A contemporary masterpiece in ancient Pisa: Keith Haring's Tuttomondo

In one of the most beaten cities of mass tourism, Pisa, there is a wonderful Keith Haring masterpiece: did you know? :-)

Of Pisa, everyone knows the Tower and the Piazza dei Miracoli: a monumental complex that is world-famous and represents a bit of the bare minimum of Pisan tourism. And it is there, in fact, that the bulk of mass tourism is concentrated: dozens of couriers, every day, disembark tourists of all nationalities in Piazzale Manin, just off the square. The tourists make their ritual rounds, take a few photos, someone climbs the tower or enters the cathedral, and then head back out, perhaps to leave for Florence. Those who make their way along Via Santa Maria, which leads from Piazza dei Miracoli toward the medieval center of the city, will notice the almost total absence of tourists after not even a hundred meters.

Yet Pisa has much to offer besides the tower. And we are not just talking about its numerous testimonies of ancient art. Yes, because Pisa also hides an unsuspected and very important masterpiece of contemporary art: we are talking about Tuttomondo, a splendid mural created by Keith Haring in 1989. Keith Haring was one of the great protagonists of twentieth-century art: American, with a very short parable (in fact, he was born in 1958 and disappeared in 1990), together with Jean-Michel Basquiat he was probably the main writer who worked in the twentieth century.

Tuttomondo is a testimony of the highest importance to his art because it is the last work he made in his career, but also the only one designed to remain permanent. The first question to arise is: where exactly is it located in that of Pisa? The work decorates one of the walls of the convent attached to the church of St. Anthony. For those wandering around Piazza dei Miracoli, it is not conveniently located because it is at the opposite end of the city. For those arriving by train and getting off at the central station, however, it is only a short walk away. It remains a little bit hidden, so it is not very easily noticed. When you get to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele (by the way, it is very nice and full of greenery, after it has been rearranged), you have to take Corso Italia: after a few meters you will find a small street going to the left (it is the first one, you cannot miss it!). Entering this narrow street, one will find Tuttomondo practically in front of one’s eyes.

Keith Haring's Tuttomondo in Pisa

The second question is, what is a mural by a New York-based writer doing in Pisa? We could say that it is in Pisa by chance: Keith Haring met in New York a student from Pisa(Piergiorgio Castellani, today a wine entrepreneur) with whom he became friends, so much so that he went to visit him in the Tuscan city. Thus, the idea of beautifying a Pisan wall was born (and it was later chosen, in agreement with the municipality and the parish priest of Sant’Antonio, that of the convent). The young American artist at work attracted many curious Pisans, of all ages, who stopped by every day to see him at work.

And so, day after day, the end result was what we observe today: a colorful tangle of figures, characterized by soft and delicate but at the same time vivid tones, typical of the American artist’s pop-art. But also typical of Pisan buildings: try, after seeing the mural, to go toward the lungarni. Don’t the colors of the mural remind you of the colors of the facades of the buildings facing the lungarni?

A tangle that blends beautifully with the urban context, an excellent blend of ancient and contemporary. A work so valuable that last year the Superintendence decided to bind it: and that’s something that doesn’t happen often, for contemporary art! But above all, it is a work that stands for high ideals, because it represents peace and harmony in the world (this is the reason for the title, Tuttomondo, which was personally chosen by the artist, in Italian).

So, in this corner of Pisa, history unites with contemporaneity and does so in order to send a precise message: that according to which men should live in harmony and good should overthrow evil. And this last concept becomes very evident to us if we look at the upper right-hand side, with the red snake being broken in two by the green scissors: scissors that is formed by two men united, because if men unite and leave aside their contrasts, their differences, their divisions, there is no evil that can stand up to them.

The artist survived only eight months of his masterpiece: AIDS took him away in 1990. We were lucky, to have been gifted, in Italy, this highest testimony to his art. If you are planning a trip to Tuscany and are stopping in Pisa, stop by and see Tuttomondo, stop to observe and investigate its symbols, also because you will enjoy a quiet atmosphere, off the typical itineraries of mass tourism in Pisa. It is truly worth it!

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