire north wing of the ground floor has been used to host the Belice Museum/EpiCentre of Living Memory.
MAC – Museo Arte Contemporanea
The Ludovico Corrao Civic Museum, founded in 1980 and recently renovated, hosts a collection of around 2,000 works by artists, sculptors and photographers who participated in the reconstruction of Gibellina. On display are the ten large cycle of nature paintings by Mario Schifano, in addition to works by Toti Scialoja, Mimmo Rotella, Antonio Corpora, Giulio Turcato, Afro Basaldella, Joseph Beuys, Pietro Consagra, Carla Accardi, Emilio Isgrò, Antonio Sanfilippo, Lucio Fontana, Mimmo Jodice, Renata Boero and many others.
Spanning 90,000 m², the Grande Cretto (the “big crack”) by Alberto Burri covers the ruins of the city of Gibellina – which was destroyed during the night of 14 th -15 th January 1968 – with huge blocks of white cement. The work echoes in part the road network of the city, to preserve its memory for future generations, and sits in the landscape like a grand set design relating to the natural surroundings and in recognition of the Segesta and Selinunte monuments which inspired Burri’s work. Defined by Corrao as a polysemantic, symbolic, dreamlike, socially-aware work, the Cretto is today one of the largest and well-known works of land art in the world, and has preserved and amplified the story of this small Sicilian farming region.
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