Modern and Contemporary Art in Sicily

Detail

Modern and contemporary art? Seductive and powerful but sometimes elusive. Is the Old World, the home of classical and religious art, the best place to discover it?

Embark on this fascinating journey into modern and contemporary art in Sicily, full of unexpected surprises.

Cross the historic centre of the ‘Città Felicissima’, the city of Palermo, and arrive at the district of Kalsa, in Via Sant’Anna: the Civic Gallery of Modern Art was transferred here in 2006 and is today the GAM.

The gallery was inaugurated in 1910. Two hundred works are exhibited on its three floors. There are pictures and sculptures of the prominent masters of romanticism and realism up to the 20th century: Francesco Lojacono, Antonino Leto, Ettore de Maria Bergler, Michele Catti and ending with the most recent Renato Guttuso.

In 2007 the gallery’s collection was enhanced with the donation of two sculptures by Giorgio De Chirico: “Ettore e Andromaca” e “Oreste e Pilade”.
Continue your walk and after two hundred metres you come across the Palazzo Riso.

The Polo Museo Regionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Palermo is sited in the magnificent Palazzo Belmonte Riso, built at the end of the 18th century by the princes of Ventimiglia di Belmonte. This is an interesting example of a private noble residence in which late Baroque magnificence is married with neoclassical precision.

The museum’s permanent collection includes works linked to a firm central theme: a link between either the artists or the works created with the land of Sicily. The visit’s itinerary features sections housing paintings by Alessandro Bazan and the “erasure” works of Emilio Isgrò, a rebel artist and sculptor known throughout the world. Another unusual, tormented artist not to miss is the controversial Salvo, an intrepid hyperrealist and inconsolable abstract artist. Palazzo Riso on izi Travel.

There’s also Antonio Sanfilippo, one of the first abstract artists in Italy and Europe, whose works are also found in the Museo d’Arte Moderna e ContemporaneaLa Salerniana. This museum is located in the centre of Trapani in the 17th century Palazzo della Vicaria. More than 160 works, from 1950 to the present, are gathered here, and include the artists most representative of modern and contemporary art: C. Accardi, A. Sanfilippo, P. Consagra, L. Guerrini, F. Mauri, C. Alfano, C. Verna, L. Patella, N. Carrino, R. Mambor, E. Marcheggiani, T. Simeti, G. Griffa, C. Lorenzetti, L. Boille, V. Bendini, G. Baruchello, A. Scordia, E. Scanavino, O. Galliani, E. Tadini, P. Pinelli and M. Cossyro.

However, still in Palermo, there’s the Gipsoteca della Galleria d’Arte Moderna “Empedocle Restivo”, in the Palazzo Ziino in Via Dante Alighieri. This plaster cast gallery has an extremely likeable collection of about sixty plaster sculptures from the GAM’s storerooms, including sculptures by the Sicilian Ettore Ximenes.

Leave Palermo and go towards Bagheria where the great father of contemporary painting, Renato Guttuso, was born in the early 20th century. Who doesn’t know La Vucciria, a crude, realistic but strongly emotional work with its decisive lines and violent colours? An unmistakeable style, the result of his artistic development. Originally close to Picasso, he was was later influenced by the expressionists.

The beautiful 18th-century Villa Cattolica, which stands on a slight rise dominating the Conca d’Oro and the Gulf of Palermo, has housed both works donated by the artist to the city and those of other artists of the 1900s since 1973. You should also see a selection of photographs produced by Giuseppe Tornatore, the director of the film “Baaria”.

Take a last look at the ‘Villa of Monsters’ in Bagheria [Villa Palagonia] and leave in the direction of Castel di Tusa (Messina) for a swim in the wonderful sea. Now you’re ready for Fiumara d’Arte.

