Piedmont, a public installation by Otobong Nkanga made of marble and plants arrives in Bra.

Coming to Bra is a public installation by Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga, who creates "Of grounds, guts and stones," a work made of marble and plants, for the latest installment of Fondazione CRC and Castello di Rivoli's "A cielo aperto" project.

The Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea presents a new installation by Otobong Nkanga (Kano, 1974), commissioned by the Fondazione CRC as part of A cielo aperto, the foundation’s public art commissioning project on the 30th anniversary of its activities, now in its fourth and final installment and made in collaboration with the Castello di Rivoli. The new installation is titled Of Grounds , Guts and Stones / On Grounds, Guts and Stones: curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of the Castello di Rivoli, and is made with the scientific support of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo and Slow Food. The work, housed in the lawn in front of the University of Gastronomic Sciences and a short walk from the Pollenzo Agency and the Banca del Vino in Bra, will be inaugurated on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 at 11 a.m.

In dialogue with Slow Food ’s philosophy and the regeneration concept of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, Otobong Nkanga has developed his new public art project specifically for the city of Bra. Paying close attention to the territory of Piedmont, Nkanga conceived Of Grounds, Guts and Stones, a sculptural work consisting of a sequence of marble seats, metal pipes and planters housing local and seasonal aromatic plants. Plants include species such as Viburnum tinus, Juniperus communis, Lavender nana hidcote, Helleborus niger - Helleborus x hybridus ’Pink’, Punica granatum ’Nana’, Cornus alba elegantissima (red) - Cornus stolonifera flaviramea (yellow), Erica darleyensis, Helichrysum, Cineraria maritima, Hypericum (erect) and Iberis sempervirens, suggested by Alberto Arossa of Slow Food Italy and sourced from Ferrero & Demagistris’ VERBENE NURSERIES in Bene Vagienna (CN). The selected plants are adapted to the climate of the area, which is characterized by potentially very cold winters and very hot summers.

Instead of proposing a traditional sculpture for a plaza to be experienced passively by the public, the artist therefore wanted to create a place where the local community and students can come together, and where native plants and minerals are tuned into poetic relationships.

Nkanga’s artistic research addresses urgent issues related to the ecological crisis, resource exploitation, and sustainability, valuing food with respect for those who produce it, in harmony with the environment and ecosystems, and preserving the knowledge guarded by local territories and traditions. The relationship with the African continent and Nigeria, where the artist comes from, is a nodal point in building a sustainable future. Nkanga’s empathetic relationship with the land and the environment produces in those who experience his works an unprecedented cosmogony for the future. For the artist, instead of dwelling on what separates or divides, it is better to seek out and insist on what, as human beings, unites us to one another and binds us to the planet that hosts us.

By offering a place dedicated to meeting and resting, Nkanga’s work aims to extol the value of horticulture as a practice of regeneration in which the intermingling of native plants becomes a metaphor for happy cohabitation among the living (both human and plant) under the banner of a more equitable and sustainable world. Located in the meadow of thePollenzo Agency, Nkanga’s project enhances the rich history of the nineteenth-century Savoy site, a model farm and a place originally aimed at experimentation in viticulture.

CRC Foundation President Ezio Raviola says, “With the inauguration of the fourth and final stage of the ’A cielo aperto’ project, which the Foundation has promoted to celebrate its 30th anniversary, a unique cultural initiative comes to an end, one that has left a tangible and valuable mark on the provincial territory, thanks to the placement of the works of four particularly significant artists from the international scene. We are pleased that this last stage is an opportunity to consolidate the collaborative relationship with Slow Food and the University of Gastronomic Sciences and embellish with this work an area characterized by a strong community identity. Special thanks go to the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, for the scientific curatorship and collaboration guaranteed for this important project.”

Director of the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, says, “After two and a half years of pandemic, it’s time to get out in the open air. A project like this, strongly supported by the CRC Foundation, reminds us how art has healing and beneficial effects on the public, and also calls us to our responsibility to the environment, which is so rich in aesthetic stimuli and so open to receiving works of art.”

“The enormous challenges that characterize the era we are living in,” says Edward Mukiibi, president of Slow Food, “touch every single living entity on the Planet, human and nonhuman alike, and call for collaborative action. Contemporary art is also called to play its part, bringing to bear the extraordinary ability of artists like Otobong Nkanga to read the times we live in, imagine the future, and transform thoughts and visions into high-impact forms of expression. The regeneration that Slow Food talks about finds great impetus in the work of contemporary artists, and artists walk alongside Terra Madre communities.”

The project Open Sky. 4 Works of Contemporary Art for the 30th Anniversary of the Foundation thus reaches a new stage, after those in Grinzane Cavour (Alba), Cuneo and Mondovì, with the idea of being enjoyed by the community in a dimension of renewed freedom and in the open air, in antithesis to the limitations that have characterized the last few years of cultural activities. The project’s final appointment follows the inaugurations of Olafur Eliasson’s The Presence of Absence Pavilion, 2019-2022, at Grinzane Cavour Castle, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s The Third Paradise of Talents, 2022, in Cuneo, Italy, and Susan Philipsz’s A Song A Part, 2022, in Mondovì, which have taken place in recent months.

The initiative sought to establish a new balance between local communities, history, international artistic life and nature, with a focus on ecological issues, which in the contemporary world are articulated in a focus on slowing climate change, seeking quality and sustainable food production, as well as in the cultural memory that constitutes the identity of places. Finally, the project’s combination of art and territory aimed to enhance gastronomic and particularly wine culture in relation to the refined and experimental culture of contemporary art.

Image: Otobong Nkanga, study for Of Grounds, Gusts and Stones I (2022-2023; digital drawing, stone bases designed by Linda Schuster, composed and designed by Otobong Nkanga)

Piedmont, a public installation by Otobong Nkanga made of marble and plants arrives in Bra.
Piedmont, a public installation by Otobong Nkanga made of marble and plants arrives in Bra.

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