Mimmo Paladino and Marmi Ghirardi-G1938: poetic vision and executive mastery come together in “Ouverture”.

Several months have now passed since the closure of Ouverture, the large exhibition dedicated to the artist Mimmo Paladino by the Brescia Musei Foundation, but the stele of the so-called “black man” still stands in Piazza della Vittoria in the Lombard city. An agreement with the municipality stipulates that it shall remain there for twenty years.
From the top of the hexagonal fountain, the majestic block of Nero Marquina marble communicates with the architectural geometries of Marcello Piacentini, who designed one of the most controversial urban operations of the 1930s here.
Perhaps it was precisely the history and form of the urban context that prompted Mimmo Paladino to use a language that was unhindered by quotations and stylistic quirks. It is no coincidence that many have read, in the stele specially designed for Brescia, a reference to the Cubist and Futurist avant-garde movements. Far from the rhetoric of Piacentini, the sculpture is a play of sharp edges, broken lines, solids that fit together. A mysterious totem within the classic and monumental balance of space invasion.
In order to obtain such an alienating effect, it was necessary to contend with the urban setting, that is, with the marble frame of the pre-existing columns, claddings and ornaments. It was also necessary to communicate with the techniques of stone-working, which in Brescia have a millenary tradition. Here, then, is the intervention of Marmi Ghirardi, which is responsible for managing the entire execution and final assembly.
It is in fact thanks to the technologies and the consolidated experience of the industry of Carpenedolo (Brescia), and in particular of the corporate brand G1938, that the work has taken shape according to the artist’s intentions. But that’s not all: the combination of the poetic vision of Mimmo Paladino and the executive mastery of Marmi Ghirardi-G1938 seems to give rise to a new direction for contemporary sculpture.
…the work has taken shape according to the artist’s intentions.
Just look at the mirroring effect of the surfaces. This result is due to the precision of the sanding and polishing process, which, when applied to the shades and qualities of Nero Marquina, produce an almost tactile vibration. A sort of luminous surface film accentuates the variations of atmospheric light and climate (when in contact with rain, the sculpture appears to be a “liquid” object, while the veins become even more evanescent and pictorial). The reflections dialogue in particular with the monolithic columns of the portico, with the cladding of the perimeter buildings, with the floor itself and the veil of water that accompanies it. In this way, for example, the posterior side can be interpreted, perfectly vertical and smooth.
The proportions of the statue—almost six metres high—also appear to be marked out in an architectural form, certainly to emphasise the site-specific character of the stele. Especially since Nero Marquina is the perfect counterpoint to the whiteness of the surrounding buildings, a visual focus in the geometries of the elevations and the vanishing points.
These are all elements that signify a new aspect of Mimmo Paladino’s poetry, a sort of change of course. In the case of the stele in Piazza Vittoria in Brescia, the symbolic imprint abandons primitivist tones, usually obtained with traditional techniques and materials (metal castings, wood, rough stone, terracotta). Indeed, it is precisely the sharpness and smoothness, which only mechanical precision and the new technologies of Marmi Ghirardi have allowed, that open up on a conceptual horizon where ancestral archetypes meet modernity.
Exquisite black marble
One of the most important and elegant marbles in the world is extracted from the quarries of Markina-Xemein, a Basque town between Bilbao and San Sebastián. The so-called “Nero Marquina” (or “Mármol Negro”) has a very fine and compact grain with an intense and uniform shade, crossed by mostly diagonal, white veins. The contrast between the density of the dark material and the irregular streaks make Nero Marquina particularly splendid, with a remarkable visual effect due to the depth of the homogeneous background on which the spider’s web of streaks stands out. The result is a tonal harmony that combines classic values with contemporary taste.
Nero Marquina is highly versatile, lending itself to various treatment solutions. The sanding process highlights its most intimate nature: the quality of the material, the brilliant effect of the dark background, the intensity of the shading. However, even simple sanding has a high sensory impact, as does brushing, sandblasting and bush-hammering. For this reason, Nero Marquina can be combined with other natural stones in an infinite combination of shades and nuances, where the play of tones and aesthetic results make it a compositional material for designers.
There are countless applications, both indoors and outdoors. When used as cladding, Nero Marquina creates appealing surfaces on the facades of buildings, hotels and public buildings with a strong architectural connotation. In a domestic setting, it can be used as a furnishing accessory: from fireplaces to kitchen tops, from furniture to sinks and shower trays. It can be used for floors, stairs, window sills, and swimming pool finishes.
Nero Marquina is also used in the artistic field for structural elements—such as columns and pilasters—as well as for valuable ornamental objects, for example in liturgical settings.
Me London Hotel, GB
Me London Hotel, GB
Harrod's Man's Superbrand
Harrod’s, London, GB
But it is in the stylistic aspect of interior design that the maximum results are achieved. The undeniable elegance of the dark tonality, both in vertical and horizontal planes, enhances the spaces as a “background”. Environments become scenic settings that bring out the individual elements: real theatrical stages, upon which the shapes and colours of the furnishings and objects seem to float. The intense black and the light-coloured veins are compatible with any type of style and material, introducing ranges of contrast that are very effective in terms of architecture and aesthetics. The light is reflected, almost enveloping the optical perception in continuous vibrations. So, walls which are covered with this material, as well as the surfaces of furnishings, take on a unique and ever-changing brilliance.

