MAXXI Exhibition | Nuove avventure sotterranee

Curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva 

MAXXI - Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo




Following the photographic exhibition in 2021 that, amidst archaeological finds and excavation machines, spectacular explosions, and forest landscapes, narrated the adventurous history of five major construction sites worldwide, the photographic campaigns commissioned by Ghella to some of the most interesting contemporary Italian photographers return. From June 14 to September 25, 2024, the Extra Space at MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, will host Nuove avventure sotterranee (New Underground Adventures) an exhibition curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva, featuring the works of Stefano Graziani, Rachele Maistrello, Domingo Milella, Luca Nostri, and Giulia Parlato.

Alessandro Giuli, President of MAXXI Foundation: "We are delighted to once again welcome Ghella's enlightening photographic commission project to MAXXI. This project is the result of an ambitious, brave vision that recognises culture as a significant tool for institutional growth.

Nuove avventure sotterranee represents a further step in the long-standing relationship between MAXXI and Ghella, crowned by the generous donation of 48 photographic works that have become part of the Museum's Collections. It is the virtuous example of a partnership between public and private aimed at supporting creativity."

"Nuove avventure sotterranee," explains Federico Ghella, Vice President of Ghella, "is the second chapter of a project that aims to tell our story through the unfiltered perspective of a group of Italian artists. This cultural investment has allowed us to export not only our engineering expertise but also our culture to the world, and it has redefined the entire image of Ghella. As I look through the images in this collection, I realize how much beauty can be hidden in our everyday adventures."

Ghella is the oldest major Italian infrastructure company. Founded in 1894 and specialized in underground excavations, it built the tunnels of the Trans-Siberian Railway (1898) and the underwater metro tunnels in Sydney. Today, its construction sites are active planetary, primarily focusing on strategic infrastructure projects. 2024 is particularly significant for the company as it celebrates its 130th anniversary. The exhibition at MAXXI is one of the specific projects planned to commemorate this milestone.

For Nuove avventure sotterranee, the five selected photographers freely documented the creation of major works in Italy, Canada, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. The exhibition features over a hundred images: those of artists who observed and interpreted the infrastructures, leaving a "poetic distance" between the construction sites and their representation, and those from Ghella's archives, documenting infrastructures built between the late 1960s and early 2000s. This contrast reveals the difference in the language of the two photographic corpuses: the archive photos, taken by engineers and technicians, show a certain unconscious aesthetic, while the works of Graziani, Maistrello, Milella, Nostri, and Parlato start from observation and lead to reflections on clichés of representation, the ambiguity of photographic documentation, excavation as a reading of intangible aspects of the landscape, the symbolism of the cave, abstraction, and much more.

“Nuove avventure sotterranee is a project that addresses underground excavation as an extraordinary opportunity for a journey through the landscape, its history, and its evolving present,” explains Alessandro Dandini de Sylva, the exhibition curator. “The photographic campaigns that make up this collection are a valuable resource because they help renew the imagery of large infrastructural engineering sites, skillfully combining documentation and experimentation, and outline the direction of future urban transformations in the 21st century.”

Amid views of construction sites and cities alternating with fossil remains or mechanical components, tropical plants and rocky landscapes, workers at work, and nocturnal animals, the distance that the authors have left between themselves, and the infrastructures is a space for research, a context in which to reconsider and regenerate the imagery of corporate photography, hinting at new narrative possibilities.

In Nuove avventure sotterranee, the photographs form a meditation on the meaning of images, reminding us that a photograph can be both a document and an act of imagination, a record, and a possibility.

The exhibition is accompanied by a box set with six volumes, designed by Filippo Nostri and published by Quodlibet. The first five volumes are introduced by a technical text on the construction site and contain a conversation between each artist and the curator about their photographic campaign. The sixth volume contains historical images from Ghella's archive related to active construction sites between the 1960s and early 2000s.

Press Release


Installation view spazio extra MAXXI, Photo © Eleonora Cerri Pecorella

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