Modern Art & Pietrasanta – the Beginning

sem ghelardini
“se tutto va bene … siamo rovinati”
Sem Ghelardini (1927-1997)

Sem Ghelardini is one of the key figures in the transformation of Pietrasanta from being a producer of “Arte Sacra” – which it had been from the Renaissance until the 50s and 60s – to being one of the cities at the forefront of the production of Art and Sculpture in the world. Up until the 60s, the principal client for the Marble industry was the Church but when the new regulations for Sacred Furnishings indicated by the II Vatican Council – which removed the requirement that each church have a depiction of their Saint in marble, the commissions greatly decreased affecting the whole local economy. It was the appearance of Modern Art on the scene which turned things around.

A commission by Henry Moore in 1956 set in motion what has become a thriving center for the production of marble and bronze artworks by world-famous artists such as Marino Marini, Jean Arp, Miró, Vantongerloo, Isamu Noguchi and others who in conjunction with the studios and local artisans produced important works – some monumental – now on display around the world. Sem Ghelardini was chosen by the Henraux Marble Company to work with the artists and together with local artisans facilitated the realization of the artists’ visions in marble. He then went on to found Studio Sem which is still a dynamic atelier today. Despite speaking only Italian, Sem became the bridge between the artists and the community of artisans in Pietrasanta. He understood the artists and was able to direct the local artisans and it was this collaborative relationship which established Pietrasanta as one of the most important centers of Art and Sculpture in the world.

Photo of Sem by David Buckland from the catalog of the “Mostra di scultura in omaggio a Sem,” 1997 Published by the Comune Di Pietrasanta Assessorato alla Cultura

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