Sculpture Park La Palomba, Matera, Italy

Sculpture Park La Palomba, located beside the SS7 highway in the Basilicata region in the South of Italy, abstract sculptures occupy a site on the ancient archeological grounds in Matera. Known as “La Palomba” Sculpture Park, the public garden sprawls over six hectares of an obsolete tufa stone quarry typical of the geological landscape in the area. At the origins of the sculptural park is the Apulian contemporary sculptor Antonio Paradiso (b. 1936). A student of Marino Marini’s, many of Paradiso’s sculpture-installations are on display in the outdoor gallery. The Park also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions dedicated to international artists.

The “La Palomba” Sculpture Park extends over six hectares of an old tuff stone quarry, thus deeply connecting to the traditional use of this material in the architecture of Matera. Enjoy a walk around its pleasant itinerary, dotted with Paradiso’s works, mostly in steel and limestone.

The locality is named after the nearby sanctuary “Santa Maria della Palomba,” a 16th century construct built where an ancient rock-hewn church is understood to have stood. Indeed, Matera is known for its historic natural archeological park of rupestrian dwellings and churches, carved into the soft volcanic hills for millennia up throughout the Middle Ages. “La Palomba” refers to the dove in the church portal, emblematic of the Holy Spirit. This addition was likely a later, Christian addition to the pre-existing symbolic infrastructure.

“La Palomba” Sculptural Park is part of a palimpsest of civilization in which archeology and religion play the protagonists. In the memoir Christ stopped at Eboli, Carlo Levi recounts his exile in Basilicata during Fascist-era Italy. The saying after which the book is named, “Cristo si è fermato a Eboli,” refers to the small town of Eboli in a neighbouring region, where the road and railway connecting the country curve away. Basilicata, it is understood, is a Dante’s Inferno of sorts, where the “straightforward path” has been lost. The region is arid, desolate and forgotten by God, alien to the modern and rational networks of communication that organize the landscape elsewhere. For this, it has even bred another type of culture, one of mysticism and paganism, over which Christianity was superimposed but never entirely absorbed. The city of Matera with its sassi, rock-dwellings and obsolete stone quarries being reused into sites of culture, such as the Parco Scultura, are reflective of this ancient culture.

According to its author, the “La Palomba” Sculpture Park in Matera – located in the Natural Historical Archaeological Regional Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera and Montescaglioso – is a “work of anthropology”.

The sculpture park aimed at transforming this space into an art park or place of anthropological art, as its promoter prefers to define it, in which the permanent exhibition is periodically enriched by collective and temporary exhibitions involving contemporary sculptors who they realize their works during a stay in the city of the Sassi, therefore in direct contact with the territory.

The works and the park as a whole are well integrated into the scenario of the cultural-geological context in which they are located. The quarries are an element of the territory which testifies to the gradual adaptation of man to the environment and the development of skills and techniques in the use of materials found in nature. Over the centuries, the local tuff has been used to protect, build, decorate, restore and, from an artistic, architectural and decorative point of view, has marked the history of the city.

Still today, the working of the tuff is practiced by local artisans and artists who propose a rereading suitable for contemporary uses.

Antonio Paradiso (1936) is an artist born in 1936. The first award recorded on the site is a 2004 sculpture by Farsetti, and the most recent is a photograph of 2020. The artist’s prices and indices established by are based on 35 awards. In particular: painting, multiple printing, volume sculpture, photography.

He studied at the Accademia di Brera, Milan with Marino Marini: he made exhibitions in Italy and abroad, including in the modern art museums of Dortmund, Helsenki, Cologne, Los Angeles, Belgrade, Rimini, Verona, Ferrara, Portofino, Reggio Emilia, Alberobello. Lives and works in Milan.

Antonio Paradiso traveled extensively and moved around the Sahara desert and tropical Africa for two decades, studying paleoanthropology in depth to form a solid scientific base for his artistic work.

For some years he has been working on a large anthropological sculpture; a space of six hectares, a former Palaeolithic site, a collection of caves of the time, a Neolithic village with a fortified trench and a hut bottom, a well and a megalithic wall, which for the past hundred years has been transformed into a tuff quarry and lately into an anthropological work.

He is a curious and anomalous character on the Italian sculpture scene. True, he was a pupil of Marino Marini in Brera, in the forge of the great tradition founded on the classic, on the nobility of marble and bronze. But his vocation, immediately, was to regain the origins. His first, as a man from the South who, working with loving roughness, the Trani stone and the tuff of Matera, chose not to impose his beauty on the material, but to bring out its powerful intrinsic charm. And then the origins of all of us, the moment that anthropology – a discipline of which Paradiso is anything but amateur adept – teaches us that it was the one in which man “saw” in stone, wood, clay, some basic symbols: living, the totem, the relationship between the bowels of the earth and the vertigo of the sky. Aided by his long custom with the African deserts and the primary civilizations that inhabit it, which are living testimony of those origins, Paradiso brought the sculpture back to its sources, giving life to multiple operations in which the work no longer wants to represent, but it constitutes itself in space, and form, and place.

From there other suggestions began, other explorations. The flight of pigeons, a sense of space and distances which is innate wisdom and absolute symbol of freedom, is one of the most tenacious in the path of Paradise. (…) As a true modern primitive, Paradiso has made the pigeons flight motif an essential visual scheme, with high symbolic density, and declines it with decorative pomp by shaping heavy corten steel plates with the laser. The heavy, opaque, powerful material, which evokes hardness and staticity.