December 31, 2008

Giovanni Cammarata, La Casa del Cavaliere/The House of The Knight

picture (2007) of the facade (Oskar press)

Located in the city of Messina, on the isle of Sicily,  La Casa del Cavaliere has been one of Italy's outstanding outsider art environments. Unfortunately, nowadays just a few pitiful remnants have been left.

Life and works

Giovanni Cammarata (1914-2002) was a mason. He had to join the military during WWII and then in 1947 he settled in Messina, where he began a business in the production of garden ornaments made from concrete.

His company was located in Maregrosso, an industrial area of Messina along the sea front, but without the allure one would expect of such a location.

In 1957 Cammarata decided to add an artistic element to his daily activities by making ornaments decorated with mosaic and shells. This was the beginning of a lifetime of creative activity, which in the 1970's became his fulltime job.

Eventually Cammarata's efforts would result in a house and a garden completely covered with mosaic and fullly decorated with sculptures and ornaments.

this picture and the next (march 2012, Flickr) 
courtesy of Antonello Mangano 

The exterior wall along the street had high reliefs which depicted all kinds of historical scenes (like Hannibal crossing the Alps, egyptian scenes and fighting knights). The interior garden had many mosaics and a lot of sculptures impersonating personalities from fairies (like Snow White) and movies (like King Kong).

Decay of the creation

After Giovanni Cammarata died in 2002, the site gradually was vandalised and many objects were stolen.

As a protest against further decay and demolition in 2007 a local manifestation was organised.

video (3'19") on Youtube, cleaning the site 2007,
Gabriel Savesta singing, video made by "Machine Works"  

A group of artists and friends of the site had become active to save the creation for the future, the issue being that in this industrial area the grounds of and around the site in the context of local planning were destined to become a parking place for a shopping mall.

Messina's authorities however in 2007 decided in favor of the demolition of the garden in order to make space for that parking.

Currently only the part of the site which was located on public territory has been preserved, namely mainly the facade of the structure. This part currently is separated from the street by a fence.

In recent years interest in and appreciation of this ever so unique art environment has greatly increased. And the parking lot still is just what it was meant to be: an ordinary parking lot.

Documentation/more pictures
* This video by Glifo Edzioni (1'27", Youtube, uploaded june 2014) gives a good impression of the exterior wall, filmed through the protecting fence.

* The online journal of the Osservatorio Outsider Art, nr 4, March 2012 has articles about the site by Gabriele Mina and Pier Paolo Zampieri (in Italian, pictures of the creative constructs, but also of the situation of the remainder of the site in the midst of the commercial area. Must see!)
*  From 18/4-12/5 2012 an exposition in Palermo by Galleria X of pictures made in 1989 by Alberto Ferrero
* From 30/9-14/10 2012 these pictures in an exposition at the Museo Carlo Bilotti in Rome and from 8/2-2/3 2013 in Rizomi Art Brut Gallery, Turin

first published dec 2008, last revised sep 2015

Giovanni Cammarata
la Casa del Cavaliere
Via Maregrosso 20 98100 
Messina, Sicily, Italy 
remnants can be seen from the street

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