History and collection
The Gigi Guadagnucci Museum opened its doors to the public in 2015 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Gigi Guadagnucci’s birth (Massa, 1915-2013). Guadagnucci was a great sculptor who was born in Massa but trained in France and lived for a long time in Paris. He was one of the main 20th-century masters of marble; the museum originated from the donation to the borough of Massa by the artist himself and his wife of a considerable body of his works in 2012, with the specific aim of opening a museum which would contain a significant selection of his production.
The site, the ground floor and basement of the 17th-century Villa La Rinchiostra, immersed in splendid gardens, had been chosen when Gigi Guadagnucci was still alive; the sculptor retained that the opening of a museum in the villa might lay the foundations for transforming it into a centre of contemporary arts.
The Museum (set up with refined simplicity by the architects Giuseppe Cannilla and Alberto Giuliani) hosts forty-six works by Gigi Guadagnucci, made between 1957 and 2005, which document all the stages of the artist’s creative process.
The works inserted in the visitors’ itinerary, most of which are characterised by Guadagnucci’s masterful treatment of the material (prevalently marble, but he also worked with bardiglio, limestone, onyx and travertine), the trait for which he is in fact famous with the public at large, touch on various themes from his works: nature, his native territory, eros, the celestial bodies. The itinerary for the Guadagnucci collection aims specifically to document the heterogeneous nature of his work, the expressive force of his sculpture, his extraordinary craftsmanship, the results of his experimentations which border between abstract and figurative.
The itinerary, which does not follow a real chronological order as such, but develops above all according to themed groups, begins with some works from different periods which intend to convey to the public Guadagnucci’s virtuoso technique and skill in modelling marble which made him famous. The first work the public encounters is thus the 1984 Rosa II (Rose II) in statuary marble, which also introduces one of the fundamental themes of Guadagnucci’s art, i.e. his dialogue with nature. After a biographical introduction, we find ourselves in a room displaying some sculptures from the ‘60s and ‘70s and a selection of lithophanes. The former include works like Fiamma (Flame, 1976), another example of Guadagnucci’s virtuosity (the marble is carved into wafer-thin layers); and the 1966 Arioso (Airy), the iconic 1973 Passaggio di meteore (Meteor Passing), and a singular sculpture with an “Egyptian” theme, the 1960 Akhenaton. This is the portrait of the “heretic” spouse of Nefertiti, the father of Tutankhamon, shown by Guadagnucci in a praying position and in forms which remind us of the figure of the Uraeus, the sacred cobra, the symbol of the Pharaoh’s power which adorned the Egyptian sovereigns’ head-dresses. The litophanies are stones carved in relief with erotic subjects which greatly appealed to Jean Clair: “I’d like to call these finely-layered stones litophanes”, he wrote in 1993, “whether they be carved or embossed, partly because of the translucid nature of these stones where the images take shape or disappear depending on the direction of the light […], but above all because in the explosion of full daylight they show an intuition of the sacred, of hierophany, hierogamy, for which stone has always been the secret place […] and which the sculptor’s skill has made manifest”.
We go down to the floor below where a body of works from the ‘60s leads the public through the numerous stimuli underlying Guadagnucci’s versatile style. Two small themed groups are dedicated to animals (see for example Gufo (Owl) and Gallo (Cock) in Breccia stone, from 1963 and 1964, respectively) and to a homage to primitive art; as can be seen for example in the 1976 Aux Cyclades, a work which reproduces an ancient mask (in certain cultures the mask was, and in some areas of the world still is, the tool for evoking the spiritual powers, and it was in fact the spiritual power of the mask which attracted Guadagnucci, who reinterprets this motif with a great formal synthesis).
We continue with some works from the ‘60s, such as the Leda e il Cigno (Leda and the Swan, a representation of the well-known Greek myth), the 1965 Mano (Hand); then the 1963 Brugiana and the 1960 Donna (Woman) in various materials (statuary marble, limestone, bardiglio, purple marble) which exemplify the artist’s abstract and informal style. Guadagnucci is also however able to reproduce the rhythms and geological forms of the materials, in constant interaction with his subjects, which present themselves to the viewer as true fragments of the world they come from.
Thus this room introduces us to an environment dedicated to a dialogue with nature, which fascinates the artist for its generative force, where the vigour of vegetable life takes on sensual female curves; but also for its forms, as can be observed in works with a more direct reference to the world of plants and flowers. Examples of this are sculptures like Fiore (Flower, 1979), Dialogo di tre foglie (Dialogue of three leaves, 1976), Rosa I (Rose I, 1983); then Fiore sdraiato I and Fiore sdraiato III (Reclining flower I and III, 1977 and 1992). To create these “floral” works, Guadagnucci worked immersed in his garden at his house/studio in Bergiola, where he let plants sprout and grow without his intervention, allowing nature to expand at its own rhythms.
Finally we come to the last room, with works from various periods which offer the public a kind of compendium of the plastic and conceptual capacities of Guadagnucci’s sculpture. Throughout his artistic career, this artist from Massa always in fact demonstrated a precise correspondence between his ideas and his formal solutions, between the innate character of the material and the distribution of its forms in space. The result is thus a sculpture made up of equilibriums, rhythms and great lightness. And the end of the itinerary has been conceived precisely as a reflection on lightness, with works like Germination (1957), Orgues (1975), En triangle (1989), Torre (Tower, 1976), then Passaggio di meteora piccola (Passing of a small meteor, 1982) and sculptures from the ‘90s. One of the values which counts most in Guadagnucci’s art is in fact the escape from heaviness and the defeat of gravity which flattens creativity and human aspirations; these considerations also contribute to Guadagnucci’s interest in the cosmos and in the relationships determining the equilibrium of objects in space.