Last but not least, a degree of classical preciousness, almost reminiscent of ancient aristocratic splendour, but which opens up to a completely modern implementation, where the elegance of the material combines with the current taste for minimalism and the intrinsic value of natural products. The same tonality enhances the characteristics of each type of environment—from the largest to the smallest—and also enhances the colour and tactile relationship with any artifact, from glass to metals, from wood to textiles. Nero Marquina interprets the very soul of the nobility of marble.

The Watergate case

The Watergate hotel in Washington carries Marmi Ghirardi’s signature.
The Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC, notorious for the 1972 scandal, was one of Marmi Ghirardi’s many challenges that typically end up as yet another brilliant achievement.

The company, based in Carpenedolo (Brescia, Italy) and founded by Angelo Ghirardi and his son Renato in 1938, relies on the family’s great passion for authentic, natural stonework.

It is a family whose members are very close-knit and also very skilled with hammers, chisels and state-of-the-art tooling technologies. Thanks to extensive expertise gained through many different experiences in over 80 years of business, new competitive challenges and new market demands find solutions in the great professionalism of the Marmi Ghirardi Team. The company offers exclusive, high-end stone projects and, above all, a wide variety of technical and consulting services during the design process.

The Watergate Hotel stone project in Washington, DC deadline was due in only 4 months and that commitment was fully met.
Particularly complex, the concept required extraordinarily tight tolerances to satisfy the aesthetic result – a high expectation when using large and unique stone panels. The end result is in full compliance with the vision of the designers and quality expectations of the hotel client.
Thanks to the care and the skillful fabrication of Marmi Ghirardi’s specialists and artisans, the main lobby and the elevator lobbies that lead to all the 336 luxury hotel rooms were completely transformed.
The celebrated marbles for the project were: “Bianco Statuario”, to illuminate and enhance the hall and the surrounding areas, combined with a fine selection of “Bianco Calacatta Arabescato”, with its unique veining and its pure white background. One of the paramount prides for Marmi Ghirardi has been the close and synergistic relationship with the globally known architectural firm Ron Arad, in conjunction with the client Euro Capital Properties, who have recognized the deep passion and know-how in all Marmi Ghirardi’s stone projects, finely and tailor-made in Italy.

Watergate Hotel
Washington DC, USA

Architectural design

Ron Arad Associates
London, UK

Washington, USA

Stone contractor

Ghirardi team

Bianco statuario
Bianco Calacatta arabescato

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