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Life Inside An Artwork

This small Italian town in the Sicilian province of Trapani was first settled by the Saracens in the Middle Ages. After the Second World War, on account of the post-war hardships, the area lost a substantial part of its population as many of its inhabitants emigrated to the New World. Subsequently, the town was totally devastated by an earthquake in 1968. The decision was then taken to start over from scratch, and an inventive project was drawn up to “humanise” the area, for which purpose several famous international artists were called in, names such as Pietro Consagra, Alberto Burri, Mario Schifano, Andrea Cascella, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Mimmo Paladino, Franco Angeli and Leonardo Sciascia. The town soon turned into a huge laboratory of experimental art, prompting artists to create works that ennobled the new urban precinct.

The Top 6 Monuments in Gibellina

It should be noted that the reconstruction of Gibellina arose as part of a major cultural challenge which involved both the need to built habitable dwellings and to do so in an artistic milieu. Today, Gibellina is one huge open-air, modern-architecture museum featuring some brilliant works; and, it is now inhabited once more. Here, then, are the six most stunning areas.

Il Cretto di Burri

Gibellina is a town born of a tragedy, and an earthquake at that, the remains of which are still visible beneath the vast work known as Il Cretto, by Alberto Burri. The artist was reluctant to set his work within the confines of yet another urban complex. Instead, he created a gigantic monument dedicated to the earthquake victims which stretches over the streets and alleyways of the old town. It is a massive concrete structure which hugs the ground and is scored by deep cracks. Its artistic value lies in having physically frozen the historical memory of the land. For its sheer size, Il Cretto is one of the largest artworks in the world.

The “Meeting”

In 1976 Pietro Consagra designed a monument-sculpture known as The Meeting. This large-scale sculpture features smooth curves emerging from two parallel projections. It is a clear example of Brutalist architecture, so in vogue in the seventies. In this case he combined transparent sections with opaque ones, while eschewing any balanced compositional harmony. It now stands between the bus station and the area taken up by bars and other leisure facilities.

The Chiesa Madre

in 1970 Ludovico Quaroni was commissioned to design Gibellina’s parish church on a hilltop. The geometry of the church is novel, not only owing to the layout of the building and its relationship to its surroundings but on account of the language in its architectural forms. The various functional areas are distributed in a box with a 50-metre-square base sub-divided into modules and sub-modules, while the symbolical and geometrical centre of the monument is a great smooth cement sphere bearing reference to the sacred.

The Piazza del Municipio and the Civic Tower

The town square is surrounded by a colonnade designed by Vittorio Gregotti and Giuseppe Samonà, the walls of which were decorated with ceramics by Carla Accardi. Edging the perimeter of the square stand some marvellous white metal sculptures of characters from the work, Oedipus Rex, made by Pietro Consagra, with others by Mimmo Rotella, and the so-called Civic Tower designed by Alessandro Mendini. Four times a day, a blend of sounds with reminiscences of everyday life in the old Gibellina can be heard from this tower.

The Square System

This is actually a matrix of closed architectural squares designed by Franco Purini and Laura Thermes. Enclosed within this System are the Piazza Rivolta del 26 giugno 1937, Piazza Fasci dei Lavoratori, Piazza Monti di Gibellina, Piazza Autonomia Siciliana and Piazza Passo Portella delle Ginestre.

The Civic Museum of Contemporary Art

Gibellina’s contemporary art collection was created from contributions by Italy’s leading artists, and others of international acclaim.

The first to chip in were the Sicilians – Pietro Consagra, Carla Accardi and Emilio Isgrò. Ever since its inauguration in 1980, the Gibellina Museum has been endowed with over 1,800 artworks, notably original paintings, illustrations and sculptures. Most are housed inside the building, but some are dotted about the town streets, where they form a complement to the urban architecture. The bulk of the museum’s exhibition space is taken up by the collection, but there is a room dedicated to Mario Schifano, while another open-air area is given over to artistic and architectural mock-ups.

Join us on a trip to this unique spot in the world. Check out our flights here.


Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Tiberio Frascari, Giulio Nepi, Antonella Profeta

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