I visited Fattoria di Celle some years ago with a young Tuscan carver and the experience has been so outstanding that I still collect it as one of the five marvels of my life. I never stopped since then to suggest it to friends and never stopped to long to return once.
The incredible mansion and estate is located in Santomato (Tuscany), a small village five kilometers from Pistoia. It hosts the collection of the Prato-born Mr Giuliano Gori on 3000 squared meters (indoor) plus eighty site-specific works spread through the 45 hectares of the surrounding park and olive grove. With a very persistent rhythm – sometimes with more than one artwork per year – a new piece is designed for (and placed) in the estate.
On March 5, 2015, the vegetation of the Celle park has been heavily hit by a terrible windstorm which caused the loss of 550 historical trees. In the following months, a very seeding dialogue among Giuliano Gori, Andrea Mati and the engineer Mirko Bianconi drove to a reparatory output: the plantation of cypresses to underline the crucial role nature exercises inside the Celle art collection.
Thirty cypresses ordered in four converging rows by landscape designer and musician Andrea Mati suggest to the visitors a path to reach the focus point of the artwork: a very peculiar winter garden, designed by the Italian writer (and architect) Sandro Veronesi. Getting inspired by the hyperbolic paraboloid – an engineering myth of the past century and also the plastic expression of the physical concept of ‘resistance given by the form’ – Veronesi created a monument in stainless steel and glass dedicated to Poetry as the universal symbol of’ resistance given by the form’.
Since the beginning, this artistic intervention has been conceived to center the point where to build a winter garden which was entitled of its true vocation, a space where to nurture plants. Italian literary tradition is rich of references to any kind of plants: from the box to the cherry trees quoted in Gozzano’s Signorina Felicita, to the Eugenio Montale’s lemon trees, from the Leopardi’s broom to the very famous Tuscan cypresses chanted by Giosuè Carducci. The small Veronesi’s pavilion is equipped with a seedbed where, time by time, these essences will be incubated and produced to pay homage to the poets of today.
The number 30 is just a departure to be incremented in the following years by planting other cypresses. This work of art is therefore in progress and summarize the vocation of Fattoria di Celle to stimulate to think and to re-appreciate poetry through a working structure-artwork.
The winter garden is the first creation of Veronesi as an artist. By visiting Celle, it is possible to admire also works by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Stefano Arienti, Alice Aycock, Roberto Barni, Massimo Biagi, Frank Breidenbruch & A.R.Penck (Ralf Winkler), Daniel Buren, Alberto Burri, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, Enrico Castellani, Loris Cecchini, Giuseppe Chiari, Pietro Coletta, Fabrizio Corneli, Stephen Cox, Nicola De Maria, Luciano Fabro, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Piero Fogliati, Jean Michel Folon, Michel Gerard, Hossein Golba, Bukichi Inoue, Menashe Kadishman, Dani Karavan, Anselm Kiefer, Joseph Kosuth, Olavi Lanu, Sol LeWitt, Daniele Lombardi, Richard Long, Luigi Mainolfi, Luciano Massari, Eliseo Mattiacci, Fausto Melotti, Alessandro Mendini, Aiko Miyawaki, Robert Morris, Hidetoshi Nagasawa, Nunzio, Dennis Oppenheim, Mimmo Paladino, Marta Pan, Giulio Paolini, Claudio Parmiggiani, Giuseppe Penone, Beverly Pepper, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jaume Plensa, Anne and Patrick Poirier, Dimitri Prigov, Ulrich Ruckriem, Gianni Ruffi, Richard Serra, Susana Solano, Alan Sonfist, Giuseppe Spagnulo, Aldo Spoldi, Mauro Staccioli, Marco Tirelli, George Trakas, Costas Tsoclis, Emilio Vedova, Gilberto Zorio.
We’ve interview Giuliano just after the opening of ‘Serra’ (the winter garden).
Giuliano, your life in a few lines exactly from when it started
I was born in Prato on August 16, 1930, I am married with Giuseppina Taddei and we had four children. I am domiciled in Santomato of Pistoia since 1970.
On 1982 I opened the art spaces at Fattoria di Celle, which is the first private collection of site-specific art and today host eighty artworks. It served as a model for many different other initiatives in the world.
I’ve been in charge of many different artistic projects and have been and currently am member of various public and private art and landscape committees (I promoted also art and sculpture parks which don’t belong to me); I’ve been awarded with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by Italian Cultural Institute and Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles) and the University Suor Orsola Benincasa honored me with the honoris causa degree in Cultural Conservation. In the city of that university, Naples, I have also been curator of the visual art section of Città delle Scienze, Bagnoli from 1995 to 1996.
