The sails unfurling in Piazza Guerrazzi, Cecina, announce a new opportunity offered by the Geiger Foundation to embark on a wonderful journey by visiting its exhibition. Sailing Ships. Great Stories of the Sea gathers the stories of twenty-six ships and their extraordinary adventures, all related in the description cards that accompany each model. The setting of the exhibition calls to mind the colours of the dark stormy sea, the parquet flooring the deck of a ship; the lighting warms the environment and creates focus points that highlight each individual piece on display in an almost theatrical atmosphere.

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The exhibition path starts with the most iconic of all navigation symbols: a massive, worn wheel. Who knows how much sea salt and how many dangerous manoeuvres it must have experienced before giving up its career. The showcases at the entrance present imposing, majestic vessels, armed with dozens of guns and decorated with very fine sculptures, such as the English Sovereign of the Seas, the first ship to be armed with over one hundred guns, and the Vasa, the Swedish flagship that sank on her maiden voyage because she was too heavy on top and lacked stability, and remained underwater for three hundred years. Also on show is the Victory, the vessel on which Admiral Nelson fought and died at Trafalgar. In order not to throw him into the sea, as was customary with the fallen, his body was placed in a cask filled with brandy.

Next to this first part of the exhibition, you will have the opportunity to observe a combat station, with the gun ready to fire its deadly shots. Also on show is a beautiful figurehead depicting an apostle: the wooden figures set at the prow were meant to protect the sailing vessel from the dangers of the seas and represented its soul. For this reason, they were held in high regard. Many ships were built to fight and assert the power of the country to which they belonged, but pirate ships also sailed the seas; not the huge black galleons full of skeletons that you see in action movies, but small, fast ships suitable for launching rapid attacks, hiding in ports and sheltering in secluded bays. Among them was the Golden Hind of privateer Francis Drake. In the service of the Crown of England, he circumnavigated the globe in the late 16th century and plundered an enormously vast treasure from Spanish enemy ships. When he returned, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. Next to these ships, two showcases display ancient navigation instruments: a telescope, an azimuth compass; an octant, a sextant, and a chronometer, fundamental for determining the ship’s fix, as well as rulers, squares, map charting callipers and nibs.

Exploration is perhaps the noblest purpose and certainly the one that is linked the most to the imaginary of sailing ships. Small caravels put out to sea in search of routes for the purchase of spices (which you can see... and smell in the exhibition), and their brave, reckless sailors faced unknown seas and currents, risking illnesses and shipwrecks in the hope of being able, one day, to experience the intense emotion of shouting «Land!» when it appeared on the horizon. The ships on show on the first floor of the exhibition include the Santa María, which took Christopher Columbus to America, the Endeavour of James Cook, who helped define the territories of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia, and the Beagle, which numbered among the people on board the young naturalist Charles Darwin, the father of the theory on the origin of species that revolutionized biology.

A section is also devoted to trading sailing ships: large vessels like the Manila galleons, which shuttled between Acapulco and the Philippines to exchange the silver from South American colonies for spices, silks and porcelain from the East, or the very fast clippers, which could even outspeed steamers thanks to their vast sail area. Along with the models of these legendary ships, all handmade by skilled, patient model makers, you will be able to admire various dioramas, which add to the realism of the naval reconstruction thanks to the vividness of the setting moved by waves and wind and the presence of three-dimensional figures.

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Our summer exhibition for 2018 is full of charm and adventure: Sailing Ships. Great Stories of the Sea will tell the story of the golden age of sailing through magnificent models and objects related to the world of seafaring from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Along the exhibition route you will see ships of heroic navigators and adventurous privateers, famous vessels whose explorations changed the geography of the known world and altered its balance in wars of supremacy, as well as fast merchant clippers that shortened the distances between corners of the globe. Navigation instruments, naval furnishings, wooden decorations, reconstructions and dioramas will contribute to that brackish taste...

The exhibition will be inaugurated on Saturday 7 July at 6 pm in the exhibition hall of the Foundation, piazza Guerrazzi 32, and will be open daily from 6 to 11 pm until 16 September. Admission is free.

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On Saturday 31 March at 5 pm, the doors of the Geiger Foundation will once again open to the public. With a completely new layout, we present the exhibition Fans. Artist's Creations, which will run until Sunday 13 May, with opening hours from 4 pm to 8 pm.

From Luisa Moradei’s collection, the 90 works on display interpret the symbolic, historical and artistic meanings of this elegant, ancient accessory: sculptures made with different materials, oil or acrylic paintings, fabrics, ceramics, and goldsmith’s works signed by leading figures of the contemporary Italian artistic and cultural scene, including Elio Marchegiani, Gillo Dorfles, Tino Stefanoni, and Emilio Isgrò, just to name a few.

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The focus of the spring exhibition organized by the Geiger Foundation will be a refined, elegant object, rich in practical connotations as well as in symbolic and artistic meanings: the fan. In a reinterpretation by 90 contemporary artists, the image of the fan is analysed in figurative and conceptual terms and transposed into works of art inspired by this fine ornament. The exhibition Fans. Artist’s Creations staged in the Geiger Foundation exhibition will open on Saturday 31 March at 5 p.m. and will run through to Sunday 13 May, every day from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The first contemporary art collective exhibition

The exhibition will be the first group show of contemporary artists organized in the Cecina exhibition hall by the Geiger Foundation staff coordinated by Federico Gavazzi, with the support of Florentine collector Luisa Moradei, who conceived the project.

