From the Fotofoneide catalogue
There is something epic and extraordinarily heroic in Piero Fogliati’s creative experience given the period in which he experienced his epiphany. His work is pure artistic research, based on his observation and analysis of the phenomena that most stimulated his curiosity and creativity.
The beginnings date back to the end of the 1950s and Fogliati’s determination “to push the envelope” beyond the narrow confines of the canvas towards greater visual exploration. The city, his Fantastic City, was obviously the ideal means to achieve this.
The goal was important, ambitious, a Fantastic City full of Fogliati’s inventions, whose creation required the artist to dream freely and follow his most daring ideas.
You simply have to see a drawing (one of the historic drawings from the 1960s-70s) to grasp the utopian significance of his insights, a utopia projected on the “visionary use” of atmospheric phenomena.
A city modelled on Fogliati’s projects would be a sort of “parallel metropolis” to the cities we know, as Fogliati himself says: «the main idea was that man’s environment, the urban environment, would no longer be just an environment for survival, but a place that created a separate reality where the spectator would be a genuine participant».
So his works focus mainly on rain, wind, sunlight and the characteristic sounds of the city like traffic and industry.
From the ETEROTOPIA exhibition catalogue
What we see are not so much works of art as the inventions of a visionary who has investigated the phenomena of light and sound. In 1970 Lara-Vinca Masini was the first person to describe Fogliati as an inventor, but his real significance is as a dreamer haunted by dreams too big for just one man. This is why the Fantastic City, on which Fogliati worked for a long time, is and will continue to be a fantasy. In the 1960s, he began thinking about an “ideal city” as a vast process of sensory experiences. His complex and articulated urban project included decorating the sky by releasing coloured gas with a turbine; channelling the bustling commotion of the city into an auditorium to mix and correct external noise, generating an enharmonic and constantly changing event; building an acoustic boomerang that would travel round the circumference of city centres; condensing chimney smoke or the lapping of rivers into sound events; converting a closed environment into a musical instrument; applying to the atmosphere a phonoplastic instrument [the Anemofono] that would act on the air and the wind. He also wanted to sonorise hydrogeological eco-systems, colour rain, convert sunlight into a photostructure and wind into a wind sculpture. Fogliati did not confine himself to domesticating natural elements, he wanted to collaborate with the creative inspiration of the universe, working in harmony with Mother Nature. After all, man and the universe are the same thing, not separate entities.
From a thesis on the work of Piero Fogliati
With his Fantastic City, Fogliati wanted to build environments or create unusual actions intended to change the customary appearance of things we accept unquestioningly.
He wanted «to change the terms of things» and, given the technological knowledge he had acquired on a number of projects, he really could have produced the extraordinary creations of his fertile imagination; this is demonstrated by the construction in his studio of the works that represent «exhibition-scale» expressions of his projects.
Dealing with the ambiguity and complexity of the world through the pursuit of a form that responds to our desires has certainly been one of the most exciting challenges of contemporary culture. From this perspective, the city concept has been particularly closely examined, at a time when industrial realities and technological development were coming face to face with the environment, calling into question the design of the landscape as well as urban structures and housing models.
Given intense urbanisation, in the early 1960s forms of expression reflecting on the possible destiny of the city began to emerge in a number of fields; while they certainly bordered on the utopian, it was precisely for this reason that they offered a great opportunity to safeguard an absolutely fundamental “place”, the imagination. This cultural climate provided the backdrop for the Fantastic City project – and the work of Piero Fogliati in general.
Piero Fogliati was born in 1930 in Canelli, a small town near Asti, and lived and worked mostly in Turin.
He began his career in the visual arts as a self-taught artist in the 1950s, experimenting with both figurative and abstract-informal painting. His search for a personal style and his belief in the autonomy of the artistic idiom soon merged with his strong interest in science and technology. In an exploration of sensory perception and natural phenomena, Fogliati creates machines reflecting the sublime, refined aesthetic of his visual and sound imagery.
Fogliati combines beauty and perception, expressing his faith in the imagination as well as his sincere, joyful affection for people. His work is linked to the idea of a Fantastic City, a wide-ranging program of urban projects that transform sounds, lights, atmospheric elements and hydrogeological eco-systems into aesthetic and sensory experiences (a “global dream” Fogliati began developing in the early 1960s). His first solo shows were held during this period, in Florence, Rome and Turin, followed by his participation at the Venice Biennale in 1978 and 1986, the Japanese ARTEC Biennale in Nagoya in 1997, the “FASTER! BIGGER! BETTER! Signet works of the collections” exhibition on contemporary art of the last fifty years at the ZKM in Karlsruhe in 2006. An important retrospective in Turin in 2003, “Piero Fogliati il poeta della luce”, established his standing as a major artist.
Works by Fogliati are displayed at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin, the Museion in Bolzano, the Galleria Comunale in Cagliari, the MACRO in Rome, the ZKM in Karlsruhe, the Technorama Swiss Science Centre in Winterthur, the Musée de l’énergie électrique in Mulhouse, the AT&T Foundation, the “Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie” in Paris (which in 1992 held a solo show – “Sculpter l’invisibile” – on Fogliati), and in many important private collections, including the Giuliano Gori Foundation in Santomato, the Panza di Biumo Collection in Lugano and the VAF-Stiftung in Frankfurt, whose works are loaned to the MART in Rovereto.
Piero Fogliati died in Turin on 25 March 2016, at the age of 86.
2022 Milan, Lorenzelli Arte. Luce e suono. L’utopia di Piero Fogliati
2021 Milan, OSART Gallery, Piero Fogliati
2020 Bologna, Artefiera, Reale Virtuale
2018 Milan, Palazzo Serbelloni – Sotheby’s, La città fantastica di Piero Fogliati
2017 Milan, MIART Milan International Art Fair
2016 Milan, DEP ART gallery, Piero Fogliati. Eterotopia
2016 Lissone (Milan), MAC, Piero Fogliati. Teoria del pluriverso
2014 Milan, OSART Gallery, Piero Fogliati. L’immagine nella rêverie
2014 Turin, GAM Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Surprise
2012 Turin, Gagliardi Art System, Piero Fogliati. Solo show
2011 Milan, Galleria Monopoli, Subtile
2009 Giarole (Alessandria), Castello Sannazzaro, Fotofoneide
2008 Valenza (Alessandria), Galleria Rino Costa.
2008 Turin, Claudio Bottello Contemporary, La città fantastica
2007 Pistoia, Fattoria di Celle – Gori Collection, Piero Fogliati. Utopia possibile?
2004 Valenza (Alessandria), Galleria Rino Costa.
2003 Turin, Tendoni di Ponte Mosca, Piero Fogliati il poeta della luce.
2002 Casale Monferrato (Alessandria), Galleria Rino Costa
1996 Mulhouse, Musée de l’Électricité
1994 Casale Monferrato (Alessandria), Galleria Rino Costa
1993 Paris, Galerie Luc Queyrel, Reel-Virtuel
1992 Paris, Musée de La Villette, Sculpter l’invisible
1989 Milan, Valeria Belvedere
1982 Pesaro, Galleria Deposito Figure, Luce e Vento
1981 Geneva, Galerie Voir
1974 Rome, Galleria dell’Obelisco
1972 Turin, Galleria Martano
1971 Milan, Galleria Il Naviglio
1970 Florence, Galleria Il Fiore
1970 Rome, Studio Farnese
1957 Turin, Saletta Metro Cristallo, 15 quadri di Piero Fogliati.