Alberto Burri, 1915-1995, is recognised as a central figure working in Arte Povera, concerned with the integrity of poor and unorthodox industrial materials such as jute sacking, metal, plastic, tar, sand, glue and fire. He also combined architecture, sculpture and space in the creation of one of the largest landscape artworks in Europe. The Cretto di Burri (crack of Burri) or Cretto di Gibellina (crack of Gibellina), or the Grande Cretto (Great Crack) transformed the ruins of the village of Gibellina, western Sicily, into a work of minimalist art covering an area of 350 x 280 metres when it was destroyed by an earthquake on 14/15 January 1968. The project was made by Burri between 1984 and 1989, but left unfinished due to lack of funds until it was finally completed on 17 October 2015 – the 100th anniversary of his birth, with the support of the Fondazione Burri.
The earthquake in the Valle del Belice destroyed Gibellina, Montevago, Poggioreale, Santa Margherita di Belice, Salaparuta and other towns resulting in deaths, casualties and homelessness. The settlement of Gibellina was completely destroyed and the residents were subsequently moved to the new town of Gibellina Nuovo, 20 km from the original location. The Guardian – Belice Valley Sicily earthquake, 1968, 50-years on Artists were invited to make works for the squares and spaces of Gibellina Nuovo, but Burri, with the support of the Mayor of Gibellina, Ludovico Corrao, chose to work in the site of the old town.
On the site of the old town, now called Gibellina Vecchio, Burri created the Cretto di Burri as a memoriam to the community and as a remembrance of the devastation of the earthquake. He followed the lines of the existing street layout by containing the debris, including rubble, stones, furniture and domestic remnants in gabions. Employing the military, and the construction companies working on the new town, cement was then poured into the mould of the urban footprint creating an abstract pattern of white concrete blocks echoing the shapes of buildings, with cracks following the old roads and paths. The large-scale sections are between 10-20 metres in length and 1.60 metres high spreading over an area of 350 x 280 metres. The concrete, which has turned grey with time, suggests a Columbarium, in the style of an Italian cemetery where ashes and remains are placed in miniature houses or wall compartments.
To mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Alberto Burri the Grande Cretto di Gibellina was completed, it is one of the largest works of landscape art in Europe.
Cretto di Gibellina completed, 2015