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Gibellina : a town reborn under the sign of art (and photography)


While waiting for the biennial international festival Gibellina Photoroad in 2023, let’s take a stroll among photography exhibitions, artworks and museums in this western Sicilian little town, which has been reborn under the sign of art (photography included), after the catastrophe of the 1968 earthquake.

We enter Gibellina, which is a real place though a conceptual one, through the monumental gate called the Porta della Valle del Belice (also known as Stella (Star) of Belice) by Pietro Consagra. The town as a whole, along with the Ludovico Corrao Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) and the Museum Mediterranean Patterns are among the most original cultural experiences of the second half of the 20th century. And the urban centre is an open-air museum (with works by Consagra, Quaroni, Mimmo Rotella, to name but a few of the artists who have ‘signed’ the rebirth of Gibellina), while the rubble of the old town is hidden under the Cretto (The Great Crack) by Burri.

As far as photography is concerned, our visit starts from Baglio di Stefano (the headquarter of the Fondazione Istituto di Alta Cultura Orestiadi): situated close to the town, it’s an example of the typical farmhouses of the area. The Museum Mediterranean Patterns preserves the Foundation’s collection of contemporary art, with works documenting the artists’ stay in Gibellina and their contribution to the city’s reconstruction project (i.e. the spectacular machines of Arnaldo Pomodoro for the Orestiadi, or the works by the Italian Transavanguardia artists) as well as the Foundation’s permanent photography collection.

Da Beirut ad Aleppo at Baglio Di Stefano

Fondazione Orestiadi, in memory of its founder Ludovico Corrao, presents two initiatives: in Palermo, in collaboration with Fondazione Sant’Elia, and in Gibellina. Thus, Baglio Di Stefano hosts the exhibition Da Beirut ad Aleppo (curated by Francesca Corrao and Enzo Fiammetta) by the Lebanese ethnologist and photographer Houda Kassatly. Her images trace the recent history of the Lebanese capital, from the end of the civil war to the aftermath of the August 4, 2020 explosion and document the destruction in Aleppo (Syria) during the war with a series of photos taken in 2018 for UNESCO. What remains of Aleppo is a reflection of the former architectural splendour of the Mamluk sultans (13th-16th century), with shadows cast on the walls or the rubble scattered on the ground, shreds of windows overlooking dead-end courtyards. In war zones, there is no future in sight: almost everyone is gone, perhaps forever. On the outskirts of Beirut, the houses have been emptied to be rebuilt elsewhere: deserted rooms, no signs of life, only elegant trimmings of former prosperity.

Open call Fotografia Spazio Aperto

Fotografia Spazio Aperto is an Open Call promoted by Triennale Milano and Gibellina Photoroad/Open air & Site-specific Festival; it deals with the re-interpretation of the public space and temporary site-specific installations (the focus is on one of the city’s most emblematic squares: the Sistema delle Piazze, designed by Franco Purini and Laura Thermes ). A photographer and an architect, selected by the jury, will spend a residency in Gibellina to design an open-air and site-specific installation which will be held during the 4th edition of the Festival (July 28/September 30, 2023). The workshop Curatorial Practices in Public Space, in Milan at Triennale, is also scheduled. Deadline September 9, 2022 (,

Frida Kahlo, ritratto di una vita at MAC

Ruins and rebirth: this is the link between Gibellina, where art has been able to mend the people’s wounds after the earthquake, and Frida, who healed the wounds of her life thanks to creativity and painting.

Our photographic trip goes on at MAC (the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Ludovico Corrao), where the exhibition Frida Kahlo, ritratto di una vita is on display in the museum’s Mario Schifano Rooms: her portraits, shot by masters of photography (including Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Lucienne Bloch and Leo Matiz) chronicle her life, art, friendships, loves and are in an ideal dialogue with the paintings of the Italian Pop Art protagonist. B&W shots (and some in colour) narrate Frida’s life from childhood to her meeting with the Mexican artist Diego Rivera, and to her death. Also on display are some photos taken by her father Guillermo Kahlo, a well-known Mexican photographer, who immortalised her in her private dimension. The exhibition, promoted by the Municipality of Gibellina and organized by Diffusione Italia International Group, is curated by Vincenzo Sanfo and Tanino Bonifacio. But whoever enters the MAC, besides the works by major contemporary artists, can discover another treasure, photographically speaking: the permanent photography section, with the works of some great photographers (Mimmo Jodice, Letizia Battaglia, Arno Hammacher, Mario Giacomelli, Maria Mulas, just to quote some) who told the story of Gibellina, the earthquake, the art, the reconstruction.

Gibellina selfie – Lo sguardo di tre generazioni

While waiting for the new edition of Gibellina Photoroad, the ‘photographic’ tour takes us in the Piazza del Municipio, with the Gibellina Selfie – Lo sguardo di tre generazioni (The gaze of three generations), created for the city within the framework of the 2019 edition of the event by Joan Fontcuberta. It is a mural photomosaic representing the eyes of three Gibellina inhabitants of different generations. It is composed of 6075 ceramic tiles with the selfies and photos the people of Gibellina sent to the artist, in response to an appeal on the web. He recomposed them, recounting the present time and its continuous flow. “It’s a way to transform the individual use of mass photography in the age of the web – the selfie as individual self-representation – into a moment of collective identity construction, a self-portrait of the life of a community”, the festival artistic director Arianna Catania explains.

Paola Sammartano

Paola Sammartano is a journalist, specialized in arts and photography, based in Milan.


Da Beirut ad Aleppo. Foto di Houda Kassatly
June 25 -September 04, 2022
Fondazione Istituto Alta Cultura Orestiadi
Baglio Di Stefano, 91024 Gibellina – TP, Italy
Palazzo Sant’Elia, Via Maqueda, 81, 90133 Palermo – PA, Italy


Frida Kahlo, ritratto di una vita
June 8 – September 30, 2022
Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Ludovico Corrao
Via Segesta 1, 91024 Gibellina – TP, Italy

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