2 MARCH - 30 JUNE, 2024

The third instalment of a series of exhibitions highlighting lesser-known pieces from Piacenza’s museum collections engages artist Andrea Sala in a dialogue with liturgical objects and furnishing from the collection of the Diocese of Piacenza-Bobbio.

XNL Piacenza, the hub for contemporary art, cinema, theatre, and music by the Fondazione di Piacenza e Vigevano, is delighted to unveil Sul Guardare Atto 3 / Andrea Sala (Ways of Seeing Act 3 / Andrea Sala), in collaboration with the office for the Ecclesiastical Cultural Heritage of the Diocese of Piacenza-Bobbio..

Loosely inspired by the television series of the same name created by John Berger in 1971 for the BBC, the project aims to reinterpret the artistic heritage of the city and its surrounding region, navigating the realms of tradition and innovation, engaging it in a dialogue with the works of contemporary artists.

In the third act of the series, curated by XNL Arte director Paola Nicolin, the spotlight falls on Andrea Sala (Como, 1976), an Italian artist whose professional journey spans between Italy and Canada. Sala’s sculptures are imbued with his interest in design culture and process research, which stems from a fascination with fragile materials, such as terracotta and ceramics. His artistic research, inspired by traditional aesthetics and the avant-garde movements of the 19th century, particularly in the fields of Design, Architecture and Visual Arts in general, finds fulfilment in the minimalism of forms and the use of traditional techniques applied to industrial materials, or vice versa. Sala work is heavily influenced by his choice of materials, which depends on their inherent qualities that evolve throughout the manufacturing process.

In the halls of XNL, Sala presents a unique interpretation of select liturgical objects and furnishings sourced from the deposits and collections of the bishop’s palace in Piacenza.

The artist’s first solo exhibition in an Italian institution emerges from his exploration of the museum’s repositories. Through a collaboration facilitated by Director Manuel Ferrari, Sala gained access to a concealed segment of the heritage comprising small yet evocative objects. One of the objectives of the project was to facilitate the residency of a contemporary artist in the city. This allowed for the selection of objects to become a personal and subjective choice, revealing not just a story but also an emotional response to materials, forms, and the potential for contemporary reinterpretation of ritual objects. With a keen sensitivity to the poetics of materials and presentation, Sala selected cases, liturgical vestments, monstrances, goblets, candle holders, reorganized them in a new framework, altering their perspective, and accompanied them with a series of new ceramic sculptures and drawings created specifically for this occasion.

Once crafted to enshroud and safeguard the sacred, these furnishings now rest on the ground, inviting viewers to observe them up close and unveiling their simple beauty of form and materials in a new light.

“This project”, explains Andrea Sala “is important because it required me to engage in something that is consistently part of my artistic work. My interest lies in engaging the audience in a mechanism that reinterprets specific cultural and linguistic structures – in this instance, rituals, symbols, and sacred objects – by mixing them with alternative forms, functions, and meanings.”

The theme of the exhibition is a contemplation on the case and what it contains, whether it be a garment, a box, a blanket, or a body.

Sala’s fascination with forms remains a consistent theme in his work. The artist contemplates shapes, materials, and colours, providing a perspective on objects that, stripped of religious significance, prompt reflection on the container to better understand the content. These perfect shapes, balanced between abstractionism and anthropomorphism, serve as a “vessels of the sacred” while also narrating stories of journeys, rituals, solitude, and intimacy, but also of multitudes in procession, peace and wars, conversions and submissions, pomp and poverty, life, and death.

“This approach”, the artist explains “enables me to transcend the primary source of inspiration and create pieces that are ‘tainted’ by a plethora of influences. I persist in exploring the realm of industrial products, where the functionality of objects gradually diminishes as a result of the detached nature of the artistic process. But I am also intrigued by humanity’s approach to living spaces and its relationship with objects. Throughout the years, my meticulous and thorough examination of the world of objects has enabled me to develop a personal lexicon of shapes that progressively diverge from their original references, and yet remain somewhat recognizable, albeit in a distorted manner.”




image: ph. Daniele Signaroldi


Andrea Sala, Sul Guardare - Atto 3, 2024, XNL Piacenza