I am proud to refer to you that on 1996 the Associazione Internazionale degli Architetti Paesaggisti gave to Celle the first prize as the best private park in Italy.
More than 64 artists who created 80 works integrated in the landscape, better becoming one thing with it. What was the spark to inspire you and to go on always with more dedicated attention to let your site-specific art collection growing overall your estate, la Fattoria di Celle, which is just a little away from Pistoia in the marvelous texture of Tuscan landscape which still produces oil and wine?
My collection has two precise intervals, one we define historical (whose works are dating back to the SWW and soon after) composed by what we liked more but especially of works of avant-garde artists experimenting with new languages. For that milieu we’ve restored a little building in Prato which soon became a sort of gathering point where artists and critics reached us wherever from Italy (and Prato became an obligatory stop for those either coming from the south and from the north of the country), we’re the belly of the peninsula! This very sparkling gathering lasted until the spring of 1970.
We moved the historical collection in the Celle mansion. We’ve also 10 Burri’s pieces and many other works but there is nothing in common with the site-specific art collection.
After this one, the Celle collection starts.
I got very soon in love with the art making but on 1961 I made the experience which changed my way to understand art. I visited in that year the Catalan Art museum in Barcelona: I was in town because invited by the local university to lecture and homage the artist Osvaldo Licini. The antique artworks dating back from year 1000 in that museum were exhibited exactly in the context of their origin which was rebuilt on purpose to give the idea of the existing conditions in which the artist was conceiving his work. To give you an idea, if the exhibited piece was a ‘pala d’altare’ it had been exhibited with an altar rebuilt all around it. I still recall that I called immediately my wife Pina who was in Prato to tell her that I was astonished and wanted us to return back together to visit that museum again. My wife replied that maybe I would have been touched by something else she was about to tell me (she revealed that we’re waiting our third children!)
In that period I was also seeing the first site-specific artworks which were, at those time, made with very precarious matter not fitting for a durable life. I wanted, so, to challenge the artists to work together with the space to create a durable piece.
I arrived in Celle in the spring of 1970. Before Celle we owned another agricultural property which was stunning to produce and harvest (and even more important than Celle on this side of its function) but was not adaptable to issue what I was having in mind, so I sold it.
Which kind of audience visited in these thirty years the Fattoria di Celle and what was the most surprising thing you had in the relation with it?
When we opened to the public by appointment, it was 1982, the first audience was foreign especially from Northern Europe where the contemporary art articles were on the daily diet of readers either in the papers and in the tv and radios. Passing the years, we saw the growing enthusiasm of Italy starting from the Fine Arts Academies and universities. I can say that today we’ve been visited mostly by the greatest museums, by the universities and by the cultural foundations of every part of the world and I get surprised that, even if we started in 1981 without any reference point in our mission, we’ve became a reference for a lot of international cultural companies.
Every artwork in Celle is originated by a visit of the invited artist and by a free correspondence with you – your personality recalls me very closely the one of the atypical patron who embodies the very Tuscan relation between art and territories as many famous ancestors of yours expressed. The works created a daydream to cross, a daydream able to capture everyone even if is not an art professional.
Works of art in the past originated thanks to an ‘assignment’ and nowadays this and other tasks went lost.
I am not used to define myself a patron and there is no act of patronizing as it is meant now. Today the modern patron backing arts makes it for his own advertising sake or for other gains.
I love to define myself an entrepreneur without profit.
As a collector, so, I became an entrepreneur without profit. I wanted, above all, to experiment that particular liaison which, in the course of the recent centuries given the raise of the role of the ‘mediator’, has been shadowed. I mean to create a direct relation between the artist and the client/buyer, by inviting the artist to work in a place and taking in account all its characters. It is a very old model I’m letting return in Celle.
I want to underline that working in a site-specific context means to need a lot of time, from three months to two years per artwork. And the commitment is the largest ever.
The last Veronesi’s work, for instance, took sixteen months of work to be installed.
For the very first time this year, you worked on poetry and writing even if your foundation always published books and very fine catalogues. Can you tell us more in depth how did you end to invite Sandro Verones and Andrea Mati?
To answer you properly, I need to quote for you the introduction to the volume we published for the Serra dei Poeti (The Winter Garden of the Poets) which is a collaboration between two excellent creatives:
‘the eightieth site specific Celle artwork appeared as a spontaneous flower in the olive grove, which is located in the west wing of the pak. It seems a kite who glides to land on the surrounding grass and suck the nectar of the other works of art, also drenched into poetry.
