Inaugurated in 1995, the Nivola Museum is located to the south-east of Orani, on the slope of the Su Cantaru (The Fountain) hill. It offers a wonderful view of the village and surrounding countryside. The museum complex is currently divided into five areas: the outdoor spaces, the old washhouse which serves as an exhibition space, the administrative offices, a newly built Pavillion opened in 2004, located in the area below; and the Nivola Park, opened in September 2009, onto which the Pavillion also gives access. The renovation of the washhouse and the construction of the Museum’s annexes were realized by the architects Peter Chermayeff and Umberto Floris, the design of the Pavilion by architect Chermayeff and Sebastian Gaias, and the Park project by Sebastian Gaias. The museum and the featured artworks are owned by the Nivola Foundation, established in 1990 to promote the systematic study and appreciation of the works by the Oranese artist.
The museum is currently undergoing a major expansion of about 6500 square feet with new spaces for permanent exhibitions designed to reconcile and integrate the entire artistic career of Costantino Nivola, also with the help of multimedia tools. The new rooms will allow for the mounting of temporary exhibitions, the creation of educational workshops, a specialized library, an archive, an auditorium, a bookshop and a cafeteria. The project is managed by Gianfranco Crisci.
A visit to the museum begins in the courtyard, which features an old fountain, referring us back to the origins of the building: the communal washhouse, dating from the early part of the twentieth century. Originating from the large basin, a thin stream of water runs through small channels that traverse the courtyard, reuniting the materials so loved by Nivola in his childhood and which later became permanent sources of his inspiration: earth, stone, lime, cement, nature itself.
At the entrance to the museum, almost as tutelary deities, stand monumental sculptures of male and female forms in marble, bronze and travertine. The works are expressions of themes dear to the artist and his art, which are firmly linked to his Mediterranean origins but also speak in a universal language: ancestral gods, eternal symbols of masculine and feminine, the wellsprings and spirit of life. The Magna Mater (Great Mother) opens like a heavenly creature, with her extraordinary simplicity, reassuring us back to the world of childhood. Su Muru Pringiu (Pregnant Wall) with her abdomen prominent in anticipation of her wondrous child, makes palpable the hope of a better future. The male figures, on the other hand, seem to derive from rocks: simple, compact and powerful, they are equipped to work and struggle, like ancient warriors.
The courtyard leads us to the structure of the old washhouse in whose refined and simple interior we find an anthology of Nivola’s artistic production from the late 1950s (Portrait of Mother and Brother, 1957) to 1988, the year of his death. In these years, the artist seemed to discover a new awareness, as if through his move to the United States he had discovered the deeper meaning of being Sardinian and wanted to share the values and culture of his land with all of humanity. His work becomes a reinterpretation of his childhood, and his nostalgia for the Mediterranean suggests to him the possibility of a future rooted in ancestral values. Among his later works are the Mestieri, compact male figures in bronze, who, by the playful addition of the symbolic objects they carry, soften the hard memory of an archaic world marked by labor and effort; and the mythical figures of men and women made of cement, marble and bronze, similar to those placed in the courtyard and the open spaces of the Palazzo of the Regional Council of Cagliari.
The exhibition also documents other directions of the artist’s research through his model for the Sassari Brigade monument of 1963 (never realized), and his abundant work in clay. Of the terracotta sculptures realized beginning in the early 1960s, the Museum has various examples from the Bed and Beach series. Nivola considered clay the most agreeable material. His hand was fast and fluid, the act of shaping clay brought him back to his childhood, to the feminine act —essential to life —of bread-making.
The Bed series too is a metaphor for the existential process, from birth to death, through the course of love, the most secret of human experiences, which the artist represented as if semidarkness, in private, but which, in the rhythms of the surfaces he shapes, the traces left by the bodies, the cluster formations of the sheets, belies an irresistible vitality. Through his intuitive intelligence, the artist explores the infinite possibilities of working the clay : the beds on which the figures recline do not function as a passive backdrop but as an active element of the narrative. The Beach sculptures created in 1972 magnify the spaces of the Beds, generating different perspectives: infinite landscapes or figures crammed into a bacchanalia pulsing with life. The terracotta works are characterized by a particular texture obtained by the artist's use of a thin cloth, placed between his hand and the clay in the act of molding.
The Pavilion presents a series of works made with the sand-casting technique (the pouring of plaster or cement onto sculpted sand), which brought the artist to the height of his success in America. With this personal technique, which very much interested Le Corbusier, Nivola created some of his celebrated sculpted walls: from the Olivetti showroom in New York (the mural sketch is shown in this hall), to the façades of the Bridgeport Post Newspaper and the Hartford Mutual Insurance Company both in Connecticut.
Summer hours (June 1 - September 30): 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Winter hours (October 1 - May 31): 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Closed every Monday morning.
Museum admission: €2.50 - Reduced admission: €1.50 (groups, schools, Orani residents, children from 7-14 years old) - Free: handicapped, seniors 65+, children 6 years and under
Guided visits are available by appointment.
Telephone: +39 0784 730063 - Fax 0784 730062
Text and photos taken from: www.museonivola.it