Image: Nick Knight
August 19 2011
Research is today’s project, and I am in Bologna. Piazza Maggiore dominates the centre; the architecture of the churches is on a spectacular scale. Obviously, Italy has some very special churches and basilicas, many of which are relatively unknown but more spectacular than the obvious candidates. The cathedral of Bergamo, where Pope Giovanni XXIII’s remains are on view within a humble tan-coloured wooden coffin behind a bulletproof glass box, is an artwork in itself, only overshadowed by the monastic limestone crypt which is worth a pilgrimage for the design alone. A pure set of 12 stone caskets sit in perfect semi-circular order headed by a simple stone altar; it is puritanical and breathtaking and, for me, comparable with Corbusier’s masterpiece Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp.
Unlike most visitors to these venues, I come only for the art; centuries ago most art was commissioned by the church only, and for the people and the artist the church in effect was the “gallery”. In a subconscious way, the first sculptures I made in travertine marble for the Parisian galerie RCM (a show called Permanence 2010), although contemporary work, also have an order and feeling of ceremony about them. This is undoubtedly influenced by a wider sense of art history and inextricably linked to the type of power a place like a church can convey. The duomo dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta in Cremona (home of Stradivarius) is also of note; the main façade is one of the most important monuments of Romanesque art in Europe.
Near day’s end, I receive a message from my friend Giuseppe Imprezzabile confirming our appointment tomorrow; he is a perfumier, and is developing some scents for me. I have always been a little disappointed by the commercial scents available and the commercial restrictions. So I have started some work on my own, made with high-quality organic and natural materials (no synthetics, as is customary for most scents). We will only produce a very small amount, as everything is made by hand in Italy and we are not working through a commercial vehicle. The idea is to really keep it limited – for me rarity and not a high price tag is the real modern luxury.