Ravenna is rightfully known as the world’s capital of mosaic, but often we make the mistake of only thinking about the mosaics of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Certainly, the decorations of the Paleochristian basilicas are worth the travel, but to truly discover this artistic technique it’s good to dedicate a visit to the most beautiful contemporary mosaics as well.
From the streets of the historic centre we can clearly perceive that the mosaic art form is still very much alive in the city. The plaques on which the street names are written, for example, are decorated with colorful mosaic tiles that shine in the light of the sun. Then there are the artisan workshops, where contemporary mosaic artists are always creating new works, and sometimes also organise courses for those who are curious, as well as tourists and beginners.
After admiring the shiny tiles that made Ravenna famous throughout the world and after discovering their story, here are some tips for the discovery of contemporary mosaics.
Here are 5 stops that you can add to your itinerary if you visit our city!
The Collection of Contemporary Mosaics art the MAR – Ravenna Art Museum
The core of this important exhibition was born from the desire of Giuseppe Bovini halfway through the 20th century. After having encouraged the reproduction of some of the most well-noted Paleochristian depictions, in 1959 he organised “Mostra dei Mosaici Moderni” (lit. Exhibition of modern mosaics). Some visual artists such as Chagall, Guttuso and Reggiani were asked to design preparatory cartoons so that the mosaic makers could realise them in mosaic.
Along with these works, the collection boasts recent acquisitions created by acclaimed Ravennese, Italian, and international artists, such as Folla (lit. Crowd) by Luca Barberini (2011) and Unicorno (lit. Unicorn) by Dusciana Bravura (2007).
The Dantean mosaics at the TAMO Museum
The TAMO Museum is a museum dedicated to the city’s mosaic art. Housed within the suggestive Church of San Nicolò, it offers a fascinating tour which begins in the ancient era, with the pavement of an Imperial Roman Domus found in the historic centre, up until contemporary productions. The “Mosaici tra Inferno e Paradiso” (lit. Mosaics between hell and heaven) section is dedicated to the depictions of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Ardea Purpurea fountain
The fountain of Ardea Purpurea by Marco Bravura rises in Piazza della Resistenza, a short walk from the historic center. Majestic and 12 meters tall, it is composed of two large wings that twist around themselves and seem to dance or hug each other. Its shape is reminiscent of that of DNA, but it’s inspired by Araba Fenice, the phoenix, the mythical bird reborn from its ashes.
The monument has a Lebanese antecedent: in 1999, Bravura had already realised another fountain for Beirut which is slightly smaller.
The fountain gave new life to the city, which needed to reborn from the rubble of war.
Gerusalemme Celeste in the Speyer Gardens
Non far from the railway station and in front of the Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista there is a small green space known as the Speyer Gardens, called like that in honour of the German city of Speyer, a sister city of Ravenna.
La Gerusalemme Celeste (2003) is the precious mosaic column ideated by Enzo Pezzi and created by the students of the Consorzio Provinciale per la Formazione Professionale di Ravenna.
The work is inspired by the iconography of the Byzantine mosaics in the Basilica of San Vitale and of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, where the towers of the holy cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem are represented.
A contemporary mosaic sculpture inspired by the ancient mosaics of Ravenna: it is where the past and the present blend together in harmony.
Invader in Ravenna
If you’re looking for contemporary mosaics in Ravenna, you cannot miss the works made by Invader, French artist blending mosaic and street art. This artist is inspired by pixelated aliens from the celebrated game Space Invaders, which are depicted by small colored bricks which, in mosaic form, are to be found in the most disparate corners of the world.
He has already visited Ravenna twice, in 2014 and in 2o15.
If you walk through the city, you will easily find his works, as he has realised at least 40 of them! Happy treasure hunting!
Other than these 5 proposed stops, there are many other interesting works of contemporary art to see in Ravenna, starting with Parco della Pace, conceived as an open air museum, until the symbolic Mosaico dell’Onda (lit. Mosaic wave) at Classis Museum.
Mosaic art in Ravenna is more lively than ever before: you can absorb it from the streets, in the museums, in the parks, and in the workshops.