Allegories and symbols of the Mediterranean tradition
    Installations by Navid Azimi Sajadi

    23 October 2020 - 6 January 2021

    24 November 2020 – 6 January 2021

    The exhibition “East and West. Allegories and symbols of the Mediterranean tradition. Installations by Navid Azimi Sajadi”, is organized by the Palermo Superintendence for Cultural and Environmental Heritage, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Monreale and MondoMostre. The exhibition connects two extraordinary monumental works of Sicilian Arab-Norman art, UNESCO World Heritage sites the Monreale Cathedral monumental complex and the Zisa.

    The exhibition opens on 23 October 2020 in Monreale. Curated by Lina Bellanca and Alessandro Carlino, it brings together stories and symbols carved onto the capitals of the Benedictine Cloister and the Duomo’s chapels, along with photographs from the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz-Max-Planck-Institut archive, site-specific installations by Iranian artist Navid Azimi Sajadi and a special App dedicated to the exhibition with music by Pinuccio Pirazzoli.

    Inspired by the iconography of the monumental complex, works by artist Navid Azimi Sajadi are being exhibited in the Monreale Cloister, the halls of the Diocesan Museum and the San Benedetto Chapel in the Duomo, sparking a modern-day dialogue between Middle Eastern art and the Western Mediterranean. Not only is this a journey between East and West, it is a journey between past and present, thanks to an exhibition layout developed by concept designer Francesco Ferla that exalts the multiple representations of the capitals against the evocative background of the abbey. Navid Azimi Sajadi’s art and poetics refer to these very same representations. Much like William II, King of Sicily – known as “William the Good” for re-establishing a climate of peace and inter-religious coexistence, who had a dream and dedicated the Church in Monreale to the Madonna and Child (the pivotal, coordinated image of this exhibition) – today, looking on this architectural wonder, the artist has ventured on a dreamlike inner journey through allegories and symbols, signs and anthropomorphic evocations of the different cults hidden within the capitals.

    The exhibition continues in Palermo, on 24 November at Zisa. Curated by Ashkan Zahraei and Giuseppe Moscatello, the Artist embarks on a Residence during which he is creating works in situ involving visitors during the various creative stages, through workshops and performances organized with other artists and young students who will manipulate his glazed ceramics, gold powder surfaces and all the materials through which the Artist attempts to reproduce what the images, shapes and memories conjure up in him, creating a metaphorical environment in which it is possible to reconnect a wide range of meanings through time and space. The result will be a visual glimpse of the crossroads of history and mythology, and an attempt to reflect on the cultures of East and West.

    Santa Maria Nuova Cathedral in Monreale is an imposing architectural and decorative design, attached to a monastery that, through donations and privileges, soon became one of the most important in the Norman kingdom. The cloister at Monreale occupies a particularly prominent position among monastic buildings in Italy, and indeed the whole Mediterranean. It is without doubt one of the most imposing and qualitatively-prestigious cloisters to be built in the twelfth century, and among the most varied, multiform and best-preserved. The original Benedictine monastic complex and the annexed royal palace have survived in their entirety, in addition to the Cathedral and some fragments of the convent building, the cloister, and a smaller cloister on the south-west corner. Of the 104 double and 5 quadruple capitals, 15 are historiated and represent biblical themes.

