Stefano Contini remembers the artist Igor Mitoraj
The famous art dealer tells us about a memorable artist
The memory of Igor Mitoraj from Firenze Magazine goes back to a few years ago, during an interview at his home in Pietrasanta, on a winter afternoon. It was one of the most intimate interviews an artist has given us. We talked for a long time in front of the fire about his arrival in Versilia a few years before and how tied he was to this land, a land that he left more and more rarely for stays in Paris. Outside, the small village “carved” into the marble seemed to have found its harmony after the glories of summer. At that meeting the man that emerged was kind and sometimes fragile, different from that bronze god that one suspects forged his monumental and eternal statues. He had a delicacy of spirit that you felt you had to repay with equal kindness: it was a long interview, without rushing and without pressure. He also let us go into his studio, a privileged place of incredible harmony. Stefano Continui, who we asked for a memory of the Master, confirmed our impressions of that afternoon.
When was your first meeting?
Our very first meeting was in 1984: I was dismounting an exhibition at Castel Sant’Angelo, which had just finished, and he was arriving with his works. But our collaboration began in ‘95, with a wonderful exhibition in my gallery which was then in Pietrasanta.
The escape from his land, from a civilization that is falling apart: did he ever talk about how these evocative things he left behind became his splendid sculptures, wounds, fragmentary and at the same time perfect?
You see, great art is often born from an almost mystic uncontrollable happiness, or more often from pain. Igor carried within himself the memory of a torn land, of a home that was broken and never rebuilt. His mother conceived him during an encounter with a French soldier in a concentration camp. And she brought him up alone, with great courage. She was the one who pushed him to go to Paris with a scholarship to pursue his great passion for art.
A father that he always sought but perhaps never really wanted to find.
Was this also a recurring theme in his works?
Yes, certainly, this theme of the fallen, these bandaged and silent figures that tell the world about this wound that never healed.
Igor, after much searching, arrived at his father’s door and decided not to enter. He was afraid, and preferred to live with this void.
Did his art change in the years of his self-imposed exile in Paris and Pietrasanta?
He had matured. His art was never so good as in his last years.
A great artist never ceases to evolve, because he never ceases giving all his energy to what he does. He has no choice, it’s like a fire inside... And Igor was exactly like that.
The last show together was the one in Piazza dei Miracoli, in Pisa?
Yes, which has also been extended until April. In the spring we’re preparing the celebrations in Pietrasanta, his adopted homeland, where he chose to be buried. And then in 2016 we will be in Pompeii.
I’m sorry he cannot see this chapter of his work.
What did you give each other, in a relationship that I understand to be more than professional?
Professionally, we were like two gears of a perfect mechanism: working together allowed us to achieve the maximum, each in his role. In private we were two friends, who gave a great value to mutual sincerity.
What is it in Mitoraj’s work that excites such a cross-section of people: collectors but also ordinary people?
It’s a hymn to the beauty that does not reflect our convulsed age.
But which carries a profoundly modern message. He was one of the few artists able to challenge ancient art .
It’s a harmony that seems to belong to certain Greek busts. And a proportion in the monumental statues as well as the smaller ones. Where did Igor learn this ancient wisdom?
At the beginning, when he was a young artist with no money, he couldn’t afford the cost of the statues. Back then he drew. I think it was at this stage that he learned a sense of proportion. The most sizeable collection of his drawings today belongs to the Uffizi Gallery, thanks to a donation from a few years ago.
Those of his works that are a must-see in Tuscany
The Centauro in Pietrasanta and Tindaro screpolato are masterpieces, very great and fragile. As he was.