Home Magazine Public art by Alberto Garutti

Alberto Garutti is one of the greatest Italian exponents of Public Art. Because of his incessant research for a dialogue between private and public spaces, he also acquired great visibility and popularity among museums and galleries, triggering connections between institutions and the city’s social network. Garutti’s work is the result of a dialogue with the surrounding environment: artworks are not stand-alone products, but the outcomes of social processes. 

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To Garutti, Art is a way to reveal Reality which is constituted of events, people and relationships. The artist is the curator and an active player of the reality. In his practice, the final artwork is no longer the focus of the creative process, what matters is the gazing capacity of the artist. Stating his position against the self-referential dimension of the art world, Garutti redefines the artist’s function both in the art system and in the society: “My point of view is that my work must be able to touch the sensibility of citizens, an artist must strive to descend from the rhetorical pedestal of art and be at the service of citizens and spectators, paying attention not to slip into demagogic populism”

Pillar to any of his work is the connection with architecture. According to Garutti, Architecture is the Great Mother of all visual arts: Architecture is the connective tissue of the society, linking past, present and future, in a crystallization of time, a deposit of experiences. Thanks to architecture, the space becomes a raw material to be shaped through a specific methodological practice, namely Machiavellian Method. Garutti firstly defined the Machiavellian Method in 1994, when he created his first public work: the renovation of the façade of Peccioli’s Theater, in Tuscany, an abandoned place of great importance for the community. “While working on the project in Peccioli, I outlined an artistic method that became the backbone to all my public projects”.



From left to right: The small theater in Fabbrica: survey before surgery ©AlbertoGarutti; This work is dedicated to the young women and young men who will fall in love in this little theater, 1994-1997. Courtesy Comune di Peccioli.

What is this method about? It consists in a dual research phase: firstly, discussing with citizens to understand their stories and secondly investigating the territory. From the results of these interactions, the work takes shape, taking into account both the expectations of the local community and the geographical territory, so not to undermine any historical memory. Thanks to its minimum physical and environmental impact, the work can be perceived as an anonymous intervention, in which the artists plays an invisible role. Garutti claims that artists are too often more interested in showing their own abilities rather than in having an active role in the transforming society. Thus, the renovation of the theater in Peccioli becomes a work-manifesto: art must have a political connotation, where the term political stands for public, at the service of the city and its inhabitants, and should not be a mere celebration of the artist’s talent. Garutti’s public works aim at demolishing the idea that artwork serves purely decorative purposes, devoid of any connections to the social context. The artwork must be linked to the present and must deal with reality. 

The use of the Caption is a fundamental characteristic of all his public works: “The caption is a short text that accompanies every work. It produces a diffused and heterogeneous atmosphere of images, stories, word of mouth (...) on which obviously I have no control, but of which my work has been mechanism and activator”. By touching the sensitivity of the people and generating their personal participation, the caption is the tool throughout which the artwork can be understood and "metabolized”. Being an intermediary between the artist's vision and the spectator, Garutti’s captions are able to bring the audience closer to the work, challenging people’s ability to gaze the essence of the art piece and activating different levels of understanding. They generate a positive word of mouth that facilitates the diffusion and the integration of the work into the community. 


This work is dedicated to those who pass this will think the voices and sounds of the city. Porta Nuova - Garibaldi, Milan 2009-2012. ©AlbertoGarutti


This work is dedicated to those who pass this will think the voices and sounds of the city, 2012, 23 pipes in metal, crystal, variable dimensions. ©AlbertoGarutti


Garutti’s approach to art is not a modus operandi but a modus vivendi, meaning that dealing with Art is a totalizing process that influences one’s being in this world. Art becomes an extraordinary cognitive experience that investigates new sensibilities. The artwork becomes a way of exploring the world and the visual representation of reality.

“When it is true, Art has always a close relationship with Reality and it has always a narrative implication, even in conceptual works. Let's say that since they invented photography, art has begun to deal more and more with what you cannot see with your eyes (…)”  


Cover image: Alberto Garutti, photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani.

Written by Giulia Cami

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