As the light and the climate variate, the Serra offers always new sensations, thanks to the glass transparency and recalls surreal images at night as if a portion of starry cosmos took domination of its internal space to start an astronomical laboratory.
The Serra dei Poeti (…), is a segment which rejoins in a circular shape our first encounter with Bartolomeo Sestini, a patriot and a poet who was architect in Celle only one time when designing the park Aviary – an artifact which summarizes the characters of site-specific art and for that reason being an example for the following ones.
The touching coincidence – an ideal encounter between the aviary and the winter garden – confirms the Celle vocation as a predestined place for excellences where different artists have radically shifted their artistic practices. Sandro Veronesi and Bartolomeo Sestini have a lot in common: celebrated in literature, with a degree in architecture, they both realize their dream here with their sole, and unique, architectural design.
Who are the poets ‘represented’ by the seed stored in the Serra?
Just a foreword before replying to you: this project will be soon enlarged to include also different poetic sensibilities and poets from other époques.
In order to start we shortlisted (together with the authors of the artwork) a very personal and not complete list of Italian poets: Guido Cavalcanti (1255-1300), Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374), Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533), Torquato Tasso (1544-1595), Ugo Foscolo (1778-1827), Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873), Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907), Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912), Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938), Eugenio Montale (1896-1981), Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888-1970), Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975), Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), Bartolomeo Sestini (1792-1822), Umberto Saba (1883-1957), Dino Campana (1885-1932), Vincenzo Cardarelli (1887-1959), Camillo Sbarbaro (1888-1967), Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968), Sandro Penna (1906-1977), Leonardo Sinisgalli (1908-1981), Mario Luzi (1914-2005), Andrea Zanzotto (1921-2011), Giovanni Giudici (1924-2011), Amelia Rosselli (1930-1996), Alda Merini (1931-2009), Valentino Zeichen (1938-2016).
You as a reader: which places, which times, which methods? Which book is in your hands now?
I dedicated a lot of time to literature in the first part of my life and then I switched to essays.
I am actually very interested to a philosopher, Andrea Amo, who has been recently discovered by Massimo Cacciari. He wrote unforgettable paragraphs about art – the artworks, the poems, the forms, are the witnesses of the time, the witnesses of an unrepeatable moment of time.
These are the clocks of the time and, maybe as all the human outputs, the creators of the time they perpetuate. Given they affirm a moment which has never been before and will not repeat afterwards, the artworks and the works of the intellect describe their nowness and are eternal. Ecce mysterium.
Which music do you listen in these times?
Music is integral part of my entire life, Celle apart.
If we speak of Celle, I should tell you at this point (given you ask me about my preferred music) that I do not consider Celle a sculpture or an art park, it’s the opposite.
Celle must be considered as a interdisciplinary cultural lab where, beside art, is equally possible to find music, literature, poetry and any other cultural manifestation. Our second-last work before the Serra is the one signed by Daniele Lombardi (the Porta Musicale for the Celle Chapel, dating 2016): he died unfortunately recently, just before opening the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. He was an excellent composer and executor but was also linked to visual poetry and painting and in both experimenting. He had a great place here. And during our 35 years of relation we did marvelous things together. I am now listening to his compositions.
Other friends and musicians came to create with us as, for instance Luciano Berio (who donate also one of his works, the first wanted to give to us!) and Max Neuhaus. Of this latter I have been always touched by the relation sound&silence: he created for Celle a music/frequency of which you got aware only in the moment it ceased (it is based on intervals). I mean you noted it from its silence. Neuhaus created in facts a music score putting in notes the noise of the wood. When it stopped you heard it. When it played, not so many people usually got it. We enjoyed to compile for a long while our stats on it: for instance we recorded a group of 20 visitors where only 1 was discovering this artwork and the other 19 were left unaware.
What did you learn from life so far?
I would need some volumes to tell you what I’ve learned and, even so, I could add that every day, every day I continue to learn and every day, every day I know to do not learn enough.
I want also to tell you that I am a deep lover of nature and will never stop to study it.
I saw an experiment where someone puts sensors in a flower pot and transform in music the language of the plants which was not audible before. On this topic, I was always aware that the nature beings were using their communication code and I wrote a lot all along these years about incredible examples I was witness of.
I would love, a day, to publish my experiences to tell the language of the nature.
The picture in the gallery is courtesy Follow Art With Us
To plan your visit at Fattoria di Celle, browse: http://www.goricoll.it/index.php?chlang=en