For the eighth appointment of the La Meraviglia TALKS series, Alberto Garutti spoke to Sergio Risaliti about his work, from its very beginnings to his most recent pieces. Intellectual references and quotes featured throughout the conversation, transforming it into a cultured and refined review of the history of art, from the Renaissance to the present day.
Artist in life and through training, Garutti has found, particularly since the 1990s, his own modus operandi, following a watershed moment in what has come to be known as ‘public art’. For Garutti, this moment came in 1994 when he received his first public commission from Peccioli town council, where he was called upon for the philological restructuring of its theatre, a place that was dear to the community but was in a state of neglect. On a stone slab at the entrance to the theatre there is this inscription: “Dedicated to the girls and boys who fell in love in this little theatre”. This inscription seeded the method which characterised all of the subsequent works in the town. The viewer in the town, noted Garutti, is not like a viewer in a museum. In this sense, the meeting of work and public was with the true recipients of the work, the citizens, who accidentally encounter it, and this is indispensable and a priority for an artist, who accompanies them by placing a caption on each of their works, and it helps them understand not so much art itself, but the operation behind it.
This speaks to the relationship between artist and commissioner, a relationship that has always existed, from the times of popes and princes, the great commissioners in the history of art. For Garutti, it’s a relationship of confines and limits which give rise to a whole series of opportunities for artists, including the decentralisation of one’s approach, and the elevation and the contextual abandonment of that self-reference and self-centredness that the contemporary art system defends. Remembering the letter in which Ludovico Sforza ‘hired’ Leonardo Da Vinci, Garutti and Risaliti reflected on the versatility of artists in the past, who had to be architects, inventors, engineers and scientists. After all, when the interest is not to be an artist, but to live artistically, then the artist has a fire inside them that allows them to do anything, because their approach to life is to find resolutions to problems, which in this sense, is an approach which knows no barriers. Making art is nothing more than adhering to reality.
“This is becoming important again”, affirms Alberto Garutti. “We’ve experienced a long period of time where artist were commissioned by themselves – free expressionism – and they promoted themselves through their own performances. Commissioning brings out a discussion on public art. The relationship with the private or with public administration brings the artist’s protagonism back into daily and social life. Together with the client, they take charge of the most pressing issues, in an environment for the citizens, workers, and local community.”