The “Metropolis” by Gabriele Basilico

Parigi, 1997 @ Gabriele Basilico
by Dario Orlandi

The splendid rooms of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome host, until April 13th Metropoli, the great retrospective on Gabriele Basilico’s work, curated by Giovanna Calvenzi and Filippo Maggia, opened on January 25th. It is a large and in-depth anthology (over 250 images ranging from the Seventies to the year 2000) that show the journey of the Milanese photographer, from his first Italian works to the major international projects of documentation of urban fabrics.

Shanghai, 2010 © Gabriele Basilico

Gabriele Basilico is one of the authors who most acutely knew how to use architectural photography as a way of reading the territories and the meaning and perspectives of anthropic places. The solid and rigorous images, in which the alienating absence of human figures is repeated, allow the viewer to delve into the urban form as a projection of the will of man and into the complex relationship between these and the space he modelled. The photographer’s gaze does not yield to the rhetoric of places, often focusing on marginal scenarios that mark the decline of the industrial era and the stratifications that characterize the complex and sometimes painful evolution of urban contexts.

Factory Portraits, Milan, 1979-1980 © Gabriele Basilico

The first room of the exhibition shows the most important works by the Milanese photographer dedicated to Italy: there are the famous Ritratti di fabbriche (Factory Portraits, 1978-1980), where the shape of industrial buildings takes on the symbolic value of an era in rapid change, which is flanked by the important research developed with Stefano Boeri on the uncontrolled expansion of the Italian suburbs after the Second World War (Sections of the Italian landscape, 1996).

The two central rooms of the exhibition host the research on the most important metropolises in the world. Rome, Moscow, Shanghai, San Francisco, Istanbul are some of the many cities that Gabriele Basilico has visited in his patient investigation work: the recurrence of urban geometry as a sign of the general human vocation towards the construction of aggregate contexts is accompanied by geographical, morphological, cultural differences and social aspects that enhance the genius loci and its ability to reach out into the organization of space. The attentive eye of the photographer, while sensibly fascinated by the dense experience of his subjects, never indulges in the picturesque, always seeking the essence of a territory as a symbolic form: the city is a collective ritual, a choice and a desire, a necessity and a projection that celebrates human nature in the complex variety of its epiphanies.

Rio de Janeiro, 2011 © Gabriele Basilico

The controversial aspect of the manifestation of man in such places emerges with drama in the last room, the balcony, where the 1991 images of Beirut devastated by the civil war are mirrored by those of 2011 where the rebuilt city flourishes into new life.

Metropoli is an intense and engaging exhibition – enriched by a large biography of the author and by an excellent apparatus of audio information read by the curator Giovanna Calvenzi – on the work of one of the photographers who has been able to delve deeply into the essence of the space built by man.

Porto, 1995 © Gabriele Basilico


curated by Giovanna Calvenzi and Filippo Maggia
catalogue published by Contrasto

Palazzo delle Esposizioni
via Nazionale 194, Roma
January 25th – April 13th, 2020

Sun – Tue – Wed – Thu: 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Fri and Sat: 10:00 am – 10:30 pm


February 4, 2020



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