Giuliano Vangi passed away

by Aldo Grassini.

On March 26th, Giuliano Vangi passed away. How can we be surprised and shocked by the death of a man who just two weeks before turned 93? But, Vangi was one of those people you can’t imagine losing despite his discretion and his desire to stay away from the spotlight!

Giuliano Vangi was a great artist and man and so we are surprised and shocked and we deny nature the right to take back that splendid gift given to all of us.

But I would like to remember this great artist above all as a true friend: a friendship not based on an assiduous acquaintance, but on a closeness of spirit and sensitivity. Yes, he was great, but his greatness acquired a human dimension due to his gentle, affectionate, generous and kind manner.

I remember the first time he came to visit us at the Omero Museum: after having taken a tour with my wife Daniela in our modern and contemporary art gallery, where he had found some works by important contemporaries sculptors, he said with simplicity, with the candor of a sincere soul: “But here, I’m the only one missing!”. He made amends immediately, promising to give us one of his works: then he gave us two. One, “Him and Her”, was created specifically for us, the other “The Woman in the Tube”, a 1967 plaster cast of extraordinary expressive effectiveness representing constraint, almost encapsulation, in an indifferent and ruthless society. A beautiful bronze sculpture was made from this plaster: today, that sculpture is in the Vangi museum in Mishima (Japan).

Vangi was a figurative artist and to find his way, in an era in which the word “figurative” sounded like an offense to an artist’s imagination, he combined classicism with a strident modernity. In 2004 for the first time, I noticed it in one of his exhibitions at the” Rotonda della Besana”: a huge number of big, important and beautiful sculptures in marble and bronze which denounced, with unprecedented violence (unpredictable in a man like Vangi), the infinite cruelty of the world we live.

In 2014 after a few years, I had the opportunity to visit another of his exhibitions at MACRO; in the first room, like a punch in the stomach, he proposed a violent and inhuman society but then, in the second room, he softened the expression with a more intimate and contained pain of female representations.

In this occasion, I must remember my visit to the Vangi museum in Japan: 100 sculptures set, as only the Japanese are able to do, in a wonderful garden that acts as a background or rather as a contextual reference to Vangi’s works. The continuous reference that I usually make to multisensoriality is perfectly realized and the sensorial perceptions, integrating and interpenetrating, are transformed into an authentic aesthetic experience.

In the meantime, I had the opportunity to deepen our friendship during not frequent meetings but rich in precious cultural and human stimuli. Giuliano taught to live with the wisdom and sensitivity that know how to look at the things of the world with distance and, at the same time, with the participation which, perhaps, only art can transform into an authentic life experience.

He was always magnificent and modest; in 2022, we found him at the MART in Rovereto in the splendor of some of his works of extraordinary magnificence and he moved himself among them with the simplicity of someone accustomed to considering them only as human things.

One of our last meetings, in the Piazzetta Mosca inside the heart of Pesaro, will be unforgettable for Daniela and me. We were in one of the most splendid sculptural and, let’s say, also architectural complexes in which art and life merge together. It was the summer of 2022, Giuliano gave us an evening of pure reflection and authentic aesthetic enjoyment with his calm, stimulating, simple and very dense speech explaining to us the deepest meaning of his museological aesthetics: the art is life and finds the meaning of the gathered there artworks in the joy of experiencing them by ordinary people who stop on that bench, by the children who choose them as a space for their games, and by who more or less unconsciously become actors of a scene including both them and Vangi’s artworks. And those conversations continued in a very enjoyable dinner with his wife Graziella and the rest of Vangi’s family, perfectly liked with his friendliness, with his simplicity beyond the obvious and the banal. An affable conversation: Giuliano, always generous and elegant, gave up the only available dish of mussels in favor of Daniela and talked to us about his many projects, forgetting and making us forget that he was a man who has long since surpassed the barrier of ninety years.

This is why his passing away took us by surprise, disbelieving his energy and vitality could leave us. And instead, Giuliano passed away, but fortunately for us he leaved us his thoughts and his works.
This is the happy privilege of every great artist!