Milano – A Rain Day – Part 2

After listening to the jazz band in the old Mercante building I popped into the tavola caldo at Al Mercante for a tuna salad, a glass of wine and a dolci. I must admit I was a little taken aback when a glass – and only a glass – of Pinot Grigio added €12.00 to the bill!!!!! €12.00 for a glass of white wine – either a touch of the old get-the-tourist or they were just preparing me for Ottawa prices. Then over to the Piazza Duomo, umbrella unfurled to take a second look at an installation that was being tended to the previous day when I passed by.

Even without the sun glistening off its white surface the Mountain of Salt couldn’t help  but dominate the space between the Palazzo Reale and the Duomo.

The Museo at the Palazzo Reale is mounting a special series of exhibitions to celebrate thirty years in the creative life of artist Mimmo Paladino.  One of his more fascinating and controversial pieces has been recreated in the space between the Palazzo Reale and the Duomo.  Paladino first created Montagna di Sale (Salt Mountain) some twenty years ago in Gibellina, a small hill town in Sicily and then again in Piazza del Plebiscito in Napoli 15 years ago.

Some of the 150 quintals of salt used in Mimmo Paladino’s Montagna di Sale had been washed away in a weekend of rain and a few of the horses had toppled. Several bags of the extra 100 quintals of Sicilian salt were being used to make repairs to the installation on the Monday as I walked by.

Though it may not exactly be a “mountain” it is definitely salt – 150 quintals of the finest Sicilian salt. That’s 1500 kilos or 1 1/2 tons of salt transported from the mines in Agrigento and Petralia in the far South to Milan in the north – plus another 100 quintals held in reserve to keep the sculpture in good condition.   The whole – the transporting from one end of the country to the other, that 150 figure – are all meant to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy that we are celebrating this year.

Many of the horses look to be struggling, plowing through the salt or emerging from it.  Their appearance is strongly reminiscent of sculptures seen in many of the collections of artifacts of earlier Italian civilizations.

First unveiled in mid-April the installation stand 10 meters high (about 33 feet) with a 35 meter (115 feet) diameter.  However those measurements are fluid as it is salt and subject to the whims of nature.  After several days of rain there were repairs being made to it in the sunshine on Monday and Tuesday’s rain suggested more repairs would be needed in the weeks until its disappears for good in mid-July.

Thirty sculptured horses in black modelled, it would appear, on ancient and primitive equine sculptures stand out against the white salt.  Some are balanced on the mound, others are emerging from or disappearing into its depths.  In some cases – though the horses are almost uniform in their appearance and featureless – they appear to be struggling against their ascent or fighting to extricate themselves from some saline prison.

 When seen against the Gothic spires and arches of the Duomo those horses take on an almost mythical appearance. 

Having made its way from South to North over a period of twenty years Paladino’s has expressed the hope that it will travel the length of the country as a show of the cultural unity of Italy.  I’m trying to think of some place in Roma where it would look as stunning as it does in its Milan setting.

I only wish I had the opportunity to see it in full sunshine – I’m sure the impact, both virtually and photographically, would be stunning.

16 giugno – Santi Quirico e Giulitta

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