Art in the Cellar

Cantina Storica del Cardinale in Gioia del Colle, with the creation of the hashtag #vinofattoadarte, does not intend only to declare its attention to an ancient production process conducted with extreme care to safeguard the final organoleptic qualities.

There’s more. An emotional journey fascinates and guides the visitor to discover some important works of art exhibited in the Cellar.
To welcome him, in the garden, he finds the hypnotic Fauno by Giacomo Manzù, a life-size archaic bronze figure crouched on a stone in an iconography that binds man to the earth like the vineyard that grows here among the stones and it is among the best known and most representative of the great sculptor from Bergamo.
At the entrance to the cellar dated 1788, two life-size bronze lions from the area of the Palladian villas on the Brenta welcome the visitor and recall the part of Venetian origin of the current property which, a native of Puglia, bears the memory of two Doges in the surname of the Republic of Leo.
The Faun is in dialogue and acts as a preamble to another work by Giacomo Manzù, the standing Great Cardinal, which, after descending the steps, dominates the cellar: the imposing bronze sculpture from 1965, about three and a half meters high, represents the most hieratic synthesis of the cycle of the great Cardinals, and here it becomes an icon and distinctive symbol of the Cellar and its Primitivo.

“The cardinals impressed me with their rigid, immobile masses, yet vibrant with complex spirituality. I saw them as so many statues, a series of aligned cubes and the impulse to create my own version of that ineffable reality in sculpture was irresistible”. Giacomo Manzu.
  • Cardinale in piedi - Giacomo Manzù
  • Cardinale in piedi - Giacomo Manzù
The large sculpture that dominates among the hundreds of bottles lined up on its sides (of which the other most visited specimens are in the Salzburg cathedral and in the courtyard of the Catholic University of Milan), was placed here in Gioia del Colle precisely as a symbolic testimony to the history of the vine known as Primitivo, which in these places more than two centuries ago was originally planted and cultivated - according to tradition - in the prelate’s vineyard.

Being that of Gioia del Colle the first Primitivo doc of Puglia (and a few meters from here what is unanimously believed to have been the first Primitivo vineyard of the area) and being this cellar the oldest in the country, coeval with the years of the first plantings of that vine in this area, it is reasonable to think that it was within these walls that the famous Primitivo was vinified here for the first time, and that its fortune began here.
At the side of the entrance, before being surrounded by bottles placed to age between music and art, here is another life-size bronze figure that reveals itself in the moving figure of the Hermaphrodite looking in the mirror by Augusto Perez, undoubtedly the Italian sculptor of the end of the millennium who better than anyone else was able to represent the yearning of the identity and gender crisis that often accompanies the human condition. Thanks to an evident overcoming of the traditional plastic canons that move away from the classic iconography of the figuration, the Hermaphrodite writhes in the chair not recognizing himself in a mirror which gives him back an image of himself with breasts and at the same time the male sex, and a half-shaved head matched by a wig that seems to have just been ripped off.

This work is here to contrast with the solemn and monolithic figure of the Cardinal to remind us how much, often precisely thanks to the wine celebrated here, the emotions and hidden fragility of those who do not have a single vital inspiration can emerge but fight the many dark sides of their soul.

Distortion, confusion, tears and wine. In the cellar, bottles everywhere, of that wine that inebriates but can lead to despair.
  • Hermaphrodite - Augusto Perez
  • Hermaphrodite - Augusto Perez
The diabolical figure of Luca Crocicchi with his bloodshot (or primitive?) eye placed in front of the Cardinal here creates a contrast like between the devil and holy water, which plays down any hidden religiosity in a place that produces wine.

The wine, the contrast between the mystical vision of Cardinal di Manzù and the diabolical one of Crocicchi, who like a Dostoyevsky demon makes us lean over the abyss where our conscious part is shipwrecked in the unconscious.
And it is still wine that with its ecstasies can produce the easing of consolidated semantics and alterations of communication and language: this is the reason for the presence here of the abstract calligraphies of Alessandro Algardi and of the writings of signs (for the occasion on a purplish background such as Primitivo) by Alfredo Rapetti. Just as the word with wine often ends up losing its meaning, here too the writing is altered, reducing itself to signs that are only evocative of a finished and coherent articulated structure that ends up losing all meaning: in vino veritas? so the ancients said, but the substance of that veritas is deliberately hidden in the calligraphic signs of the two Milanese artists, just as it is lost in the highly colored signic texture of the canvas by Attilio Spagnolo.
On the walls of the cellar we find other evocative works of the land and places of Puglia displayed among the bottles. The unexpected drawing of the metope exhibited in the archaeological museum of Taranto in 1963, by the famous expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka, with a grateful dedication (danke für alles) to his companion Poldi, is still testimony to this land. Kokoshka returned from her trip to Puglia with so many suggestions that she then printed an entire folder of graphics with the name Apulien.

Finally, also a sui generis testimony is undoubtedly the front-back sheet (ironically homage to Morandi in the endless sequence of reproduced bottles) of the famous informal Venetian painter Emilio Vedova who thus wanted to sanctify an Apulian evening spent with his wife Annabianca based on good wine and good friendship with the guests present, autographs for future reference.
An unexpected encounter with Art in the Cardinale’s Historic Cellar, evocative of the owner’s friendship with the artists represented here, which will not fail to intrigue and stimulate, in addition to the wine tasting, also the sight of the welcome visitor.