    The photographs taken as part of the Cenobium Project by the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max Planck Institut (photographer F. Sigismondi) on display, together with the dedicated exhibition App downloadable on Apple and Android, make discovering one of the most famous cloisters in the Mediterranean area even more amazing. The photographs in the exhibition show a select group of capitals on which biblical stories, allegories and historical events are depicted. The high-resolution digital reproductions make it possible to examine the capitals magnified, without any light interference, under conditions that to some extent reproduce what it was like in the workshop where they were made, putting the focus back on the high artistic standards of this medieval sculpture. This multimedia showcase leverages digital photography and three-dimensional models for visitors to interactively consult via the App. The project was conceived to emphasize the connection between these works of art and the places where they are located, augmenting the historical-artistic elements through the most advanced technological research tools.
    The second stage of the exhibition, curated on the Iranian side by Ashkan Zahraei and Giuseppe Moscatello, opens in Palermo on 24 November 2020 at Zisa with Navid Azimi Sajadi’s residency. During this time, through performances and workshops with artists and students, the artist will involve the public in the creation of installations in the Castle’s rooms.
    Exceptionally, visitors will be able to take part, watching Sajadi during every phase of the artwork creation process, offering a live view of the artistic and technical aspects of the various different phases of the exhibition’s conception. This further potential level of understanding delves into the artistic stylistic language representative of the most relevant and extraordinary artefacts of the Norman kingdom of Sicily’s cultural syncretism, which in a de facto sense was part of Medieval history of art and architecture in and around the Mediterranean.
    Sitting on the advisory committee for the exhibition and residence at the two locations, Monreale and Palermo, are Lina Bellanca, Palermo Superintendent of Cultural and Environmental Heritage, Don Nicola Gaglio, Parish Priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nuova in Monreale, Maria Concetta Di Natale, Director of the Diocesan Museum, historian of architecture Alessandro Carlino, Professor of technologies applied to culture Marcello Conigliaro, curator of art in the Middle East Giuseppe Moscatello, and the historian of contemporary art in Iran Ashkan Zahraei.
    THE CAPITALS_ Artistic currents in the second half of the twelfth century reached levels of qualitative excellence in the rich repertoire of motifs and shapes characteristic of the capitals in the Monreale Benedictine cloister. Photographs in this exhibition present a select group of capitals on which biblical stories, allegories and historical events are depicted. The high-resolution digital reproductions make it possible to examine the capitals magnified and without any distracting light interference, conditions that to some extent reproduce what it was like in the crafts workshop where they were made, putting the focus squarely back on the high artistic standards of these medieval sculptures. From the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max Planck Institut.
    ARTIST Navid Azimi Sajadi was born in Tehran in 1982. He graduated in Painting from the Faculty of Architecture at Azad University in Tehran, before moving to Rome and graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts. In 2009, he won the Amedeo Modigliani Prize. After obtaining his Masters of Fine Art in MultiMedia Sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, in 2013 he participated in the 9th Shanghai Biennale. In 2018, he won the IX Edition of the Giovanni Fattori Museum Combat Prize in design and graphics, and took part in the project The Bridge, Environment 1 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome. In May 2019, he won the Viero Prize for Contemporary Art. Since 2014, he has been creating exhibitions and installations in Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and England.

    Navid Azimi Sajadi LIST OF WORKS:
    1. Installation - Cloister: In the first installation the geometric shape of the panels is inspired by the geometries of the Palatine Chapel, the shapes made up of “star-” and cross-shaped” ceramics. The ceramics affixed to the golden structure are gilded, inspired by the stories, shapes and drawings of the Cloister capitals (Mithra, Peacock, Phoenix). The ceramics prepared for the exhibition are based on two techniques, Mediterranean and Persian. The first of these techniques refers to Roman sub-crystalline sgraffito; the glaze technique is of Persian origin.
    2. Installation - Cathedral: Inspired by the Seraphim and Angels in the Cathedral Dome, the work the artist is creating for the Cathedral chapel interior consists of two pieces of wood fitted together. The shape of the polystyrene blocks represents the cathedral in stylized form. The interesting thing about this work is its subtle line of indirect storytelling, recounted in a highly-minimalist style and with a cold, industrial look. Obviously, the citation and reference here is the capital on which King William is shown donating the cathedral to the Madonna and Child.
    3. Installation - Diocesan Museum: This work refers back to Greek funereal masks. The culture of Sicilian vases in terms of muqarnas geometry at the Palatine Chapel, references to art history and stylistic combinations that we find at Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio. References and direct citations of the Cathedral’s Arab-Norman art style.


    The body of the first of the works to be created during the Residence consists of a group of sgraffito-glazed ceramics that are like shards collected at the bottom of the sea, together making up a constellation-like installation. When approaching his creation of the Sigillum, the artist faced a voyage over stormy and chaotic seas, picking up these shards from a shipwreck. Just as constellations guided navigators to a physical place, this emerging constellation has guided the artist to a metaphysical place. The restlessness that oozes from this work emanates out of a fear of chaos from external stimuli, clashing and combining with the artist’s inner turmoil. Shards from the past guide us towards a reflection on the present and future. Additional works will be made during the Artist’s Residence, some during workshops with students and artists.