Project Description


from 14 February 2019 to 21 July 2019 – Space: SHED

Giorgio Andreotta Calò (Venice, 1979; he lives and works in Italy and the Netherlands) is one of the most remarkable Italian artists of recent years and represented Italy at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017). His works include sculptures, large-scale site-specific installations and spatial works that transform both fragments of buildings and entire landscapes; they are often designed to be included in a rich patchwork of self-referencing connections, in part through the use of natural elements dense with symbolic meanings, such as water, light and fire.
His work is rooted in conceptual and processual practices typical of artists of the Sixties and Seventies but it also evolves into new directions. It always comes as the result of a long process of research into materials—from the more classical, such as bronze and wood, to the more unusual, such as caranto clay, the submarine layer beneath the city of Venice—, processing techniques and their origin. His interest in organic materials links his works to current international debates on the use and dispersal of raw materials and themes of socio-ecological change.
The constant re-elaboration and reconfiguration of his works based on the geographical and cultural context in which they are exhibited is an integral part of his artistic methodology. For “CITTÀDIMILANO” the artist focuses on his sculptural practice, displaying works created since 2008, and here conceived as part of a single landscape that transforms the perception of the environment and highlights the links existing between the artworks in a close dialogue.

Location: Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milano
Artist: Giorgio Andreotta Calò
Exhibition: “CITTàDIMILANO”
Allestiment: curated by Roberta Tenconi
Engineering: MOSAE srl
Team: Michele Maddalo, Alice Brugnerotto, Enrico Carera
Photo: Agostino Osio
Courtesy: Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milano
Pictures in slideshow: from the exhibition

Senza titolo (Jona), 2019

The work that opens “CITTÀDIMILANO” is a projection of seabed images where mysterious anthropomorphic figures —divers—delve deep underwater, ideally accompanying the visitor into the exhibition space. Like a prelude, the images of the wreck of the steamship Città di Milano unveil the stories and visions that run through the exhibition’s narrative, such as the notion of things submerged, and the processes of transmission, transformation, and physical and symbolic stratification. The centenary of the ship’s sinking occurs in 2019, and the name of the ship suggested the title of the exhibition.

Senza titolo (Jona) [Untitled (Jona)] further records the differently colored depths of the water, gradually revealing the spectral and imposing presence of the wreck. The projection, made using found footage, highlights the artist’s research on the context of the show, in particular the history of Pirelli, which from 1879 included the company Pirelli Cavi, at the time the world leader in the underwater telegraphic networks field. Specifically, Andreotta Calò focused on the subject of the Città di Milano, a ship built for Pirelli and the first used in Italy to lay and maintain the underwater cables that connected the smaller islands of Italy. During maintenance work in the Aeolian archipelago, the ship struck a shoal and sank on June 16, 1919. Today the wreck lies at a depth of 90 meters o¬ the Sicilian island of Filicudi.

Carotaggi Produttivo, 2019

Andreotta Calò has been producing this series of works since 2014 using core samples (carotaggi in Italian) extracted from underground during geological and engineering surveys on the soil. Interested in the transformation of matter, the artist conceived these sculptures working on two di¬erent geographical settings, where he carried on samples campaigns: the region of Sulcis Iglesiente in southwest Sardinia and the Venetian lagoon.

Using core samples from these two sites, the artist has evoked a specific geological context, with its stratifications and possible transformations. The sections extracted from the lagoon are largely composed of caranto, the clay in the compact layer on which Venice rests, whose existence today is threatened by the sinking of the lagoon bed. On the other hand, the material from Sulcis is made of volcanic rocks, limestone and coal taken from the mine belonging to the coal-mining company Carbosulcis, the last in Italy and today in the process of closing.

Each work in the series is made up of several segments of one or more core samples set in parallel on the floor, thus o¬ering a visual indication of the depths from which they were extracted. The arrangement of the samples, each roughly 130 centimeters long, provides visitors with an ideal way to descend through the layers of which the ground beneath our feet is composed. The di¬erent colors and shading visible on the surface of the samples vary depending on the type of material and level from which they were extracted. Some of these are presented inside the tubes or half-cylinders made either of PVC or metal that were used to extract them from the ground.

With Produttivo [Productive], specially created for the exhibition at Pirelli HangarBicocca, the artist has taken his research into the district of Sulcis a stage further. In this case, he was given access to the entire archive of core samples taken by Carbosulcis, from which he selected more than 1500 linear meters extracted from the “productive” layer. In the mining world, this adjective, taken by the artist as the name of the work, indicates the layer of coal between 350 and 450 meters deep used as a source of energy. The installation pervades the surface of the exhibition space, o¬ering the last attestation of a reality that will shortly disappear.


This series of works carried out by Giorgio Andreotta Calò since 1999 has its origin from the symmetrical overlapping of two wooden elements: the Venetian bricole, poles planted in the bed of the lagoon to mark the limits of the navigation channels and to moor boats. Due to the rise and fall of the tidal water, the poles are subject to corrosion where they are in contact with the surface of the lagoon, thus becoming progressively thinner around their central section.

The artist developed Clessidre [Hourglasses] by including two identical exemplars in wax that he joins symmetrically through the lost-wax technique, creating a bronze sculpture. The title is a reference to the characteristic and symmetrical form composed by the two elements and calls to mind the passing of time, which Andreotta Calò considers a sculptural element and a material that can be mold. Three of the works in the series exhibited in the show form the triptych Scolpire il Tempo (2010), which also refers to Sculpting in Time, a book on cinema written by the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (1932–1986).

