More or less halfway between Prato and Pistoia, you’ll find the Fattoria di Celle, one of the world’s most important collections of environmental art. Behind it is the collector Giuliano Gori, who since the 1970s has been inviting high-level international artists to create artworks on the grounds. These works have been carried out in a sustained rhythm over the course of many years, and today we count 80 installations disseminated over all the surfaces of the park, which extends over 45 hectares.
A visit to Celle is an experience that will fascinate even the most resistant consumers of contemporary art. Along via Montalese, the Grande Ferro (“Large Tool”) by Alberto Burri marks the entrance to the Fattoria. The other works are immersed in nature; seeking them out is much like going on a treasure hunt. You can admire the Cuneo by Mauro Staccioli, the Labyrinth by Robert Morris, the Formula Compound by Dennis Oppenheim, The Nets of Solomon by Alice Aycock, which are meant to evoke the machines of Leonardo and Galileo, the theatre-sculpture of Beverly Pepper, the Circles in time by Alan Sonfist, My Hole in the Sky by Bukichi Inoue, The Death of Efialte by Anne and Patrick Poirer, a giant marble eye pierced by a bronze spear; Katarsis by Magdalena Abakanowicz, an army-esque collection of empty shells, men-trees planted in the ground that seem to come straight out of a science fiction film and La Cabane Éclatée aux 4 Salles by Daniel Buren, one of the most fascinating works in the collection.
The Fattoria di Celle has been visited through the years by thousands of insiders, artists, students, critics and art connoisseurs, playing an important role in the education of new generations. Gori tells us: “At the beginning of the 20th century, artists began to step away from following buyers’ tastes, doing work according to their own whims and then entrusting them to galleries: the relationship between artists and patrons was lost. We reactivated this relationship and we’re pleased about it.
The Fattoria di Celle holds this principle above all others. We ensured that all of the 80 works created for the Parco di Celle were completed over periods that went from a minimum of three months up to a maximum of just over two years. Even the most recent one, from 2018, La serra dei poeti by Andrea Mati and Sandro Veronesi, took 16 months of work. It is not the same thing as buying a sculpture and then sticking it where it looks best; that is curated, outdoor art, whereas ours is actually environmental art. Unfortunately there is often confusion of the two: lots of the former gets presented as the latter, but they are completely different things.”
In May of 2018, the Fattoria relaunched its guided visits, after suspending them for a few years; the park needed to have some safety-related maintenance work done after the storm of 2015. “On March 5, 2015,” Gori added, “a storm came that destroyed a large portion of the park. 550 plants is quite a lot of plants. We were desperate, but not even a scratch was left on any of the 80 artworks.”