Museo d'Arte Contemporanea all'Aperto di Maglione


The M.A.C.A.M., an acronym for Museo d'Arte Contemporanea all'Aperto di Maglione (Open-Air Museum of Contemporary Art in Maglione), was founded in 1985 by Maurizio Corgnati, who was born in Maglione and desired to return there after a professional career as a director and writer. His natural familiarity with the arts—painting, sculpture, literature, and music—brought him close to individuals of diverse backgrounds who shared his idea of a refined, ambitious way of life, yet far from ostentation. A total immersion in creativity, sought directly in artists' studios, fostered close friendships with critics, musicians, and writers. Thus, he lived by looking deeply, maintaining integrity, and not succumbing to market mechanisms.

Contemporary art offered something more: a sense of collective play, the intention to entertain while simultaneously reflecting on the artist's role in society, the meaning of life, and a meticulous evaluation of creative works in the contemporary context, distinguishing true values from ephemeral ones. Retreating to Maglione was not a withdrawal but rather an opportunity to invite many friends who appreciated the same things to share them. At that time, Maglione was an agricultural village of about 500 inhabitants in lower Canavese, at the confluence of the provinces of Turin and Vercelli, which was beginning to expand with new fruit crops, such as kiwi and varieties of peaches, finding good markets beyond the local area.

The landowners knew well, through passed-down memories, that their village had a history. Since the Middle Ages, it had been part of the County of Masino, undergoing battles and disputes with the city of Vercelli, the Marquises of Monferrato, the Savoy, and the Visconti. It had witnessed armies, plundering, and oppression, its lands crossed by French and Spanish armies alternately occupying Canavese. As evidence, there were ruins on the hill, where the cemetery was located—stones, the remnants of the castle from the first half of the 12th century, destroyed by the Spanish in 1652.

Maurizio Corgnati envisioned a museum for his fellow villagers, certainly open-air, so that, along with an improved standard of living, they could grow in culture, learning to appreciate beauty until it became habitual in their lives. He invited the first twelve fresco painters to lay the foundations of an open-air museum whose works would withstand the test of time; "in this place," he said, "where those born here would not want to be born anywhere else in the world." The residents of Maglione, watching the artists paint their old walls, were surprised and delighted as the promised beauty brightened their homes.

Year after year, the museum grew richer. The painters proposed their friends, who wandered curiously through the village, finding inspiration and choosing a wall they liked. A common interest developed in a pleasant exchange. The villagers offered them coffee and peaches, and the artists completed their beautiful frescoes, enjoying the ancient pleasure of making art freely. Visitors and passersby joined, and discussions flourished, each giving their personal interpretation to certain abstract paintings.

It was undoubtedly a change everyone witnessed and participated in. Art truly emerged new and proactive, the streets of the village enlivened, the inhabitants engaged in various tasks with spontaneous collaboration—helping build scaffolds, holding ladders, passing buckets of mortar, and exchanging opinions, interweaving animated reflections. Art quietly surpassed all other assumptions. Public entities, drawn in, did not delay in showing their support, financially backing the initiative over time and attending events like the Artists' Festival coinciding with the celebrations for the patron saint, St. Maurice. This festival was an opportunity to create new works and lay out projects.

Corgnati rejoiced, realizing a dream where culture entered not through traditional art criticism but naturally and directly as a result of mutual interest in understanding. Anonymous walls came to life with works that defined a place, becoming landmarks for identifying homes and owners. Conviviality was the essential element; the artists could count on hospitality in the Corgnati home and left with a modest gift, a demijohn of good Monferrato grignolino wine. Both parties would forever remember those unforgettable days, the conversations, and a new bond of friendship.

This M.A.C.A.M. project was consistent with an idea of giving truth to life, proving that inspiration could enter the collective fabric and enrich existence without the torment and strain of money, which generally characterizes human actions. Small gestures, small actions shared, created a whole that became part of everyday life without protagonism. The change occurred quietly but left something enduring for future generations. It was the art that adapted to the place, not the place to the art. Those new pictorial touches and sculptural forms represented a new form of communication, proposals of beauty that were neither intrusive nor theatrical, born from long-awaited instances, different yet concordant between ancient peasant knowledge and new creative values. This meeting-dialogue proved fruitful, not altering daily life. The artist, consciously accepting the proposal to work in an outdoor context, entrusted their work to time, accepting changes and interferences; hence, interventions could and can be made only at the artist's request. It was indeed a common opinion that decay should be understood as a natural process, the same that marks human time, a slow and gradual change according to the rhythm of things in the world, testifying to elements that evolve, giving up something and gaining something else.