The sculptures are arranged vertically like actual bricole, thus evoking the Venetian lagoon and the surface of the water in which the landscape is reflected. Previously beneath the surface of the water, the poles are revealed following the natural process of metamorphosis, which is taken further by the artist by transposing the poles into bronze. This process reinforces the temporal dimension intrinsic to the Clessidre: the metal casting interrupts the corrosion of the wood, thus freezing its shape.


Like the Clessidre series, the group of works titled Meduse [Jellyfish] has its origin from elements in the landscape that are familiar to the artist, such as the wooden poles typical of the Venetian lagoon he employs as sculptural materials. Using sections of poles that have been thinned down in their central section, Andreotta Calò smooths down the upper part to create a polished rounded surface, though he leaves the irregularities found in the lower section similar to the stalactitic accumulations typical of corroded wood. The semi-spherical upper section of each sculpture is reminiscent of a head, a subject traditionally represented in sculpture.

Some of the Meduse are made from original wooden poles manipulated by the artist, while others are a transposition of the poles into bronze using the lost-wax technique. The manual work of the artist is complemented by nature’s action: the strongest currents of the lagoon give the particular screwed shape to the Meduse.


These three works in bone and bronze arose from the research Andreotta Calò carried out when investigating Sulcis Iglesiente area. Formed by seven bone elements gathered on the shore of the island of Sant’Antioco, and assembled to recall the skull of a primitive animal, the sculpture has the overall form of a regular hexahedron, a shape in which each face is the same as the others when seen from any angle. Andreotta Calò then created two reproductions of the original respectively in bronze and white bronze, both of which are exhibited here.

The title, DOGOD, is the result of the union of the words “dog” and “god”, a palindrome that emphasizes the mysterious and ancestral aspects of the sculptures. Like the shape of the works themselves, the title does not change regardless of the direction in which it is read. This characteristic is reinforced by the sculptures’ support, a reflective surface that allows the entire volume to be seen. Like several Pinnae Nobilis, these sculptures are positioned close to the Shed’s pillars, bringing out the contrast between their archaic appearance and the industrial aesthetic of the setting.

Volver, 2008

Lying on the floor of the exhibition space, Volver (“to return” in Spanish), recalls the idea of navigation like other works in the show. Originally used by the artist on the Venice lagoon, the boat was later turned into a sculpture for his first solo exhibition at the Galleria ZERO… in Milan in 2008. Before giving the work its final form and exhibiting it on the gallery’s roof, Andreotta Calò performed a symbolic gesture: an extraordinary action that generated a dreamlike and surreal atmosphere in which the principles of reality were overturned.

The artist removed the boat from its normal context in order to make an “imaginary flight” over the roofs of the buildings in the sky of the Lambrate district in Milan. Seated in his boat suspended from a crane, Andreotta Calò made a circular journey that metaphorically transformed its function. Visitors to the exhibition could look at images of the journey inside the gallery and then climb up to the gallery roof where the boat lay, cut perfectly in two down the middle and placed on the surface of a pool of water. An optical illusion created by the reflection on the water gave the impression that the two halves of the boat were doubling and then recomposing.

More than ten years on, the artist has presented the boat again as part of an exhibition that places emphasis on the history and urban landscape of Milan. The installation has been rearranged, once again creating a physical and symbolic inversion and giving the boat the appearance of a large shell. A continuous and slowly presented slideshow features the original action of 2008 so that visitors can witness that surreal—yet also real—flight.

Senza titolo (Cavi), 2019

A segment of underwater cable used for data transmission, that once connected the locality of Cuma, near Naples, with the island of Ischia, hangs in the space looking organic and zoomorphic. While researching the context for this exhibition, Andreotta Calò investigated certain aspects of the history of Pirelli, in particular the production of underwater cables, which, in the artist’s symbolic world, become the emblem of everything submerged.

During the months before the exhibition, when the chance presented itself to recover a damaged section of cable from the seabed during a maintenance operation, Andreotta Calò decided to include this element in the show. Like other works, Senza titolo (Cavi) [Untitled (Cables)]—long and cylindrical like Carotaggi—attests the energy that flows deep underground. Its presence expresses the concept of the transmission of information between distant places, ideally creating an element of connection between the geographical locations suggested in the exhibition and the works.

Città di Milano, 2019

Centered on a vision of Milan, this work has been specially created for the project at Pirelli HangarBicocca. An ideal horizon of the exhibition, Città di Milano [City of Milan] is an imposing black-and-white photograph of a previously unseen view of the city. The work arose out of the research conducted by the artist on light and the way in which it generates images and possible scenarios, in this case o¬ering a unique vision of the urban landscape. In order to create it, Andreotta Calò built a camera obscura (an optical device that was the precursor of the photographic camera) to produce a gigantographic image measuring roughly 5 by 11 meters.

On the thirty-first floor of the Pirelli Tower, an iconic building in Milan that was Pirelli’s headquarters until the late 1970s, Andreotta Calò conceived a temporary structure that allowed him to darken the internal space to create a camera obscura. When the light filtered through a tiny hole, it impressed nine modules of photosensitive paper on the opposite side inside the camera, thus creating a negative image of the cityscape seen from the building. Through a lens in the hole, the projection of the city is turned upside-down and inverted left-right, like the phenomenon of light entering the iris and hitting the retina in the human eye.

The photographic print in the exhibition acts as a backdrop and o¬ers a possible perspective, thereby broadening the narrative of “CITTÀDIMILANO”. The image looks eastwards towards the Lambrate district, an area whose skyline went through less urban and architectural transformations than elsewhere in the city in recent years. The sky in the lower section of the photograph resembles the sea, and the volumes of the buildings merge on the horizon. As in Volver, the artist is here playing on the ambiguity between boundaries, and on the overturning of what exists at great depth and what is on the surface.