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The Italian Cultural Institute in Paris presents an unpublished collection of Ghirri's photographs

November 2021

The Italian Cultural Institute in Paris presents for the first time in France an unpublished collection of Ghirri's photographs, kept for decades in the archives of the Marazzi ceramic company in Emilia.

As part of the "À Paris pendant Paris Photo" itinerary of Paris Photo 2021, from 10 November to 21 December 2021, the Italian Cultural Institute of Paris presents Luigi Ghirri. Les années Marazzi 1975 – 1985, edited by Ilaria Campioli. The exhibition - the second appointment of an exhibition project that had its first stop at the Palazzo Ducale, the Ducal Palace in Sassuolo (Modena, Italy) from 16 September to 31 October - showcases for the first time in France a set of almost completely unpublished photographs by Luigi Ghirri between the 1970s and 1980s for the ceramic company Marazzi.The exhibition celebrates one of the most important masters of Italian photography on an international level.

The exhibition project, made possible thanks to the collaboration between Italian Cultural Institute, Archivio Luigi Ghirri and Marazzi Group represents a new step in the important operation of valorisation Marazzi has launched thanks to the sharing of a unique cultural experience. It adds new elements to our knowledge of the work and research of an absolute master of Italian photography, loved all over the world.

"It is a great honour for us to host the work of one of the greatest Italian photographers of the 20th century," says Diego Marani, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Paris: "This important operation of valorisation undertaken by Marazzi allows us to exhibit unpublished works that have hardly ever been presented to the public, in an important international context such as Paris Photo 2021."

Everything takes place within a few kilometres, in the heart of Emilia, a region in northern Italy with a strong industrial vocation.
Luigi Ghirri (1943) was born in Scandiano in the province of Reggio Emilia, but when he was three years old he moved a few kilometres away to the residence of Collegio San Carlo in Sassuolo, in the hamlet of Braida, a large neoclassical building converted into a home for displaced persons during the war. From the residence, every morning, most of the women and men take their bikes and go to work in the nearby ceramic factories. One of these was Marazzi, founded in Sassuolo in 1935 by Filippo Marazzi.
In this area between Modena and Reggio Emilia, where the photographer always returns and where many of his seminal projects were born, Luigi Ghirri met Marazzi for the first time. In 1975 Ghirri crossed the threshold of the company: he was in a phase of growth and experimentation that would lead in 1979 to his first major personal exhibition in Parma. Marazzi is a leading company in the ceramic sector thanks to its single-firing patent, it has opened branches in France and Spain, has its tiles designed by artists and Press stylists and will shortly be opening a research laboratory, the Crogiolo, where artists, designers, photographers and architects are free to experiment. A unique partnership, in terms of duration, depth and results, was born between Ghirri and Marazzi, for whom the artist created a research project, also involving John Batho, Cuchi White and Charles Traubin. Here ceramics is freely interpreted as surface and mental space, infinite possibilities of composition, light and colour.

In ten years Ghirri created an important body of works for Marazzi, almost entirely free from the canons of advertising images and extremely consistent with the artistic and visual research and themes dear to the photographer in those years: the surface, the common object, the project, the landscape, light as a genius loci.

The exhibition, which takes place in the hall of mirrors and the picture gallery on the first floor of the 18th-century building that houses the Institute, shows a selection of twenty-four photographs taken during the collaboration between the artist and Marazzi, which have been kept in the company's archives for almost forty years.

The exhibition opens in the hall of mirrors with photographs in which ceramics becomes a geometric grid that defines spaces through miniatures, changes of perspective and small optical illusions. Alongside these images are those dedicated to ideal architecture and fragments of classical aesthetics that once again dialogue with grids of tiles whose geometric and diverting effect is heightened by the use of mirrors and reflections, in a continuous questioning of vision and its thousands of declinations. In the next room, the picture gallery, colours dominate, first the tones of cotto - background for the hourglass, the checkers, the egg, the cactus - and then the images in which the instruments of childhood learning - the abacus, the coloured pencils, the blackboard - are the protagonists, alongside those of play (the ball) and imagination (a rainbow supported by the shadow of a hand). Luigi Ghirri. Les années Marazzi 1975 - 1985 reveals the extent to which Ghirri used ceramics to explore themes and reflections dear to him in those years, such as the very function of photography, its being a tool for questioning the world, for understanding collective and shared perception, for analysing architecture, the representation of the landscape, illusion.

"In his production for Marazzi, Luigi Ghirri places ceramics within a broader reflection on representation", explains Ilaria Campioli, curator of the exhibition - "Surfaces become part of that system of measuring and reducing the world to scale that was so important for the author in those years. The combination of the different planes and the grids allow him to deepen his reflection on knowledge and learning, as if they were a sheet of paper on which he could learn to write and draw each time."

In addition to the exhibition chapter, the Luigi Ghirri project. Les années Marazzi 1975 - 1985 is also articulated in a valuable volume of the same name - Luigi Ghirri. The Marazzi Years 1975-1985 - not for sale and in an in-depth site - - completely dedicated to this special Ghirri production.

"The valorisation of this unique association between one of the greatest masters of Italian photography and the company is enriched by a new chapter, with the exhibition for the first time of a set of these works by Ghirri in France, in a symbolic place of cultural diplomacy such as the Italian Cultural Institute in Paris." - states Mauro Vandini, CEO of Marazzi - "This is actually a return to Paris, as the Marazzi portfolio created with Luigi Ghirri, Cuchi White and Charles Traub as part of this collaboration was presented in Paris in 1984 in the spaces of the first Marazzi showroom on Avenue de la Grande Armée. We are therefore proud that this adventure goes on and continues sprouting knowledge. For this reason, I can only thank the Archivio and Adele Ghirri once again for their invaluable support."


©EREDI LUIGI GHIRRI courtesy Marazzi Ceramiche

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