Artist Spotlight: Luigi Ghirri

Artist Spotlight: Luigi Ghirri

Current exhibition: Luigi Ghirri, The Map and the Territory, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany. 4 May – 22 July 2018.

“I didn’t want to create PHOTOGRAPHS, but MAPS, PLANS that at the same time were meant to be photographs.”
– Luigi Ghirri

Museum Folkwang’s exhibition, The Map and the Territory, is the first extensive presentation of Luigi Ghirri’s oeuvre in a museum outside of his native Italy.

Luigi Ghirri began his career in 1970, quickly becoming a celebrated figure of colour photography.

The artist, who had previously worked as a land surveyor, focused on producing landscapes and still lives, inspired by architecture. He would often use his home region of Emilia Romagna, Italy, as his subject material.

Towards the end of the 1970s, Ghirri began exhibiting with increasing frequency, and it was in this same period that recognition came his way. In 1975, Time-Life included him among the “Discoveries” of its Photography Year, and he showed at the Photography Art exhibition at Kassel. In 1982, he was invited to Cologne’s Photokina, where, in the Photographie 1922-1982 exhibition, he was presented as one of the twenty most significant photographers of the 20th Century.

Luigi Ghirri, Modena, 1979. Image courtesy the artist and gallery.

He completed a range of public and private commissions in the 1980s, interpreting the Italian landscape and architecture, and offering a reading of the work of a number of prominent architects.

Ghirri’s photographs address the relationship people have with the natural and artificial environment through a deadpan, ironic wit. They consider the fragile balance between fiction and reality. He not only reflected the local cultural changes of his day, but also the broader shifts that became synonymous with modern life, such as the heightened circulation of imagery and information.

Curated by James Lingwood, the exhibition takes influence from the large, monographic show of Ghirri’s work in Parma, 1979. It looks at the phase of Ghirri’s career when his output was at its peak in the 1970s.On display will be around 300 photographs that are subdivided into 15 thematic groups. The period exemplifies his exceptionally conceptual approach to the medium and the show aims to reveal his ambitions to create a renaissance in contemporary photography.

The breadth of work on view will reveal the range of themes Ghirri addressed throughout the 1970s.

Luigi Ghirri, Verso Lagosanto, from “Il profilo delle nuvole“, 1989, 36.5cm x 48.7cm | 14.37″ x 19.17″. Image courtesy the artist and gallery.


The work of Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri (1943–1992) has been exhibited internationally. His recent solo shows include Barbican Centre, London (UK), Moreira Salles Institute, Sao Paulo (Brazil), MAXXI Museum, Rome (Italy), Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Castello di Rivoli, Turin (Italy). A selection of his exhibitions include: Luigi Ghirri: The Impossible Landscape, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York (2016); Casa Rossa, Anacapri, Italy (2016); The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin (2015); Project Prints, Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2012);  984: Fotografie da Viaggio in Italia, Milan Triennale (2012); Project Prints, Mummery + Schnelle, London (2011);  Vintage Prints 1970-1980, Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich (2009); It’s beautiful here, isn’t it…, Aperture Foundation, New York (2008).

Author: George Greenhill

Cover image: Luigi Ghirri, Modena, from “Italiaailati (1971-1976)”, 21.0cm x 29.9cm | 8.27″ x 11.77″ . Image courtesy the artist and gallery.