March 12, 2010

Marcello Cammi, Sculpture garden

all pics (2000-2001) courtesy of Roberto Keller Veirana

This litlle bridge, crossing the rio Sasso, would connect the Via del Pescatori in Bordighera, Italy, with the garden of Marcello Cammi, situated close to the mediterranean coast. On the picture the bridge is dotted with sculptures and so was the garden. The site included thousands of sculpted items, all done by Cammi..

No use to go and take a look. The bridge has gone, the garden has gone, the sculptures have disappeared.

Life and works

Marcello Cammi (1912-1994), born in the community of San Remo, when young lost his mother. With his father he moved to the city of Bordighera, on the Ligurian coast, not far from the border with France and Nice.

He worked with his father, who had a business in making concrete garden elements. Some sources describe Cammi as a revolutionary or an anarchist, but (following Bruno Montpied in his weblog), I think he was a communist-italian-style.

During WWII he took part in the war operations in Russia and at the end of the war he was interned in Mauthausen. That period may have influenced his later artistic expressions.

Once returned to Bordighera, Cammi resumed his occpuation as a mason, making concrete garden elements. 

In the late nineteenforties, early fifties Cammi began making sculptures covering iron models with concrete, he displayed in the garden around his house. This plot of land, along the local Sasso river, was not his property, but was rented from the city.

Being active in sculpting for the rest of his life, Cammi may have produced some 3000 sculptures. Besides sculpting, Cammi has also been active in making paintings.

Marcello Cammi died soon after his son had died, in 1994. Vittoria Cammi, his widow, has tried to take care of the sculptured garden, but had to do this without any support from the community or local authorities.

The small river Sasso, running along the garden, was a threat to the sculpture garden. In 1998 a flooding demolished its banks and some of the sculptures.

Around 2000 a (french) group of lovers of outsider art has been active in trying to interest local authorities to take measures to regulate the river and to save the site for the future, but this action produced no result.

In 2005 a gas explosion at the premises caused the death of Vittoria Cammi and the destruction of another number of sculptures. On september 14, 2006 there was another flooding of the river, destructing more creations, a lot of them being washed into the nearby sea.

A number of sculptures were saved and were stored in kind of an improvised open air repository (see documentation, website of Marisa Fogliarini)..

The september 2006 flooding was the end of Cammi's outsider art environment. In october 2006, the city, owner of the terrain, had it bulldozered.

The paintings

Many of the paintings have been saved. There have been some local exhibitions (Vallecrosia, 2009/2010, Ventimiglia 2010).

Documentation/more pictures
Video (6'04", Youtube, uploaded april 2012), "Marcello Cammi" by Muriel Anssens & Raymond Dreux, Musée d'art moderne et d'art contemporaine de Nice, 1999

*  Video by Guiliano Sicchiero (Youtube, 6'55", uploaded aug 2013)

* The website of Marisa Fogliarini has a lot of pictures and information. The section Gardina Incantato has a lot of pictures of the garden. The section Omaggio a Marcello Cammi has his life story and pictures of his paintings.And the section Cammi Nascosto has pictures of sculptures which were saved from the flooding. All texts are in Italian.
* Bruno Montpied's weblog has a diashow with pictures made in 1990 (click on "diaporama" upright).
* Pictures by Roberto Keller Veirana, on Flickr
* In 1992 german film maker Lothar Warneke made a movie "Ich bin das achte Weltwunder", featuring Cammi and his creations.
* Article on the website Costruttori di Babele.
* Article on SPACES website (2012)
* Catalogue (2012, -86 p) of the Cammi exposition (2012/2013) in gallery Rizomi Art Brut, Turin, IT

first published march 2010, revised april 2011, oct, dec 2012, may 2014

Marcello Cammi
Via del Pescatori
18012 Bordighera. Liguria, Italy
site demolished


  1. "Site demolished" and what a powerful feeling these words express, a feeling of no negotiation and no appeal. And who can stand despite it all, against the power of time and nature??. And the useless efforts of Mrs. Cammi in order to preserve it and maybe, to try to convince herslef that it was possible to stand against the inherent changes the time brings with. Nice at least, a little bit of memory could remain, in the shape of a little photography. Moving post Henk, but yet fascinating. Regards and wish you a nice weekend.

  2. Dear Alberto Oliver,
    "The sea gives and the sea takes", something like this mr Cammi may have said. The sculptures he made were done using cement, and they were occasionaly decorated with sea shells, so there is a lot of truth in his obesevation. Probably these creations were not meant to endure the forces of nature, Or fate, because when some french guys tried to save some sculptures from the abandoned garden, they were halted by the police and were not permitted to transport them to a safer place... By the way, in the hilly area just on the other side of the coastal road, where mr Cammi lived, french painter Monet has been walking around to get inspiration for some of his paintings.
    Have a good weekend!

  3. Hello, Henk van Es; I came from
    This post has touched me particularly. Often it takes very little time to destroy what people have built for a lifetime, for neglect, ignorance, fatality or indifference...
    Thank you for sharing with us the story of the sad garden.

  4. Hi Decomondo, Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts about the story of mr Cammi's sculptures. It is a moving story indeed. It is always sad when someone's lifetime work is gone forever. My blog is a humble effort to make these sites better known, so that the ones that still exist hopefully will get better protection.

  5. Many years ago I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the garden and meet Mrs. Cammi. She gave me some lovely watercolors. Is there anyone out there that collects his work? Would you like to have pictures on them to post on your blog?

  6. @stichT: Hello, thanks for your comment. It would be very interesting to publish a watercolor, if it is somehow related to mr Cammi's artwork. Could you contact me via my e-mail I would be glad to discuss this with you.

  7. Vi segnalo anche
    sto preparando anche altre cose su Cammi.
    Saluti, Marisa Fogliarini.

  8. @ Marisa Fogliarini, thanks a lot for producing these pictures of the rescued sculptures on your website. I have revised my post, inserting the new information.
    Saluti, Henk van Es

  9. We happened upon the site in Jan. '99, and were astounded by the quality and amount of his art. Searches the next year or two yielded nothing. We are happy to see that he has been discovered.
    Sincerely, Macfarlands, Newport Oregon.

  10. @ Anonymous (Macfarlands), You were lucky to visit the garden when it still was as mr Cammi meant it to be. Thanks for the message, aincerely, Henk van Es