New Underground Adventures

New Underground Adventures

MAXXI—National Museum of 21st Century Arts

Domingo Milella, Naples–Bari High-Speed Railway, 2022–2023. Courtesy of Ghella.

June 16, 2024
New Underground Adventures
An exhibition conceived and produced in collaboration with Ghella
June 14–September 25, 2024
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An exhibition conceived and produced in collaboration with Ghella, New Undergound Adventures/Nuove Avventure Sotterranee, curated by Alessandro Dandini de Sylva, is a commissioning project that brings documentation and artistic research into dialogue, providing an extraordinary viewpoint on the construction of large infrastructures.

The exhibition project and the publication tell journeys through the landscape, the fascination of the underground, contemporary Italian photography, an ancient company’s history, and modern patronage.

Ghella commissioned photographers Domingo Milella, Stefano Graziani, Rachele Maistrello, Giulia Parlato, and Luca Nostri to photograph five underground infrastructures on four continents (Italy, Argentina, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). They intentionally left a poetic and non-didactic distance between the images and the construction sites. 

Alessandro Giuli, President of MAXXI Foundation: “We are delighted to welcome Ghella’s enlightening photographic commission project to MAXXI. This project results in an ambitious, brave vision that recognizes culture as a significant tool for institutional growth. Nuove avventure sotterranee represents a further step in the long-standing relationship between MAXXI and Ghella, crowned by the generous donation of 48 photographic works that have become part of the Museum’s Collections. It is the virtuous example of a partnership between public and private aimed at supporting creativity.”

“Nuove avventure sotterranee,” explains Federico Ghella, Vice President of Ghella, “is the second chapter of a project that aims to tell our story through the unfiltered perspective of a group of Italian artists. This cultural investment has allowed us to export our engineering expertise and culture to the world, and it has redefined the entire image of Ghella. As I look through the images in this collection, I realize how much beauty can be hidden in our everyday adventures.”

Ghella is the oldest major Italian infrastructure company. Founded in 1894 and specialized in underground excavations, it built the tunnels of the Trans-Siberian Railway (1898) and the underwater metro tunnels in Sydney. Today, its construction sites are active planetary, primarily focusing on strategic infrastructure projects. 2024 is particularly significant for the company as it celebrates its 130th anniversary. The exhibition at MAXXI Extra Space is one of the specific projects planned to commemorate this milestone.

For Nuove avventure sotterranee, the five selected photographers freely documented the creation of major works in Italy, Canada, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. The exhibition features over a hundred images of artists who observed and interpreted the infrastructures, leaving a “poetic distance” between the construction sites and their representation.

Nuove avventure sotterranee is a project that addresses underground excavation as an extraordinary opportunity for a journey through the landscape, its history, and its evolving present,” explains Alessandro Dandini de Sylva, the exhibition curator. “The photographic campaigns that make up this collection are a valuable resource because they help renew the imagery of large infrastructural engineering sites, skillfully combining documentation and experimentation, and outline the direction of future urban transformations in the 21st century.”

Amid views of construction sites and cities alternating with fossil remains or mechanical components, tropical plants and rocky landscapes, workers at work, and nocturnal animals, the distance that the authors have left between themselves and the infrastructures is a space for research, a context in which to reconsider and regenerate the imagery of corporate photography, hinting a meditation on the meaning of images, reminding us that a photograph can be both a document and an act of imagination, a record, and a possibility.

The exhibition is accompanied by six volume box set, designed by Filippo Nostri and published by Quodlibet

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June 16, 2024

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