A collaboration that lasts over time: Marazzi pays tribute to the partnership with the Emilian photographer Luigi Ghirri to let us discover how a tile looks

A limited edition book, an exhibition project and a website. These are the initiatives that tell the story of Luigi Ghirri's collaboration with Marazzi, which began in 1975 and lasted a decade.

The numerous photographs preserved in the archives of the Emilian company are visible until 4 July 2021 in the Civic Museums of Reggio Emilia in the context of European Photography and in the Luigi Ghirri volume. The Marazzi Years 1975 - 1985, thanks to the collaboration with the Archivio Eredi Luigi Ghirri. The exhibition will then be proposed from 16 September to 31 October 2021 at the Palazzo Ducale in Sassuolo (Estensi Galleries).

Read also:other European Photography initiatives

Ghirri first visited the company in 1975: his career was taking off rapidly, and his first major one-man exhibition was to be held in Parma in 1979. Marazzi, ceramics industry leader thanks to its patent for the single-firing process, had opened subsidiaries in France and Spain, had its tiles designed by artists and fashion designers, and was shortly to inaugurate an experimental centre, the Crogiòlo, where artists, designers, photographers and architects would be given free rein to try out new ideas.

In this context, the photographer’s poetic sensitivity and the company’s love of experimentation combined in the Marazzi Portfolio, a ground-breaking project in which Ghirri called in photographers John Batho, Cuchi White and Charles Traub to portray Marazzi’s new patents and collections, and where ceramics are interpreted as a mental space and surface, with infinite possibilities of composition, light and colour.

“For decades, the photographs which Ghirri took for Marazzi have been conserved in the company’s archives,” Cosimo Bizzarri explains. “Now, for the first time, they re-emerge together in a single volume and on a website ghirri.marazzi.com  , crowning the success of the partnership between a far-sighted company and an artist who turned his geometrical and inspired, ironic and emotionally charged gaze on a simple, two-dimensional, often ignored object. With wonderful results”.

In the photographs created for Marazzi in those years, Ghirri looks at the ceramic tile in a new way. Unlike commercial photographers, he is obviously profoundly interested in his subject, and he interprets it freely: a tile becomes the background for a rose, a surface on which two crayons are placed, or a miniature stage for a piano.

Ceramics,” Luigi Ghirri wrote with regard to this work, “have a history that is lost in the mists of time. They have always constituted an ‘object’ on which other objects are placed: the furniture, gestures, images and shadows of the people who inhabit these spaces. When creating these images, I kept all this in mind and tried, by using surfaces in different colours, and superimposing objects and images, to reconstruct a space which was not the physical and measurable space of an actual room, but rather a representation of mental space in a given moment, of a superimposition that can or is produced in one of the many rooms rediscovered thanks to these surfaces. This work, beyond its other meanings, is a reconstruction of certain rooms in my memory”.