Palazzo Ducale di Sassuolo exhibits an unseen collection of photographs by Luigi Ghirri

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Palazzo Ducale di Sassuolo exhibits an unseen collection of photographs by Luigi Ghirri
Luigi Ghirri. The Marazzi Years 1975 – 1985. Installation view at Palazzo Ducale di Sassuolo (Gallerie Estensi), 2021. Photo: Héctor Chico / Andrea Rossetti. © Eredi Luigi Ghirri. Courtesy Marazzi Ceramiche.

SASSUOLO.- From 16 September to 31 October 2021, an almost completely unseen collection of photographs by Luigi Ghirri is the protagonist of the Luigi Ghirri. The Marazzi Years 1975-1985 exhibition, curated by Ilaria Campioli, at the Palazzo Ducale, Sassuolo. The Project, put on by Gallerie Estensi in partnership with the Archivio Luigi Ghirri and Marazzi Group, will be presented at the 21st edition of the Festival Filosofia (philosophy festival) in Modena, Carpi and Sassuolo, whose topic, Freedom, perfectly represents the spirit of the long-standing partnership between the artist and the ceramics company founded in the 1930s.

Luigi Ghirri first met Marazzi in Sassuolo in 1975, in a phase of personal growth and experimentation which communicates well with the direction of the company’s research and development, focused at that time on some fundamental points such as colour, dimensions and internationalisation. The result is a unique partnership, where the artist creates an important corpus of works, almost completely free from the criteria of the advertising image: a research in which ceramics are read as surfaces and mental space, an infinite possibility of composition, light and colour.

On the ground floor of the Palazzo Ducale in Sassuolo, thirty photographs, fruit of this extraordinary partnership and preserved for almost forty years in the Marazzi archives, are exhibited in the Appartamento dei Giganti spaces, reopened to the public for this occasion: a small room (camerino) and two large rooms overlooking an imposing Italian garden, decorated with geometric perspective and friezes composed of scrolls, panels and two reliefs with Tritons and Nereids.

“With this exhibition, we are celebrating a little-known yet fascinating aspect of the work of Luigi Ghirri, who was one of the most important and best-known Italian photographers of the second half of the 20th century,” says Martina Bagnoli, Director of the Gallerie Estensi. “This exhibition in partnership with Marazzi reiterates the close and successful relationship which Gallerie Estensi enjoys with the local area and the thriving enterprises in this region.”

Luigi Ghirri. The Marazzi Years 1975 - 1985 reveals how much Ghirri used ceramics to deepen themes and reflections dear to him in those years, like the function of photography itself, being a tool to interrogate the world, to understand collective and shared perception, to analyse architecture, landscape representation, illusion.

The exhibition itinerary opens in the camerino of the Apartment with photographs in which ceramics become a geometric grid that defines the spaces, where the tools of childhood learning are the protagonists - the blackboard, the abacus, the coloured pencils - alongside those of play (the ball) and imagination (a rainbow held up by the shadow of a hand).

Alongside these images, in the next room, those dedicated to perfect architecture and fragments of classical aesthetics interact again with tile grids whose geometric and alienating effect is heightened by the use of mirrors and reflections. In the last room, miniatures, changes of perspectives, small optical illusions are once again placed alongside the grids, in a continuous interrogation of the vision and its thousand variations.

“In his works for Marazzi, Luigi Ghirri placed the ceramic material within a wider reflection on representation,” explains Ilaria Campioli, curator of the exhibition. “The surfaces become part of this system of measuring and reducing the world into scale, which was so important for the artist in that period. The combination of the different planes and grids allowed him to further investigate and reflect on knowledge and learning, as if they were a new page on which to learn how to write and draw each time.”

Thanks to the efforts of Marazzi and the contribution of the Archivio Luigi Ghirri, the exhibition held at the Palazzo Ducale in Sassuolo – a location symbolic of his local area – forms the centre of a major promotional project, enabling the public to appreciate a unique cultural experience that significantly adds to our understanding of the works and thought of one of the greatest figures in Italian photography.

Alongside the exhibition at the Palazzo Ducale, the project Luigi Ghirri. The Marazzi Years 1975 – 1985 involves the publication of a volume of the same name which will not go on sale, and the creation of a website providing further information – – completely dedicated to this special productive period of Ghirri’s career. The exhibition itinerary incorporates a symbolic beginning with the display, at the Musei Civici in Reggio Emilia museum, of a small focus dedicated to the work symbolic of this operation, on the occasion of the 2021 edition of the Fotografia Europea Festival; after Sassuolo the travelling exhibition will go international, with its first stop being the Italian Cultural Institute in Paris from 10 November 2021, during Paris Photo.

“We are very happy to be able to commemorate this unique association between the company and one of the grand masters of Italian photography, by exhibiting Luigi Ghirri’s work in the Gallerie Estensi’s Palazzo Ducale in Sassuolo, a location symbolic of the artist’s local area,” confirms Mauro Vandini, Marazzi CEO. “A 10-year partnership, which has allowed Ghirri to express himself with the utmost freedom and vision, creating a body of works that has left its mark. It is thrilling to rediscover them and publish them now together, displaying all the facets, poetry and intelligence of an artist who has established an exceptionally long-lasting, deep bond with us that yielded outstanding results. Results that are now finally visible and accessible to all. This exhibition somehow completes the path undertaken 45 years ago and which is continuing thanks to the partnership with the Archive and Adele Ghirri and the dialogue that has been established with the Gallerie Estensi and the Director Martina Bagnoli.”

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