Preserved for decades in the archives of ceramics manufacturer Marazzi, an unseen collection of photographs by Luigi Ghirri becomes the focus of an exhibition at the Palazzo Ducale in Sassuolo curated by Ilaria Campioli.
Luigi Ghirri was born in Scandiano in 1943 but the family moved to nearby Sassuolo when he was three. It was there, in the area between Modena and Reggio Emilia, that he encountered Marazzi, a ceramics company founded in the 1930s, for the first time. In 1975 the photographer came to the company for the first time: it was a phase of growth and experimentation in which he got to know and interacted with the direction of Marazzi’s research and development of the time, focused on some fundamental nexuses such as colour, dimensions and internationalisation. This initial encounter led to a partnership between Ghirri and Marazzi unique in terms of its duration, intensity and results, through which the artist created a research project – also bringing in John Batho, Cuchi White and Charles Traub – in which ceramics were viewed as a mental space and medium, with infinite compositional, light and colour possibilities.
In the space of ten years, Ghirri created a significant body of work for Marazzi, almost entirely freed from the canons of advertising imagery and extremely consistent with the artistic and visual research and the topics which were important to the photographer during this period: surfaces, common objects, design, landscapes, and light as genius loci.
From 16 September to 31 October 2021, these works are being brought together for the exhibition Luigi Ghirri. The Marazzi Years 1975 – 1985, curated by Ilaria Campioli, at the Palazzo Ducale di Sassuolo: an exhibition put on by Gallerie Estensi in partnership with the Archivio Luigi Ghirri archive and Marazzi Group.
“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.”
On the ground floor of this precious Baroque residence, in the rooms of the Appartamento dei Giganti reopened to the public for the inauguration of this exhibition, thirty photographs born of the collaboration between the artist and the company are being put on display for the first time, after being preserved in Marazzi’s archives for nearly forty years.
The apartment – composed of one small room and two large rooms with windows looking out over an imposing Italian garden – with its geometric perspective and friezes composed of scrolls, panels and two reliefs featuring Tritons and Nereids seems only to further highlight the Emilian photographer’s poetic sensibility, geometry and symbolic perspectives.
“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 di 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 – www.ghirri.marazzi.it – 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 di 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 grandmasters of Italian photography, by exhibiting Ghirri’s work in the Gallerie Estensi’s Palazzo Ducale di Sassuolo, a location symbolic of the artist’s local area,” confirms Mauro Vandini, Marazzi CEO. “We are also happy that this great partnership continues to this day, thanks to the precious support of the Archive and Adele Ghirri in putting on this exhibition.”
Photos by Héctor Chico / Andrea Rossetti
Luigi Ghirri. The Marazzi Years 1975 – 1985
Installation view at Palazzo Ducale di Sassuolo (Gallerie Estensi), 2021
©EREDI LUIGI GHIRRI courtesy Marazzi Ceramiche