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Humor and paradox – irony and irreverence in the Italian contemporary art scene

Italian contemporary artist Daniele Sigalot plays with aluminium and other artistic mediums to create a sense of disorientation in the mind of the observer

Sigalot claimed that he always tries to not take himself too seriously, although he is serious in what he does and his work. His ironic vein derives from his family and his hometown, Rome, where joking around is a common activity. He spent years between London, Barcelona and Berlin – he acquired a nomadic lifestyle: «All the cities where I have lived changed me somehow, but I do not belong to any of them». The theme of the journey is the core of his project A portrait of everyone, everywhere in collaboration with Magistris & Wetzel for Milan Malpensa airport, but not officially inaugurated because of the pandemic. Once the project is unveiled, travelers who cross the halls and corridors of the Italian airport will have the chance to see their reflection on the surface of twelve steel plates, each of which is actually a city map. The face and the body of the observer are therefore distorted and modified by the streets, squares and bridges of the cities engraved in the reflecting surfaces. This project pushes the observer to wonder about the role and the importance of journey in our lives, especially nowadays when trips are reduced to a minimum due to the health crisis. On the other hand, Sigalot believes the enforced isolation within the domestic environment might serve as an opportunity to rethink the role of our homes. 

Daniele Sigalot claimed that his first approach to art, more than a matter of choice, was an accident, but after that day he never parted from it. Sigalot used to work in advertising as a copywriter for almost a decade. In 2007 he quit his job at Saatchi & Saatchi, London, after the unsuccessful presentation of a project for Barilla Group he had been working on for six months. In the restrooms of the Barilla headquarter in Parma, Italy, he decided along with his fellow art director to tender their resignation and start an artistic duo. Their first project was a comic book featuring Blue & Joy (The discouraging adventures of Blue and Joy), published a few months before the abrupt decision and well received by critics and public. Between 2014 and 2015 the two artists took different paths and Sigalot embarked on a solo career. Sigalot, who has never had a proper artistic training, claimed that advertising was his art school. Throughout the years he had the chance to collaborate with movie directors of the caliber of Tony Kaye and other creative minds. In advertising creators are asked to produce new content ideas at a very fast pace and Sigalot took with him this work method and applied it to his artistic production. While in advertising he was asked to develop ideas and projects for other products, as soon as he embarked on his artistic career the main product of his creative process became himself. 

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My ego is bigger than yours, Acrylic varnish on aluminum, Giardini di Augusto, Capri – Liquid Art System, 2016

Paradox and contrasts. With his work he tries to intrigue the public and encourage them to reflect through alterations of perception, such as the use of aluminum as if it was paper and hence an ephemeral material (Landing makes you tired, 2016). Sigalot, who during his career has switched from one artistic medium to another, stated that he gets bored easily. The idea of Enough came to the artist’s mind after he witnessed a conversation between two fellow painters in which one said to the other «This pigment will not last more than two centuries». Sigalot chose to make it last 1000 years because in his opinion that is the perfect duration of an artwork. Paradox is a twelve-meters installation curated by Carlo Maria Lolli Ghetti and commissioned by LUISS university, Rome, for the site of the faculty of Law: twenty-five hemispheres installed on the façade of the building, which housed the historic hospital for blind in World War II. The twenty-five hemispheres compose the world Paradox in Braille alphabet. The hemispheres used for the installation are IKEA salad bowls. 

After quitting their job at Saatchi & Saatchi, the artistic duo Blue & Joy moved to Berlin where they founded their factory La Pizzeria. «Italians abroad are respected only within the walls of kitchens». When the artistic duo Blue & Joy split, Sigalot kept the name La Pizzeria and the studio became a meeting place for artists and friends, many of whom collaborated with Sigalot on several projects. There were moments when up to fourteen people were working at Sigalot’s factory. Sigalot also recalled the parties he used to throw at his studio, to demonstrate how art and life used to merge within the walls of La Pizzeria. In 2019, after ten years in the German capital, he relocated his studio in Naples. Sigalot claimed that when questioned about the reason for his decision he usually says that he «did not want to go back to Italy». This sentence, which could sound both as insult as well as compliment, is usually taken positively by Neapolitans. In Sigalot’s opinion, Naples is a country of its own, different from any other city in the world; it requires capacity for adaptation, but at the same time it has a strong identity and is characterized by the civic pride of its inhabitants. The search for contrasts has always been part of his artistic production and the differences between Berlin, efficient and neat, and Naples, which presents some shortcomings in efficiency matters, perfectly symbolize this propension. «In my work I like to feel uncomfortable and challenged, so when I realized that Berlin was running out of energy and new possibilities, I left the German capital and moved to Naples out of curiosity» Sigalot claimed. 

When he moved to Naples, he realized that his studio was the only Pizzeria where you could not find pizza. What you can find instead is the Italian spirit and irony of Sigalot, which merge into his project Coppa Pizzeria, an occasion for encounters between art and football. Coppa Pizzeria is a football tournament where unfair play is king and teams compete on an asymmetrical field with no sidelines and standard football rules. The first edition of the competition, which took place nearby his factory in Berlin, welcomed only five spectators, but year after year the event started to attract more and more audience: artists, critics, curators and gallerists, but also art enthusiasts and simple curious. In fact, Sigalot is proud to point out that he only laid the foundations for Coppa Pizzeria, but the final result is mainly due to the extravagant ideas of the participants. Beside Coppa Pizzeria, the teams compete for another prize: Coppa Narciso, for the best – or weirdest – dressed team. The competition is always preceded by an opening gala, where participants have to wear tuxedos and party gowns, which represents an unusual dress code for the casual Berlin citizens’ style. The edition 2020 of Coppa Pizzeria, which was to be held in spring on the island of Capri, Naples, was canceled due to Covid restrictions. In the near future, Sigalot hopes to develop a new project in collaboration with the art department of Magistris & Wetzel S.P.A: a series of photographs of people reflected and distorted by the steel maps of ‘A portrait of everyone, everywhere’ shot in different cities around the world. The current situation also forced Sigalot to postpone the realization of a performance, the first of his artistic career, with about two-hundred actors which should have taken place inside Villa Pignatelli, Naples. Nonetheless, his biggest hope is that soon the halls of Malpensa airport will repopulate with life and travelers from all around the globe, since his steel maps cannot come to life without people. 

IMAGE GALLERY

Daniele Sigalot is an Italian contemporary artist born in Italy, but grown professionally in London, Barcelona, Berlin and Naples, among others. After quitting his job in advertising, he formed the artistic duo Blue and Joy with a former colleague from Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency, and moved to Berlin where they founded their studio: La Pizzeria. After the duo split, Sigalot embarked in a solo career, along which he developed numerous thought-provoking and ironic projects, often through the use of aluminium. In 2019 he relocated La Pizzeria in Naples, an endless source of inspiration.

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