Ex Seccatoi del Tabacco
MAJOR CYCLES: PAINTING – SCULPTURE | 1974–93
The Ex Seccatoi del Tabacco, opened in 1990 and situated on the immediate outskirts of Città di Castello, represents a perfect example of the reclamation of industrial archaeology implemented by Alberto Burri, who pictured this as a venue suitable for housing his latest creations. This exhibition space hosts 128 works produced between 1974 and 1993. Burri approached the Ex Seccatoi in the same way as Palazzo Albizzini, respecting the great potential offered by this incredible space and combining it perfectly with his most recent works.
The huge complex, which dates back to the immediate post-war period, was used to store tobacco grown in the Upper Tiber Valley, before performing the noble task of housing the books from the Biblioteca Nazionale and the Tribunale di Firenze after the floods in 1966, while awaiting their restoration. The painter primarily focuses on a single material in the works on display here: cellotex, a sort of wood blend used as a support since the early 1950s, which is now left bare, with the artist intervening on the surface by scraping and engraving it, or removing the outermost layer, or at other times painting it. The works are arranged in “cycles” in separate hangars. Each of them possesses its own symphony composed of several elements, all of which are in harmony with one another and inseparable from the rest. The cycles mark Burri’s move towards a more complex and monumental form of art, in which the artist is stimulated by the relationship between these works and the fascinating, evocative spaces of the Ex Seccatoi.
This venue has hosted conferences on modern and contemporary art, contemporary restoration, and refresher courses in partnership with authoritative national and international parallel institutions.
What is more, the Foundation curates exhibitions and publishes the relative catalogues of Burri’s works, posters, postcards and videos on the life and work of the artist, available from the bookshops at the three exhibition spaces.
PERMANENT GRAPHIC WORKS | 1957-94
A new section of the museum opened on 12 March 2017 in the underground part of the immense Ex Seccatoi to display all the artist’s graphic work. The three exhibition sections form the most comprehensive collection of Burri’s work. The graphic works comprise 196 pieces produced between 1957 and 1994, representing a journey through the unknown quantities of the graphic technique that Burri “bends” in order to achieve what, until just a short time ago, seemed impossible with these media. His Combustioni [Combustions] of 1964 and 1965 are a great example of this, showing how the artist re-created the process of combustion on paper, without using fire.
Burri felt that graphic production was just as much a field for experimentation as his other contemporary creations. Various original aspects also “contaminate” his individual pieces, while others emerge powerfully in his graphic works: Libero de Libero and Leonardo Sinisgalli’s presentation of Burri’s first exhibition at La Margherita gallery in Rome in 1947; Emilio Villa’s work with Burri on two editions of poetry with three contributions by the painter in 1962 for Variazioni and in 1973 with ten lithographs that accompany the poems of Sappho freely translated by Villa. To mark the eightieth birthday of Giuseppe Ungaretti, Bruna Biano and Ungaretti published a book of poems with a Combustione omaggio [Combustion Tribute] by Alberto Burri. In the copy dedicated by the two poets to Burri, Ungaretti writes: “I love Burri, not only because he is the greatest painter working today, but because he is also the principal source of envy for me: he is the greatest poet today.”
The brand-new graphic techniques introduced by the artist include Mixografia and Multiples. The path followed by Burri winds its way through three particularly evocative spaces, appreciated by the great master because of their ability to recount his entire artistic career.
BURRI DOCUMENTS AND COURSES SINCE 1915 - DOCUMENTS SECTIONS
The Document Section completes and enhances the visit to the three museum collections of the Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri in Città di Castello: the section featuring Burri’s work from 1948 to 1985 in Palazzo Albizzini and the other two housed in the Ex Seccatoi del Tabacco devoted respectively to the major Cycles of the 1970s–90s and his Graphic Works. After experiencing Burri’s work first-hand, the Document Section offers effective visual and multimedia tools for learning about, understanding and studying his work in greater depth. It covers Burri’s life in full, starting with his birth in Città di Castello on 12 March 1915 and presenting his many different experiences in the field of painting, sculpture and architecture, his encounters with critics and artists, his solo exhibitions, his involvement in international shows and specialist texts that provide detailed information about the man and artist.
The material is interspersed with images relating to the various periods of his work, his contacts in the art world and his most important exhibitions. To this we can add autograph documents, reproductions of works, invitations, catalogues, videos and films, all accompanied by a commentary in Italian and English.
The first part of the Document Section is divided into ten multimedia screenings, adopting a method already used successfully during the recent Burri: The Space of Matter / Between Europe and the USA exhibition. The screenings explore his artistic debut, his encounter with the Roman post-war scene and his American adventure that made him one of the best-known European artists in the United States during the 1950s, right up to his encounter and friendship with the main protagonists on the international scene.
This is followed by Burri’s radical painterly experiences, his unique and innovative use of new materials – from tar to sack cloth, wood and iron, plastic materials, cracks and cellotex – his use of composition techniques that draw upon collage and assembly, right up to his innovative use of fire, his development of monochromatism and the major Cycles of the final years of his production. Other aspects of his work, such as plastic spatiality, increasingly precise displays and his relationship with the theatre and environmental space are also explored.
What is more, an important key role is attributed to the Fondazione Burri, established by the artist himself, and its constitutive process in Città di Castello, as well as to the activities it has carried out since Burri’s death in 1995 and the many initiatives it has presented in Italy and abroad during the recent celebrations of the centenary of his birth: the retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York, the numerous exhibitions, the completion of the Grande Cretto [Large Crack] in Gibellina, the reconstruction of the Teatro Continuo [Continuous Theatre] in Milan, the restaging of theatre performances and the organization of international conferences.
The second part of the section uses modern information technology and touchscreens, allowing users to consult numerous critical and historic texts, brochures, magazines and catalogues from solo shows and major international collective exhibitions, as well as zooming in on them and benefitting from detailed multimedia contributions.
The final part presents various original documents in a sort of multimedia library.
Lastly, visitors will be able to watch videos and films dedicated to the great man and his works in the rooms adjacent to the Document Section, from the first television documents to monographic films and more recent productions focusing on the interpretation of some of his works and documenting the theatre performances.
Use of cutting-edge technology will make it possible to constantly update and add to the various documentary sections of the exhibition, as well as to redevelop the material for forthcoming national and international presentations of Burri’s work.
The Collezione Burri museums, Library, Historic Archive and the new Document Section make Città di Castello one of Italy’s most authoritative and important centres, in terms of both quality and quantity, for learning about and studying the art of Alberto Burri and the late twentieth century.