The largest work of art in Italy is the “Grande Cretto” by Burri, in Gibellina, Sicily

Credit: Boobax

Did you know that in Sicilyto Gibellina, is there an “environmental” work of art the size of two football fields that you can walk inside? It's about the Big Crack Of Alberto Burricreated starting from 80s and currently the record holder as largest work of art in Italy. Consider that its history is linked to a terrible earthquake: the concrete work covers the rubble of the destroyed town, leaving only the empty spaces of the streets free, thus creating cracks in the work, from which the name “cretto” derives, which literally it actually means “crack, split”.

To delve deeper into the history of the Grande Cretto let's take a trip back in time and, specifically, let's go to 1968when on the night between 14 and 15 January a violent earthquake hit the Sicily western razing the town of Gibellinain the province of Trapani, today known as Old gibellina. There were hundreds of victims and one hundred thousand people throughout the valley (called Valle del Belice) found themselves homeless. Instead of rebuilding the city from the rubble, it was decided to rebuild a new country from scratch about twenty kilometers away. Here it was quickly rebuilt and to give a new and beautiful appearance to the “new Gibellina” great artists and architects from all over the country were called to contribute. Among them there was Alberto Burri.

Alberto Burri cretto gibellina
Alberto Burri (credit: Nanda Lanfranco)

Born in 1915 in Città di Castello and died in 1995 in Nice, Alberto Burri was one of the most famous artists in Italy and a master of the so-called “informal art”, an artistic movement that focused on gesture and the act of creating rather than theory. When he visited the nascent Gibellina in 1981, Burri did not feel inspired: he wanted to see the old ruins not far away and understand the tragedy which had hit Sicily. “Here,” he said on the old site, “if I have to do something, I can do it here.”

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So he had everyone gathered together rubblehe did compacthe inserted aarmor and poured over it cement with the idea of ​​creating a very white expanse crossed by “cracks“that they were as big as roads. For this reason the work is called “cracked“, a term that indicates a fissure or split in a plastered surface or a terracotta object. Burri was famous for being a great artistic experimenter and for making use of unusual materials, but this work was something unique in the world.

Since it was created directly on the territory, the Great Cretto of Gibellina it is a work of the so-called Land Art (or environmental work of art), just like the floating bridges created by Christo on Lake Iseo in 2016.

internal butter dish
Credit: Phyrexian

Although work on the construction of the Grande Cretto began in 1985were interrupted a few years later: construction was resumed only in 2013 and completed in 2015not even ten years ago. Today it appears imposing to the numerous visitors and tourists who walk its streets: its overall surface area coversrectangular area of about 270 by 310 metersIt's composed by 122 concrete blocks (called “islands”) about 1.60 meters high each and separated from each other by a labyrinth of passages. The work has become one of the most famous in Italyas well as an impressive way to remember a tragedy that struck Sicily just over fifty years ago.

The work can be visited: you can get there by car following the state road 119 between Gibellina nuova and the nearby town of Salaparuta, or the A29 motorway.

Italics MAC Gibellina