To start this fascinating trip, leave from the seafront of Santo Stefano di Camastra via the work ‘La Finestra sul Mare’ by the contemporary artist Tano Festa.
It’s an open-air art gallery following a route going from the coast into the hinterland of the Parco dei Nebrodi. The Fiumara d’Arte project was the result of an idea of Antonio Presti, an entrepreneur and contemporary art collector. In 1982 he commissioned the Sicilian sculptor Pietro Consagra to make a funerary monument in memory of his father. In 1986, the delivery of the work coincided with the announcement of the creation of an open-air museum: an exhibition of contemporary sculpture to develop and enhance the area, by uncovering hidden, little-known places through the symbiosis of art and nature. This was just one of events which resulted in Turismo Impegno.

Go east, along the Tyrrhenian coast, until you reach the provincial capital. In Messina, the GAMeC, the Lucio Barbera Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, deserves a visit. Here you’ll find the works of the major Italian and European exponents of various artistic trends, from Arte Povera to Pop Art, from Abstract art to the Avant-garde, from Futurism to Realism, as well as a section entirely dedicated to the main local contemporary artists.

On the nearby picturesque island of Lipari in the famous Aeolian archipelago, the fortified citadel of the Castle, is the site of the Museo Archeologico Luigi Bernabò Brea. The rooms of the former prison house Mare Motus, a prestigious permanent exhibition of contemporary art in which artists have brought together works on the theme of liberty, the sea and escape.

The exhibition has works of art and installations, some site-specific, conceived, or rather inspired, by the genius loci of the former prisons (a former penal colony and then a place of confinement for intellectuals, politicians and dissident artists during the twenty years of fascism), created by Matteo Basilé, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Gregorio Botta, Bonzalo Borondo, Alex Caminiti, Ettore de Conciliis, Teresa Emanuele, Carlo Gavazzeni Ricordi, Alessandro Giovannoni, Carin Grudda, Fati Hassan, Igor Miroraj, Riccardo Monachesi, Maria Elisabetta Novelo, Mimmo Paladino, Piero Pizzi Cannella, Fabrizio Plessi and Maurizio Savini.

Your voyage ends in Catania, on the Ionian coast. Here the Museo Civico Castello Ursino, in addition to the art gallery and the archaeological and numismatic collections, periodically houses exhibitions of intenationally renowned modern and contemporary artists.

In the same old district of Catania, at number 26, Via Casello Ursino, there’s the Galleria d’Arte ModernaEx Convento di Santa Chiara which has interesting periodic exhibitions.

In a strategic position, a stone’s throw from Museo Civico Castello Ursino, from Piazza Duomo and from Piazza Università, there’s an entire city block, once a liquorice factory among other things, which has become the Casa dell’Arte. This is the Brodbeck Foundation, established in late 2007 by Paolo Brodbeck, a Sicilian and Swiss entrepreneur.

The Foundation was created in the San Cristoforo district, an area with a bad reputation. The aim was to transform the entire citadel into a reference centre for contemporary art.

The “Paolo Brodbeck Collection — Italian painting 1949/2010” — highlights the collector’s love for Italian art. It ranges from Carla Accardi to Piero Dorazio, Piero Guccione to Renato Guttuso, Mimmo Paladino to Michelangelo Pistoletto and Mimmo Rotella to Giulio Turcato.

Before climbing the magnificent Via Crociferi, right in front of the arch of the Monastero di San Benedetto, there’s the MacS — Museo Arte Contemporanea Sicilia, located in the Badia Piccola of the Monastery. This museum has numerous exhibitions and artistic events, and an important permanent collections of artists of the calibre of Alexander Timofev and Miguel Escobar Uribe.

In Piazza San Francesco di Assisi, on the second floor of the Palazzo Gravina Cruyllas, noted for having been the birth place of Vincenzo Bellini, there’s the Museo Emilio Greco.

Greco’s works are exhibited in the world’s most prestigious museums, from London’s Tate Gallery, to the Hermitage of Saint Petersburg, and from American museums to those of the Vatican. The very famous bronze main door of Orvieto Cathedral and the monument to Pinocchio in Pinocchio Park in Collodi were his work. The museum dedicated to the famous sculptor from Catania, inaugurated by the artist himself in 1994, was the result of his donation to the Municipality of Catania. There is a permanent collection of 150 graphic works by Greco produced between 1955 and 1992.

