AAJ Press
Architecture & Design, Art & Public Space, Art Projects, Commissions, Commissions & Projects, Environment, Installation, Nature, Sculpture

Alberto Burri – Cretto di Burri, Sicily – Architecture, Sculpture, Space

Alberto Burri, 1915-1995, is recognised as a central figure working in Arte Povera, concerned with the integrity of poor and unorthodox industrial materials such as jute sacking, metal, plastic, tar, sand, glue and fire. He also combined architecture, sculpture and space in the  creation of one of the largest landscape artworks in Europe. The Cretto di Burri  (crack of Burri) or Cretto di Gibellina (crack of Gibellina), or the Grande Cretto (Great Crack) transformed the ruins of the village of Gibellina, western Sicily, into a work of minimalist art covering an area of 350 x 280 metres when it was destroyed by an earthquake on 14/15 January 1968. The project was made by Burri between 1984 and 1989, but left unfinished due to lack of funds until it was finally completed on 17 October 2015 – the 100th anniversary of his birth, with the support of the Fondazione Burri.

The earthquake in the Valle del Belice destroyed Gibellina, Montevago, Poggioreale, Santa Margherita di Belice, Salaparuta and other towns resulting in deaths, casualties and homelessness. The settlement of Gibellina was completely destroyed and the residents were subsequently moved to the new town of Gibellina Nuovo, 20 km from the original location. The Guardian – Belice Valley Sicily earthquake, 1968, 50-years on Artists were invited to make works for the squares and spaces of Gibellina Nuovo, but Burri, with the support of the Mayor of Gibellina, Ludovico Corrao, chose to work in the site of the old town.

On the site of the old town, now called Gibellina Vecchio, Burri created the Cretto di Burri  as a memoriam to the community and as a remembrance of the devastation of the earthquake. He followed the lines of the existing street layout by containing the debris, including rubble, stones, furniture and domestic remnants in gabions. Employing the military, and the construction companies working on the new town, cement was then poured into the mould of the urban footprint creating an abstract pattern of white concrete blocks echoing the shapes of buildings, with cracks following  the old roads and paths. The large-scale sections are between 10-20 metres in length and 1.60 metres high spreading over an area of 350 x 280 metres. The concrete, which has turned grey with time, suggests a Columbarium, in the style of an Italian cemetery where ashes and remains are placed in miniature houses or wall compartments.

Gibellina-Cemetery - Colombarium

Columbarium, cemetery of Gibellina

The project at Gibellina, was related to a series of works entitled Cretti, which Burri had made with crackled paint and clay. These were inspired partly by the cracked desert landscapes of Death Valley National Park in California / Nevada.


White Cretto, 1975

Grande Cretto Nero, 1977, is a large black ceramic artwork, composed of 700 pieces of fired ceramic, 5 metre high x 15 metre long, which Burri donated to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and is exhibited in the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden.


Burri’s other major large-scale installation is Teatro Continuo, c.1970, which acts as a stage setting for performance in the Parco Sempione, Castello Sforza, Milan. It was demolished, but rebuilt in May 2015.


The major collection of Burri’s work is displayed in a 11,500 sq. metre industrial space in the former tobacco drying sheds in Città di Castello, Umbria.

Cretto di Burri is the subject of a short documentary by the Dutch filmmaker Petra Noordkamp commissioned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for the Alberto Burri: Trauma of Painting retrospective, 9 October 2015 – 6 January 2016.

The inauguration programme of Cretto di Burri on 17 October 2015 included a sound and light installation, AUDIOGHOST 68, by artist, Giancarlo Neri, and  musician, Roberto de Naja, who is a member of Massive Attack, where hundreds of radios were scattered across the site.

An extensive collection of photographs at: Trip Advisor – Cretto di Burri, Gibellina, Province of Trapani, Sicily


About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: