Palazzo Butera in Palermo: a center for arts and culture in the heart of the old Kalsa district

Palazzo Butera
Partial view of David Tremlett's work, Ceiling 100, 2018, Palazzo Butera. Photo: Henrik Blomqvist

The first time I saw Palazzo Butera in Palermo, in the heart of the old Kalsa district, was during a visit to Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, who for many years had directed the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. While being one of the most beautiful and aristocratic residences in the city, it is also one of the richest in history in all of Sicily. Although it was then in ruins, I was totally fascinated by it.

Later, I came to learn that it had been bought by my friends Massimo Valsecchi and Francesca Frua, who have undertaken major restoration works to bring it back to its former glory. In particular, the frescoes painted by Gioacchino Martorana and Gaspare Fumagalli, dating from around 1760, inspired David Tremlett for his Wall Drawings, in which he reinterprets the theme of quadrature and perspective breakthrough in a contemporary key. Another example of this integration is the Gothic room, for which French artists Anne and Patrick Poirier designed a carpet, later made in Nepal, and a series of colored mirrors modelled on the stained-glass windows of French cathedrals.

Palazzo Butera, Palermo. Photo: Giovanni Cappelletti

When I revisited the Palace in 2018 on the occasion of Manifesta 12, where, among others, a work by Maria Thereza Alves was on display, I appreciated even more the dialogue between ancient and contemporary art expressed so spontaneously. The restoration, overseen by the architect Giovanni Cappelletti, has converted the Palazzo into a center for the arts and culture, aiming to restore Palermo’s international vocation.

Today Palazzo Butera is in the midst of an ongoing restoration project. Visitors have the opportunity to follow, also with the aid of technological tools, the various interventions that are gradually restoring the palace to its original dimension: an exemplary method for tackling the problems of regenerating our artistic and architectural heritage.

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