Gino De Dominicis (1947-1998) created this giant skeleton sculpture in 1989, nine years before his own death. The Calamita Cosmica, or Cosmic Magnet, was first exhibited in 1990 and subsequently traveled around Europe for many years before making its final resting place in the former church of the Santissima Trinità in Annunziata in Foligno.
The structure, built between 1760 and 1775, and designed by Carlo Murena was actually never completed due to the architect’s death and remained incomplete until the 1997 earthquake that hit Umbria and the unused building was taken over by the city and an accurate rehab was done with subtle and contrasting modern steel details. It now acts as the second location of the contemporary art museum of Foligno, the Centro Italiano Arte Contemporanea (CIAC), inaugurated in 2009 and funded by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio of Foligno who acquired the piece shortly after the artist’s death.
This 24 meter long anatomically correct skeleton, except for its oversized and pointy nasal bone, is housed perfectly in the ex-church, where it can be accessed from the ground floor as well as be viewed from the upper floor balcony. Its almost as if the structure was made for the sculpture and it just fits perfectly into the space which makes its monumental scale even more impressive and its stillness spiritual.
The large skull echoes the vaulted ceiling shape and the ocular hole in the main dome is not unlike an eye socket, where one’s soul could escape into the atmosphere. De Dominicis frequently questioned death and the possibility of other beings existing in our world, hinted by recurring imagery of the alien-like nose and the golden rod resting on the middle finger, suggesting magnetism and cosmic energy. Strangely enough, the mysterious artist lived a low-brow lifestyle and did much of his work in secret. He preferred to avoid the press and even shunned photo-documentation of his work. It seems ironic then, that he would make such a large and lasting statement with the Calamita Cosmica.
The present context of the sculpture can be appreciated even after having traveled from Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Grenoble, France (1990) to the courtyard of the Palace of Capodimonte, Naples (1996). It was on display at the Mole Vanvitelliana, Ancona (2005), and was then moved to the Piazetta Reale in Milan (2007). Shortly there after, it appeared in the courtyard of the Palace of Versailles, and at MACI’s Grand Hornu in Brussels (2008). It then made an appearance at the opening of the MAXXI in Rome (2010) before finally settling in Foligno, the Calamita Cosmica‘s final resting place.
Calamita Cosmica di Gino De Dominicis
Santissima Trinità in Annunziata – Foligno (Umbria), Italy
Hours: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 10am-1pm and 3:30pm-7pm
For more information on the Centro Italiano Arte Contemporanea, see the post about the Julian Schnabel exhibition at CIAC.