Turin, Leonardo Mosso's Red Cloud arrives at the Royal Palace, donated to the Royal Museums

Important donation for the Royal Museums of Turin: the heirs of Leonardo Mosso have donated his Red Cloud to the institution. It has been installed in the Manica Lunga of the Royal Palace since March 23, 2023.

Important donation for the Royal Museums of Turin, which, from March 23, 2023, in the Manica Nuova of the Royal Palace, will welcome the installation Nuvola Rossa (1975) by Leonardo Mosso (Turin, 1926 - 2020), a precious donation from the heirs of the Turin architect, artist, photographer, researcher, semiologist and professor. It is a tribute to the high value of the author’s complex identity and an opportunity to approach and learn about the poetics of one of the protagonists of 20th-century Turin. Nuvola Rossa (Red Cloud ) is a structure made of linden wood laths with a 3-millimeter section, 35 cm long, painted red and joined by elastic neoprene joints. Conceived for the Museo del Risorgimento in Turin, it was made in flat parts in early 1975 at Ca’ Bianca, the artist’s atelier at Villa Nuytz Antonielli in Pino Torinese, and later transported to Palazzo Carignano, where the joining of the pieces and the spatial completion were carried out. The work, included in the Italian Parliament Hall, had a total development of about 400 square meters and the realization was organized and coordinated by architect Gianfranco Cavaglià, with the collaboration of a group of students close to Professor Mosso, and, from archival notes, it appears that more than 1,500 hours were required for assembly.

The birth of Nuvola Rossa takes place on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Liberation, when the National Museum of the Risorgimento in Turin dedicates some rooms to the setting up of the Museum of Resistance. The project is entrusted to Leonardo Mosso and the Centro Studi Alvar Aalto: the first plates are dated September 1974 and the museum is opened to the public on April 25, 1975. The project immediately takes on a highly symbolic value. In the introductory part dedicated to the Resistance and anti-fascism, Mosso imagines a solution “with two integrated components”: a building structure formed by two large black plates and, on top of this, a large red “kinetecture”, which later took the name Red Cloud. As Mosso himself writes in the article published in issue 55 of “New Society” (May 1, 1975), the installation is: “A large red ”kinetecture,“ or kinetic structure with rigid elements and universal elastic joint, twenty meters on a side; suspended in the void of the large hall - almost an open courtyard - and hovering over part of it, like a flag. In this immense environment, respected and used with critical intervention because it is semiologically foreign on all levels-as Franco Antonicelli pointed out in a valuable critical reading of this project-with the contents of the new museum and their translation into constructed forms, the constructive watermark of ’kinetecture’- with the aid on the ground of white wings of modest height - will still allow the space of the hall and the decorative and pictorial elements to be fully grasped, but in transparency, like a theater sky, without being heavily involved in it; while at the same time it will be sufficient to prevent the visitor from conceptual and visual dissipation and to introduce him to the ’other’ museum.”

Nuvola Rossa would later be dismantled and inappropriately removed in 1984, and the fragments are now preserved at the Ca’ Bianca. Attention to its symbolic and civic significance resurfaced in 1997 thanks to the Spontaneous Committee for the Preservation of Contemporary Works of Art and Architecture, composed of artists, architects, intellectuals and politicians not only from Italy, on the heels of the inauguration of the restorations of the Italian Parliament Hall at Palazzo Carignano-the same spaces previously occupied by Mosso’s museum installations-with the aim of urging the rescue, restoration and recomposition of Mosso’s installations in their original spaces.

The donation by the heirs Laura Castagno Mosso and Stefano Mosso brings back the Red Cloud, now located in the staircase of the Manica Nuova of the Royal Palace of Turin, a building constructed between 1899 and 1903 by Roman architect Emilio Stramucci (1845 - 1926) and inspired by the princely residences of 18th-century Italy and Juvarra’s masterpieces. In December 2022, before arriving at the Royal Museums, the work underwent restoration, with a first phase of removing consistent and inconsistent dirt deposits from the surface of the wooden elements and a subsequent phase of revising the elastic joints between the wooden rulers and repairing or replacing broken or deformed elements, to restore the correct kinetic functionality of the structure in the staging phase. The intervention required the analysis of the constructive configuration of the parts in order to reconstitute the unity of the individual fragments of the work, in accordance with their law of formation and for proper display. The replacements of degraded elements were carried out using the same materials employed by the artist: linden wood and EPDM rubber bands.

Leonardo Mosso, a man of culture and activist for the preservation of the architectural heritage of the 20th century, was among the promoters with Maria Adriana Prolo of the National Cinema Museum Association of Turin in 1953 and founder in 1979 of the Alvar Aalto Institute, later the Museum of Architecture Applied Arts and Design. Born in Turin in 1926 to a Biella family, he graduated in Architecture from the Turin Polytechnic in 1951 and worked in the studio of his father, Nicola Mosso, an important exponent of rationalist and futurist architecture. Fundamental to his human and professional growth was his meeting with Alvar Aalto, one of the most important figures in 20th-century architecture and design. The rooms and tree-lined garden of Ca’ Bianca in Pino Torinese, his home-atelier, have housed the Alvar Aalto Institute since 1979, founded by Leonardo Mosso and Laura Castagno with friends and fellow architects and artists, first as a nonprofit association, then merged into the Museum of Architecture, Applied Arts and Design (MAAAD) in 1984. The institute preserves important collections and evidence of 20th-century Europe and the ateliers and archives of the two founding artists Mosso and Castagno; Nicola Mosso’s house-atelier in Turin and Graglia, Biella, also refer to it. A founding member of the National Cinema Museum in Turin, Leonardo Mosso held the chair of Architectural Composition at the Faculty of Architecture of the Turin Polytechnic and has taught at many European universities. He has carried out research and experimentation in the field of design theories, building art and urban structural theater.

Turin, Leonardo Mosso's Red Cloud arrives at the Royal Palace, donated to the Royal Museums
Turin, Leonardo Mosso's Red Cloud arrives at the Royal Palace, donated to the Royal Museums

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