The Ambassador of Italy to India, Vincenzo de Luca, recently inaugurated the photo exhibition titled ‘Gabriele Basilico Photographs 1978-2012’ at Museo Camera, Gurugram. The exhibition, which has been put together in association with the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, will be on display till 17 July 2022.
“The exhibition deals with one of the most important topics i.e. transformation or regeneration of cities. Gabriele Basilico worked in so many cities across different continents viz. Europe, Asia, North America, and South America. His work offers a unique examination of the cities and how their landscapes changed with time. In 2021, we had around 4.5 billion people living in urban areas. This number will go up to around 7 billion by 2050. So, we will see a major transformation of human spaces. When we talk about a sustainable future we have to think of it in terms of cities. Every year, we will see the emergence of new cities,” explained Ambassador Vincenzo de Luca.
The Italian photographer Gabriele Basilico, who passed away back in 2013 at the age of 68, has often been described as the best internationally known photographer of urban landscapes. Born in Milan, Italy in 1944, he achieved international fame in 1982 with his photographic report on the industrial areas of Milan. In the mid-1980s, he was part of a group of photographers commissioned by the French government to document the transformations taking place in the French landscape.
In 1991, he joined other international photographers on a mission to Beirut, which had been devastated by a civil war lasting a decade and a half. His examination of the urban landscapes of Venice, Milan, Rome, Moscow, London, Paris, Istanbul, Monte Carlo, Tel Aviv, Shanghai, San Francisco, and Rio de Janeiro, among others remains the highlight of his singular photographic work.
Dr Andrea Baldi, Director, Italian Embassy Cultural Centre has been instrumental in bringing the Gabriele Basilico photo exhibition to India. When he met Basilico in Beirut back in 2011 he promised to collaborate with him in the near future but at the time he had no idea that it would take another decade to materialise.
“This exhibition is for me a fulfilment of a promise I made to Basilico when we met in Beirut, where I was director of the Italian Cultural Centre, in 2011. We had dinner together and we promised each other to collaborate in the future. He passed away in 2013, so the promise remained unfulfilled. I am happy to have kept the promise now and for being able to bring his work to India for the first time,” revealed Baldi.
‘Gabriele Basilico Photographs 1978-2012’ is the first exhibition in India dedicated exclusively to the late Italian photographer.
“While some of Basilico’s photographs had already been brought to India by the Italian Cultural Centre in 2018 in two different group exhibitions, this is the first exhibition in India dedicated exclusively to the great photographer. Sixty-one photos from around the world tell the story of urban architecture that is mainly contemporary, not always beautiful, but which, portrayed in his shots, taken on a poetic patina. I would like to thank Giovanna Calvenzi of the Gabriele Basilico Archive, and the curator Filippo Maggia for making this exhibition possible,” added Baldi.
The idea for the photo exhibition was influenced by a 2001 book for which the Osella d'Oro-winning Italian photographer had presented a selection of 55 photos. In the words of Giovanna Calvenzi of the Gabriele Basilico Archive, “We wanted to present a sort of ‘Best Of’ intended for an international audience, in a country that did not necessarily know his work, a collection of images chosen by the author himself alongside more recent ones. The idea for this exhibition was in some way influenced and inspired by a 2001 book, ‘Gabriele Basilico 55,’ published by the English publishing house ‘Phaidon Press,’ for which Basilico had presented a selection of 55 photos, which he believed to be at the time, some of his most interesting photos.”
Other than the aforementioned book, the exhibition is also based on a previous selection, for the exhibition at the Italian Cultural Institute in Tokyo in June 2021. “The Tokyo exhibition was already a ‘Best Of’ collection, but very concise and specific. It was a bit like a trial-run, a test. For this reason we have chosen to add other works that not only complete the exhibition project but which allow the Indian public to become acquainted with the work of a fundamental contemporary Indian author,” explained the curator Filippo Maggia.
Maggia further explained, “The important tradition that India has with respect to photography, especially with regard to street photography, a lens from which Gabriele’s work can be, in some ways, approached.” Certainly, it is a different way of conceiving photography, but we must nevertheless consider how other authors, such as Thomas Struth or Keizo Kitajima, who were born as architectural photographers, participated in numerous exhibitions dedicated to the city, especially in the early 2000s. I remember, in this regard, ‘Instant City: Photography and Metropolis’ held in 2001 at the ‘Pecci Museum’ at Prato, Italy, which was also attended by the Indian photographer Raghubir Singh.”
The Gabriele Basilico photo exhibition marks the first collaboration between the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre and Museo Camera — a unique camera museum in the middle of a major corporate hub of Delhi NCR. “It’s the first time we have collaborated with Museo Camera. It is an amazing art space in the city. I am fully satisfied with the work done together and we are planning more events with Museo Camera for the future,” revealed Baldi.
Museo Camera is the largest not-for-profit photography and camera museum in South-East Asia. It is run by an Indian photographer named Aditya Arya who is known for collecting, curating and archiving rare collections of photographs. “I am grateful to Andrea for bringing this exhibition to the Museo Camera, which is a unique place for photography lovers. Now, Gabriele Basilico shot various cities all over the world but he could never come to India as he passed away back in 2013. And, as far as this exhibition is concerned, it is very unique because this exhibition is a tribute to Basilico,” rejoiced Arya.
The author is an Indian critic and journalist who has been covering cinema, art and culture for over 10 years. Views expressed are personal.