In Palermo, the Fondazione Merz has unveiled its second site, ZACentrale, which aims to transform the city’s ZAC (Zisa Arti Contemporanee) building into a contemporary art powerhouse. 

ZACentrale is sited within Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa, Palermo’s cultural district and hub for artistic experimentation. At the beginning of the 20th century, the area was home to one of Europe’s leading industrial producers of furniture. The Second World War prompted a gradual decline in factory output before production ceased altogether in 1968. After a block on demolition efforts, the City of Palermo began an ambitious process of regenerating the site, which is now home to more than 20 cultural organisations. 

Mario Merz, Pietra serena depositata e schiacciata dal proprio peso così tutto quello che è in basso va in alto e tutto quello che è in alto va in basso, sopraelevazione e opera incerta di pietra serena, 2003; Doppia Spirale, 1990. Courtesy Fondazione Mer
Mario Merz, Pietra serena depositata e schiacciata dal proprio peso così tutto quello che è in basso va in alto e tutto quello che è in alto va in basso, sopraelevazione e opera incerta di pietra serena, 2003;
Doppia Spirale, 1990. Courtesy Fondazione Merz. Photography: Filippo M. Nicoletti

Fondazione Merz – an independent institution established in 2005 by Beatrice Merz, named after Beatrice’s father, legendary Arte Povera artist Mario Merz – will operate ZACentrale from the 1,560 sq m ZAC building for a minimum of three years, turning it into a new cultural hub. 

The foundation is no stranger to breathing new life into historically significant structures. Its original Turin site is a former heating plant for the Lancia car factory and a quintessential example of the city’s 1930s industrial architecture. 

Mario Merz, Pietra serena depositata e schiacciata dal proprio peso così tutto quello che è in basso va in alto e tutto quello che è in alto va in basso, sopraelevazione e opera incerta di pietra serena, 2003; Doppia Spirale, 1990. Courtesy Fondazione Mer
Mario Merz, Doppia Spirale, 1990. Courtesy Fondazione Merz. Photography: Filippo M. Nicoletti

Group show ‘L’altro, lo stesso’ is part exhibition, part ecosystem, treated not as individual works, but as a living, breathing whole. Featuring new commissions by local Sicilian artists and works by international artists including Afghan artist Lida Abdul, Rosa Barba, Alfredo Jaar, Joan Jonas, Mario and Marisa Merz and Lawrence Weiner.

ZACentrale’s inaugural exhibition (on view until 27 March 2022) takes its title from L’altro, lo stesso (The other, the same), a collection of poems by Jorge Luis Borges, written in 1964. ‘In these poems, nature is the protagonist and through Borges’ gestural language, its strength and fragility are both explored,’ say curators Beatrice Merz and Agata Polizzi. ‘The dialogue between these varying generations of artists, who differ in time and intention, becomes a collective network, with each artwork contributing to the concept and function of the exhibition.’ §

 Filippo M. Nicoletti
Lida Abdul, Time, Love and the Workings of Anti-Love, 2013. Courtesy the artist; Fondazione Merz. Photography: Filippo M. Nicoletti

Interior view of the new Fondazione Merz space in Palermo, Sicily