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A time for balance

Sunday 18 February marked the end of the exhibition Pop-ups. The Magic of Books, which was inaugurated on 8 December 2017. The outcome was very positive indeed: about 11,500 admissions recorded in just over two months, and almost 30 guided tours organized for groups and schoolchildren. The exhibition involved visitors of all ages: from nursery school kids to hundred-year-old guests of retirement homes, the charm of the three-dimensional books from the Missiroli collection has left its mark. “The enthusiasm shown by visitors really impressed us”, said Giulia Santi, curator of the exhibition. “These little paper masterpieces have been able to amaze the children, entertain the adults, bring the elderly back to childhood memories. In their seeming simplicity, they indeed sum up the technique of mechanisms, the art of illustration, the potential of literature”.

The exhibition

The exhibition retraced the history of the pop-up book backwards, from contemporary paper-engineering works that are still on the market to early volumes with relief illustrations dating back to the end of the 19th century. The exhibition staging was also very much appreciated. The forest of flying books, the scenographic wall inspired by the paper dioramas of paper engineer Dario Cestaro, the illuminated rotating carousels, the video stations: all the elements in the setting contributed to filling the public with wonder, the same wonder that you experience when opening the pages of a pop-up book.

And now?

The Geiger Foundation continues to programme cultural events and will shortly launch its next spring exhibition with a display of quite unusual artworks...
Pop-up fans will be glad to hear that a different selection of books chosen from Massimo Missiroli’s collection will fly to the Arab Emirates to be shown at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival from 18 to 28 April.

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The exhibition Pop-ups. The Magic of Books tells us how the three-dimensional book has changed over almost one and a half centuries. Let’s go through some of the pieces on display to find out why they were chosen to represent the evolution of the pop-up.

Small 19th-century wonders

Internationaler Circus by Lothar Meggendorfer, published by J.F. Schreiber in 1887, is a surprisingly large scenic book: it represents the arena of a circus with acrobats, clowns and dancers, around which are boxes with dozens and dozens of charmed spectators. When open, it is almost a metre and a half wide! Meggendorfer was a master of animated books, the “ancestors” of three-dimensional books, in which figures could be set in motion by means of tabs, volvelles or ribbons.

The exquisite Peeps into Fairy Land, published by Ernest Nister and E. P. Dutton in 1896, is a panorama book, in which the planes, spaced with tabs, compose a kind of theatre. Another technique widely used in the 19th century was that of floating layers, where the separate levels do not rest on a horizontal plane, as in scenic books. An example is Cosy Cot Farm, published by Raphael Tuck and Sons in 1895, whose editions often represent bucolic scenes or children’s games.

At that time, three-dimensional books were meant exclusively for children: many of these volumes, which are over a century old, have dedications to the lucky children who received them as gifts.

Original three-dimensional “revolutions”

The first “real” pop-up, however, is The “Pop-Up” Pinocchio (based on Collodi’s original story), created by paper engineer Harold Lentz and published by Blue Ribbon Books of New York in 1932. The term was registered as a trademark, and only later did it come into use to indicate three-dimensional books in general. It was enormously successful, so much so that the publisher produced a great many titles, and also collaborated with Disney.

Another beautiful pop-up on display is the carousel Alì Babà e i 40 ladroni, published by Hoepli in 1943. It was an all-Italian production. Set designer Mario Zampini and illustrator Raimondo Centurione created a new three-dimensional structure, in which the book covers can rotate completely so that all the pages can be open at the same time, with segments unfolding in which the parallel planes form perspective scenes.

 

Great masters and great producers

The undisputed master of pop-up art was Prague-based Vojtěch Kubašta: he was both an illustrator and a paper engineer, which is why the figures and structures in his works blend so perfectly together. He refined the multiple layers technique, which had been invented by Geraldine Clyne in the 1940s, but his most spectacular books are the so-called panascopic models. One of them is How Columbus Discovered America, dating back to 1961. With only three pages and a thickness of less than half a centimetre, Columbus’ caravel, Santa Maria, rises up from one large painting, with rigging and all.

The story goes that Kubašta’s pop-ups were very much appreciated by Waldo Hunt, called "Wally", who wanted to produce them in America. Unfortunately, it was the Cold War period, and imports from the Soviet bloc to the United States were banned. Wally then began to produce pop-ups by coordinating paper engineers, illustrators, and publishing houses. An example from that period is Andy Warhol’s Index (Book), published by Random House in 1967, in whose production Waldo Hunt involved the famous artist.

Pop-ups for everybody

In the 1980s pop-ups started dealing with an increasing number of themes: music, robots, science, nature, cinema, and celebrities. Examples of this are the book series published by National Geographic, or The Royal Family Pop-Up Book by paper engineer Vic Duppa-Whyte, which illustrates some episodes from the life of the British royal family, or the book The Human Body, by paper engineer David Pelham, which is said to have sold three million copies!

In the 2000s pop-up books came back strongly in vogue: a new generation of paper engineers discovered new mechanisms and folds that made three-dimensional books similar to paper sculptures suitable for audiences of all ages. Just think of the works of Robert Sabuda, Bruce Foster, Matthew Reinhart, and many others. For example, take a look at the spectacular DC Super Heroes. The Ultimate Pop-Up Book: on the page showing the superheroes together, the illustration rises up by almost 40 centimetres!

 

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