Nivola Museum in Orani, the life and works of the artist

In Orani, in the heart of Barbagia, in the province of Nuoro, right on the hill known as Su Cantaru, stands the Nivola Museum, a complex that celebrates the life and works of a great artist of the twentieth century, Costantino Nivola. 

The Nivola Museum is located in Orani (province of Nuoro) and more precisely in Via Gonare, where once stood the municipal wash house, symbol of community life.

The museum complex offers an interesting immersion in the creative universe of this master of Italian modernism among over two hundred sculptures, paintings and drawings. 

The origin of the Museum

The Museum was founded in the mid-nineties on a project to recover the former wash. curated by designers Chermayeff and Floris. to give continuity to the study and enhancement work carried out by the Costantino Nivola Foundation. Nivola’s wife selected the works.

Ruth Guggenheim chose to give greater emphasis to her husband’s sculptures, such as the series of Mothers and Widows, although then the museum also embraced the arrival of other works of art, such as terracotta works, paintings and reliefs made with the technique that made him famous in America.

Who is Nivola, life and works

Raised in a family of bricklayers, Nivola seemed destined to follow in his father’s footsteps and learn the family trade. However, fate gave him an unexpected path when he decided to become an apprentice of the painter Mario Delitala in Sassari.

The turning point came in the thirties, when a scholarship opened the doors of the Istituto Superiore per le Industrie Artistiche di Monza (ISIA), where he dedicated himself to the study of graphics.

Nivola found a mentor in the architect Giuseppe Pagano, who actively involved him in the organization of important exhibitions, such as the Milan Triennale and the Paris Expo. At the same time, he assumed the role of artistic director at Olivetti.

The artist left Italy for Paris before and the United States after the end of the decade because of his anti-fascist position and marriage to Ruth Guggenheim of Jewish faith.

In New York, however, he managed to enter the art world as artistic director for magazines specialized in architecture, establishing a profitable friendship with the renowned architect Le Corbusier. During this period, thanks to the uncertainty born from the comparison with another cultural context, he experimented with new artistic forms and languages, culminating in the development of the innovative technique of sandcasting, that is the creation of concrete sculptures using sand as a matrix.

Thanks to his talent and creativity, Nivola quickly achieved success, especially after completing the Olivetti showroom in New York. This project has consecrated him as one of the most famous sculptors in the context of architecture, pushing towards the convergence of the arts.

In the sixties, while maintaining his commitment to public art, Nivola also devoted himself to terracotta, creating works focused on more intimate themes. Later, he returned to “fine” materials such as marble and bronze, creating female figures celebrating the generating power of women and nature.

Foto : Artsupp

What to expect from a visit to the Nivola Museum

The Nivola Museum complex is divided into different environments, from the indoor exhibition space to the outdoor spaces to the area dedicated to the technique of sand casting. The collected location and the large-format sculptures outside give this museum a unique atmosphere.

Through the courtyard, visitors are greeted by a fountain that evokes the historical origins of the building, that is, that of municipal wash house, while a small uncovered channel snakes between the stones to bring water into the dirt area, symbol of the vitality and continuous transformation of the elements that have constantly inspired the art of Nivola.

The works exhibited in the museum reflect the artist’s central themes, such as the maternal figure and the concept of construction, which reinterpret in a modern way the popular tradition and prehistoric art of his native Sardinia. 

Among the sculptures on display are the creatures of Magna Mater and Muru pringiu, which respectively embody motherhood and hope for the future. The male sculptures, like those of the ancient warriors, recall the power and resistance of the rocks, symbols of work and struggle.

Looking at the most recent works, we cannot fail to mention the Mestieri, that is, male figures made of bronze that mix the hardness of the work with a playful joy.

Inside the museum there is also a selection of terracotta sculptures that highlights the artistic ability of Nivola in the processing of this material and an entire space dedicated to the technique that made him famous, that of pouring cement or plaster on a sand matrix (sandcasting).

The exhibition is constantly evolving and will soon embrace new spaces dedicated to the artist’s entire career. This extension of the Nuvola Museum will also include areas for events and temporary exhibitions, educational workshops, a specialist library and much more.

How much does it cost to visit the Nivola Museum?

The museum dedicated to Costantino Nivola is open to all, from children to students to visitors with disabilities, every day (except on Wednesday, the weekly closing day).

The cost of the ticket is also accessible, they prevent reductions for some categories of people, to which an extra must be added in case of a guided tour.

Copertina: Artsupp

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