Giuseppe Penone at the Caracalla Baths

With the intervention “Idee di Pietra”, the artist inserts four large trees of metal and stone in the old natatio at the archeological site, where the works embrace the visitor and make him reflect on time and the relationship between man and nature.

Penone at the Caracalla Baths

Four large trees among the ruins: so the art that Giuseppe Penone (Garessio, 1947) invades Caracalla’s thermal baths, and more precisely the old natatio, a real indoor Olympic swimming pool. With the procedure Stone ideas. Giuseppe Penone and Caracalla the artist enters the Roman monumental site with an intervention curated by Francesco Stocchi. This intervention, produced by Electa and promoted by the Special Superintendent of Rome, takes possession of the bathing landscape from June 7 to October 30 with the works Identity (in aluminum and bronze); Triple; Ideas of Stone, Elm; And Ideas of stone, Cherry (all three in bronze and river stone): all represent timeless trees, which in the middle of the archeological site end up stopping and enclosing it.


This is certainly not the first modern art intervention in the Roman place, which opened for the lucky mixes in 2012 with the third paradise of Michelangelo Pistoletto (with finds from the baths themselves), then followed by intervention by Antonio Biasiucci, Mauro Staccioli And Fabrizio Plessi in 2019. “Contemporary art is at home in the Caracalla Baths, as it was in the time of the Severan emperors, who adorned them with wonderful statues and decorations of great symbolic value, now scattered throughout the world in museums, buildings and public spaces“, Recalled the Special Superintendent of Rome Daniela Leek. Today, a famous and famous artist like Giuseppe Penone takes with him Ideas of stone a momentary reflection on the classic theme of the relationship between humans and nature, space and time. For this, he chooses the symbol of the tree, which in nature over time becomes a sculpture in itself, circle after circle. “The tree must not be forgotten“, Explained the artist,”it is the distortions, its balance, the harmonious distribution of its masses, its static perfection, the freshness of its modeling, the purity of its structure combined with its compact character of its bronze surface that make it a living sculpture“.


The branches of the sculptures capture and reflect the story of Antonine baths, reference point for the life of the ancient Romans: an ancient and modern place at the same time where hygiene and rest were mixed with socio-political issues. “The one proposed here is an exceptional dialogue, but not new to Rome from antiquity, which has always interpreted its ruins in a dynamic way: it is a return to a magnificent tradition“, The curator tells Artribune Francesco Stocchi. “When I have been approxsummoned by the supervisor I suggested an intervention by Penone precisely within this idea of ​​continuity, taking up his concept of cultural time and natural time. It was also perfect when considering the scale: There are 28 meters of walls. We thought of pre-existing works, which found a deal with this unique site and gained added value without having to resort to an unpublished one. When rewriting Mahler, “ruin is not an ash cult, but a custody of fire”, about something living: the same is true of Roman ruins, which are alive through tourism, preservation and care of the city. An example of this is the change in use with night lighting. Penone was so good at all of this and could fit into the itinerary and the artistic-architectural framework without imposing himself. The idea of ​​embracing what already exists is much stronger. Also because on a cultural level there is not only Roman memory: all travelers, from Goethe onwards, admired nature in Italian monuments, and with this intervention there is also a return to this relationshipA common practice for the Piedmontese artist, the intervention is accompanied by a series of reflections, which will be published for the first time in Italy in a special volume by Electa, Breathe in the shade.

– Giulia Giaume

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