Twenty years of the Ceramics Festival have seen this festival grow, mature and adapt to a changing economic and artistic reality. The festival first took flight in 1992 with the aim of celebrating and promoting the products of Montelupo Fiorentino: ceramics. Already in the 1400’s Montelupo churned out majolica objects that adorned the tables of the most notable families in Florence, and, through trade routes, these products were exported to other European countries, regions of the Mediterranean and America.
The main theme of this year’s celebration is the journey and the interaction between east and west. The City of Montelupo and the Museum Foundation of Montelupo are sponsoring a project known as THE SEA BETWEEN PEOPLE, which will shape the cultural initiatives for the next two years and proposes to investigate the dialogue with Islam, on the routes of ceramics.
Most people are probably unaware that some of the local patterns used in Montelupo are actually reproductions of symbols of the Arab world, for example the hand of Fatima and the eye of Allah, a testimony of the contact between the craftsmen of Montelupo and the Arab world.
This project stems from the desire to understand the extent to which the interaction and commercial exchanges that took place in the Mediterranean influenced culture, art production and the very way of making pottery. The Ceramics Festival is an occasion in which the greater part of the events organized for THE SEA BETWEEN THE PEOPLE may be presented to a public audience.
On June 27th there will be a convention entitled “Commerce, communication and exchange during the Early Middle Ages” which will illustrate the historical and cultural assumptions/conditions that this entire project is based on and focusing on the dialogue between east and west and on the exchange of decorative goods.
Of key importance in the festival is the art exhibition, “Towards the Orient and back. Oriental painting and the exchange of decorative models in the Mediterranean basin”, a display of original works dating back to the XIX and XX centuries and accompanied by an array of multimedia documentation. The exhibition is organized by Dr. Marilena Pasquali, curator for the Moranti Museum. At the turn of the 20th century, the western world was at awe with Arab culture and completely transformed its décor, costumes, stories and style. The display of paintings will cover not only work from the last two centuries but will also feature works by contemporary Italian artists who have undergone a personal “journey into the Orient”, one of them being Luigi Ontani. A particular focus will be placed on works of ceramics given the importance this craft has in territory of Montelupo and the region of Tuscany.
The contemporary dialogue between the two cultures takes shape thanks to an art expo "LO 2.0 - New apprentices for a Renaissance workshop". Now, in Montelupo Fiorentino, a typical Renaissance workshop where students came to learn a trade by following their master is reenacted. The acronym LO refers to one of the most prestigious workshops of Montelupo dating back to the 1400’s, The abbreviation 2.0 suggests, however, the purely contemporary and innovative touch of the project.
In this case, there are nine apprentices hailing from different Art Academies across Tuscany. The artists are Alfredo Gioventù and Khaled Ben Slimane and the artisans are the teachers of ceramics and decoration at the Scuola della Ceramica, who will guide artists and apprentices in the realization of such works.
The investigation through art making is centered round an artistic phenomenon common to both western and eastern cultures: that is, the transformation of natural elements found in the physical world into abstract, decorative motifs.
There will be an installation of artworks by Gioventú and Khaled Ben Slimane, giving space to their creative process and setting up an open space for dialogue between East and West.
These exhibitions and encounters are just several of the many events lined up for the summer, among which the music festival “Setes Sois, setes luas”, making its way to Montelupo Fiorentino for three nights of concerts by musical groups coming from countries scattered throughout the Mediterranean.
In occasion of the 20th anniversary, special attention will be paid to small businesses and shops dedicated to the art of ceramics in Montelupo and will take place in a designated Show Room in Corso Garibaldi. The project is called “OPEN WORKSHOPS”, guided tours into the discovery of the places of production.
Other notable figures taking center stage in the festivities are the Scuola della Ceramica and the professionals and masters of terracotta who represent the Union of Kilns and Pottery.
Given the success of the initiatives proposed in 2011, this year, for the second consecutive year, the Festival will host the market/expo “THE FORMS OF THE LAND” curated in collaboration with the Association of Ceramic Arts and the Festival of the Kilns.