Vittorio Messina exhibits at Palazzo Collicola

The “Dishabitat” exhibition curated by Marco Tonelli and Davide Silvioli, from 9 October 2021 to 30 January 2022 at Palazzo Collicola

The opening is scheduled on Saturday 9 October at 11.30. Reservation required:

Vittorio Messina has devoted a large part of his activity to the theme of Habitat and Building, focusing his attention on the iconography of “cells” and “rooms” as a basic element of architecture.

The open, enigmatic character of Messina’s works can be compared in part with the way of constructing thought and language of the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, with the novels of the Prague writer Franz Kafka, or with the theories of quantum physics. Without ever basing his discourse on critical, political, social, economic or ideological content, Messina’s work is a clear metaphor for constructing the work of art as an activity that is always fluid, dynamic, mobile, concrete and at the same time mysterious, immaterial and metaphysical, a sort of building yard crossed by the demands of the present and the possibilities of the future.

As on so many other occasions, therefore, the artist has drawn up a specific project for the space – in this case the Piano Nobile of Palazzo Collicola – entitled Dishabitat, consisting of two large works conceived and created for the site, a project that is therefore situated in and derives from the nature of the site destined to host it, at the same time feeding a field of reflection on the topical conditions and emergencies of our time.

The essential reconstruction of a building cut out of the very floor of the Salone d’Onore of Palazzo Collicola entitled Dishabitat 1 (of which only the roof covering and part of the retaining wall made of gasbeton blocks can be seen), similarly to the transformation of the long Gallery into a space dense with red light entitled Dishabitat 2, define a residential itinerary in the form of a building site within spaces that today are strictly museum-like, but which in the past were the home and places of representation of the Collicola family.

Palazzo Collicola was built in 1730 by architect Sebastiano Cipriani, was bought in 1939 by the City of Spoleto. In 2000 it became the city’s Modern Art Gallery, and in 2010, the city’s Pinacoteca.

In a metaphorical sense, compared to the idea of an original habitat, already modified by its transformation into a museum, Messina has added another (hence the term dishabitat) with a conceptual and contemporary matrix, which makes his works true metaphysical and mental construction sites. The lowering of the viewpoint from the top of a house and the suggestion of a red light caused by the phenomenon of moving away (the typical physical effect of gravitational redshift), are therefore for Messina forms of distancing from time and place, but also of paradoxical rapprochement to the present, and of elevation of our perception and vision of the world.

The exhibition project benefits from the technical sponsorship of Leroy-Merlin and the support of Galleria Nicola Pedana, while the exhibition catalogue will be published during the exhibition.


Vittorio Messina was born in 1946 in Zafferana Etnea (Catania). He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Faculty of Architecture in Rome where, at the end of the 1970s, he made his debut in the Sant’Agata dei Goti space, a meeting point and place for experimentation for young art in those years, with La Muraglia Cinese, an exhibition based on the Kafkaesque text of the same name.

Since the exhibitions at the La Salita gallery in Rome (1982) and the Locus Solus gallery in Genoa (1983), his work has been oriented towards a form of environmental sculpture, and after the solo shows at the Minini gallery in Brescia (1985) and at the PAC in Milan (1986), Messina exhibited his first “cells” at the Moltkerei Werkstatt in Cologne and at the Shimada gallery in Yamaguchi (Japan), real buildings constructed with serial building materials, self-lit with industrial lamps.

In 1987, at Palazzo Taverna in Rome (Incontri Internazionali d’Arte), as part of a cycle of works by Maria Nordman, Bruce Naumann and Luca Maria Patella, Messina built a “cell” and published a text, “Paesaggio con luce lontana”, in which Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty emerged, a theme already present in the exhibition Spostamenti sulla banda del rosso at Villa Romana (Florence 1985). From this moment on, his work unfolded with stringent visionary continuity in the large Krater exhibited at the Europa Oggi show at the Pecci Museum in Prato (1988), in the total installation at the Oddi Baglioni Gallery in Rome in the same year, and in the Aetatis suae show at the Tucci Russo Gallery in Turin (1990).

From the “cell” of the Minini Gallery, Brescia (1991), to that of the Kunstverein of Kassel (1991) and the Victoria Miro Gallery (London 1992), as in the 24 windows of the exhibition Lux Europae of Edinburgh (1992), up to the works of Castello di Girifalco, Cortona (with Thomas Schütte, 1993), Messina’s work is configured with the unpredictability and disenchantment of a true metaphysical worksite. This was followed in the 1990s by exhibitions at the Kunstverein in Düsseldorf, the Villa delle Rose in Bologna, the National Galerie in Berlin, the Erfurt Museum, the Leeds Museum, and the large installations in the Dialogues (Maschio Angioino and Castel dell’Ovo in Naples, 2002). In the exhibition A village and its surroundings (H. Moore Foundation, Halifax 1999) some installations include the use of videos. In La discrezione del tempo 1 (Museo Ujazdovki, Warsaw, 2002), and in Una città visibile (Modena, 2004), and then again in Cronografie, o della città verticale (Cavallerizza Reale, Turin, 2006) and in Momentanea Mens (DKM Foundation, Duisburg 2009), the space-time of the human habitat tends to expand further, until the extreme dilation of Hermes, a film lasting 72 hours. Finally, in the exhibition at Galleria Guidi in (Rome, 2011), as in the works at MACRO (Eighties are Back, Rome 2011) and in the exhibition with Thomas Schütte at Villa Massimo (Rome 2011), Messina reinforces the tautological component of his work and initiates a new reflection on the forces and dimensions of real space. In 2014 he exhibited at the MACRO in Rome and at the Kunsthalle in Göppingen, in 2015 he was invited to the exhibition Au rendez vous des Amis organised by the Fondazione Burri in Città di Castello, in 2016 he held a solo show at the Regio Albergo delle Povere and the Museo Riso in Palermo and in 2019 he was invited to the Havana Biennial.

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