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“The sea’s horizon” is the theme of this year’s Acqua dell’Elba Arts Prize, which since four years has marked the collaboration between our company and the Brera Arts Academy, the historical Milanese institution famed since 1772 for teaching young students from all over the world how to pursue the search of beauty through their creations. As always, curating the prize is the responsibility of the Vice-Director of the academy, Maria Cristina Galli, whom we interviewed to talk about the prize, the theme of the exhibition and many other things.
For some time already, a company which is not yet twenty years old collaborates with an historical institution, with the joint aim of developing and promoting creativity among young, promising artists: how did this partnership come about?

“As with all collaborations, ours was also born from an encounter, the one with Cristina Sammarco, an Elban artist who had been a student of mine and who contacted the Academy to propose an agreement with Acqua dell’Elba, where she had been working for some time. That’s how this four-year long partnership was born, during the course of which this prize also came about, which I have been curating since its first edition together with Bonini and other colleagues such as Gaetano Farinelli. The main idea is creating a bridge to a reality which is not only corporate, but also carries in its deepest values some intimate associations with the world of art. I am thinking of the suggestive, evocative capacity of perfumes, of the attempt of recreating an essence which is shared by perfume, by the deepest artistic research and by Isola d’Elba as a generative element for an intrinsical beauty, suspended between sea, nature and culture. Because Elba is at the centre of legends, it was the location for the exile of great European personalities such as Napoleon, the place where Cosimo I attempted to found the Renaissance utopia of Cosmopolis. Elba is the sea, but much else at the same time.”
The theme of the 2019 Acqua dell’Elba Arts Prize is “the sea’s horizon” and this led us to reflect upon the fact that the sea has no boundaries, just the horizon…

Indeed, the horizon is a line but not a limit, it is always moving, a concept which has much in common with arts and especially with artistic research, the purpose of which is to drive towards unknown places in order to create things which are still invisible. The profound truth of this concept revealed itself to me at a very unexpected moment. I was walking with a friend along a seemingly infinite road, and I wearily asked her how much further we would have to walk. “Down there, where you can’t see anything anymore. That’s where we have to get.” So, the theme of this year’s exhibition, the horizon of the sea, seeks to be an exploration of this idea of a journey towards an as yet invisible destination.
How were the artists who will exhibit in Portoferraio from the 24th to the 31st of August selected?
“Since the first edition of the prize, the professors of the Academy make a pre-selection of the students which show highest affinity with the theme being proposed for the relevant edition. The names they indicate are then evaluated by a commission which selects those who will take part in the exhibition. From the authors of all the exhibited works, then, three are chosen as winners of a 1,500 euros scholarship offered by Acqua dell’Elba.”
Now, here come the questions which are unavoidable for all of our guests: what does the sea mean to you?
“When I think of the sea, I always recall the way Russian poet Marina Cvetaeva used to salute it: “Farewell, free element”. That is the sea: an element capable of donating the sensation of “elsewhere” and freedom, as well as above all a rhythm, a breath, a scan which suspends time even though time carries on. Because the see has always been maintaining its movement and its rhythm, beyond our own times, our own idea of control and any intention of ours to bind it with boundaries.
An image which brings to mind the sentence of a Paolo Conte song, when he talks of “that dark sea which also moves at night, it is never still” … though now is the time for the final question: Maria Cristina Galli, hat is your essence?
“My essence is to try to stay within things, but without giving any definitions, without categorising because I am afraid of categories, society categorises very much, it boxes people and things in, it pigeon-holes everything. In my life, in my activity as an academic, in my artistic research the unexpected, the unforeseen have a fundamental role. After all, art and life are something that happens, just like images and even waves happen.”

Here the appropriate musical reference would be John Lennon’s quote “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”, though it’s time to end our interview reminding all of you about the Acqua dell’Elba Arts Prize, taking place from the 24th to the 31st of August at the Centro Telemaco Signorini in Portoferraio. With a surprise waiting for all members of the Acqua dell’Elba Community closed group!


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