Alfredo Pirri and the Sala Cielo in the heart of Bari

Alfredo Pirri, Sala Cielo Theatre Kursaal Bari, 2021. Image: Ruggiero Di Benedetto. Courtesy the artist and Apulia Region

After being closed to the public for a decade, in 2021 Bari’s Kursaal Santalucia Theatre returned to its former glory thanks to a major two-year restoration project involving artist Alfredo Pirri. An Art Nouveau masterpiece designed in the 1920s by engineer Orazio Santalucia and an icon of Puglia’s capital, the theatre reopened its doors with the superb addition of the Sala Cielo (Sky Room).This is a site-specific artistic-architectural project that Pirri devised and created especially for the main hall on the building’s top floor, replacing the previous roof-garden.

Theatre Kursaal Bari, 2021. Image: Ruggiero Di Benedetto. Courtesy the artist and Apulia Region.

In contact with the sky and with a splendid front view of the sea, the large hall is charged with an ethereal, luminous atmosphere. Alfredo Pirri himself said that he conceived the work as a large, intimate and introspective environment in which«[…] visitors are projected into a place that is indefinable in words and indefinite (or infinite) in function, which, in offering itself as an open space and a work of art, might easily be experienced as a simple observatory of quiet and light. A place to be enjoyed on one’s own or with others, in new ways never experienced before». Colour and natural light – which varies throughout the day, from the warmer light of dawn to the cooler light of dusk – are elements that have always underscored the artist’s research and poetics, and here play an essential role in the exaltation of this space.

Alfredo Pirri, Sala Cielo Theatre Kursaal Bari, 2021. Image: Ruggiero Di Benedetto. Courtesy the artist and Apulia Region.

The transparent part of ribbed ceiling is painted, while the floor, consisting of large slabs of shattered mirrors placed on the ground, reproduces the famous installation Passi, which Alfredo Pirri has been recreating since 2000 in places that are always different but united by strong historical connotations. The large glass windows filtering in the daylight recall the artist’s series of works called Arie, notable for the numerous feathers that are inserted in the glass. Intended as an area for hosting exhibitions and art projects, the Sala Cielo condenses the sky, the sea and the city into itself, and embodies Pirri’s desire to give visual form to the states of mind of those who visit it.

Alfredo Pirri, Sala Cielo Theatre Kursaal Bari, 2021. Image: Ruggiero Di Benedetto. Courtesy the artist and Apulia Region.

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