If you continue in the direction of the Central Station, on the old Via Vittorio Emanuele, the 18th-century buildings of Palazzo Platamone, known as the Palazzo della Cultura and Palazzo Valle, home to the Puglisi Cosentino Foundation, periodically contain international exhibitions of modern and contemporary art.

The port of Catania has also become an open-air museum: the old, monumental silos have been skilfully transformed by eight international artists: Okuda and Rosh333 from Spagna, the duo Intersni Kazki from the Ukraine and the Italians Microbo, Bo130, Danilo Bucchi and VladyArt.

Described as the largest murals in the world, 10-storeys high, this is the most intriguing gaze over the sea ever painted under the direction of the Portugese artist Alexandre Farto, tag name Vhils. The grandiose 21st century monument represents a contemporary tale inspired by Sicilian myths and legends : Colapesce, floating to the surface to help disembark illegal immigrants, Bellini’s beautiful, colourful muse, Odysseus escaping from Polyphemus, the perpetual motion of Scylla and Charybdis and the minotaur.

Just outside the city, the La Verde La Malfa Foundation is the site of various permanent collections of modern and contemporary art, particularly of 20th-century Sicilian artists. The museum’s itinerary starts as soon as you pass through the main gate and enter the Parco dell’Arte: the park is a true open-air art museum with a series of sculptures and installations immersed in the vegetation. Since 2015 the park has been one of the Grandi Giardini Italiani and hosts theatrical shows, concerts, artistic performances and educational events.

At the foot of Etna, the Museo Incorpora, in the foormer Casa del Fascio in Linguaglossa, houses the collection of the Calabrian master Salvatore Incorpora, a sculptor and versatile artist naturalised in Sicily. His artistic nativity scenes, canvasses and sculptures hark back to the great 20th-century Sicilian artists: the expressionism and humanity of Renato Guttuso, the chromatism and sacred themes of Giuseppe Migneco, the originality and mixed media art of Salvatore Fiume.

Only ten kilometres from the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, there are some small gardens hidden in a Kasbah formed from seven interconnected miniature courtyards: this is the Farm Cultural Park of Favara which the British Blog Purple Travel places at number six in the world as a tourist destination for lovers of contemporary art!

The park comprises five different art galleries and every four months four new temporary exhibitions are arranged.

Once again art is partnered with a social innovation and urban renewal project.

Lovers of land art cannot miss visiting the Cretto di Burri in Gibellina, in the province of Trapani, an extensive work of art created out in the open.
The creator, to whom the Guggenheim dedicated an exhibition on the occasion of the centenary of his birth, designed the Cretto with the aim of ‘freezing’ the small town struck down by the 1968 Belice earthquake. The white cement shroud covering the ruins of “Ibbiddina” and the labyrinth of silent lanes make this an evocative site.

Likewise in Gibellina, in the Baglio Di Stefano, the Orestiadi Foundation has created the Museo delle Trame Mediterranee. Here you’ll find one of the most important collections of contemporary art in Italy. Works by Arnaldo Pomodoro, artists of the Italian transavanguard, such as Paladino, Cucchi and Germanà, those of the Forma 1 group, such as Consagra, Accardi, Dorazio and Turcato, and many, many other artists, including some of the major international exponents of contemporary art such as Beuys, Matta, Scialoja, Corpora, Isgrò, Schifano, Angeli, Boero, Boetti, Longobardi, Rotella and Bob Wilson, Long and Briggs.

In Marsala, still in the province of Trapani, you’ll find the imposing sculpture group of the master Salvatore Fiume: the “Fontana del Vino”. The works of Salvatore Fiume are located in some of the most important world museums such as the Vatican museums, St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, the MoMA of New York, Moscow’s Pushkin Museum and Milan’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna.

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