Sings of Life

Written by  Patrizia Lucchini e Alfredo Bertelli

The fascinating and multifaceted figure of Dante Bighi: designer, traveller, artist, collector, photographer.

Anyone who today sets out to profile Dante Bighi - over thirteen years after his death – cannot attempt to approach his works, his career, his personality without fully and explicitly considering the multiplicity of his interests, all profoundly linked together, and developed by him with equal talent and profundity. Without any doubt the reconstruction of Bighi’s journey must begin with his arrival in Milan, in the late 1950s. Here Bighi launched his fruitful work as an advertising designer, which enabled him to quickly gain a place in the economic, cultural and artistic circles of the great city.

But his openness to other forms of expression and above all towards contemporary art, led him to meet and develop relationships with the leading exponents of the artistic avant-garde, from the earliest years of his work in Milan. Among them, Pierre Restany, then a promoter and consultant for some of the most prestigious Milanese art galleries. Together they developed a partnership which was destined to last for years, producing works of great importance and depth. The influence of avant-garde artistic movements on Bighi in those years was manifested not only in the lively and stimulating material it offered for his work, but also contributed to his formation of grandiose ideas and projects of a “poetic-cultural” kind, such as the Capricorn Logbook. This idea, born in 1974, was based on a global project: ten artists from the North of the globe would go to the Southern Hemisphere and seek out the most significant locations of southern culture and there express themselves artistically. The works they would create would form part of a ‘logbook’ containing their experiences, a limited edition object in the form of a great cube including by Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Christo, César. The plan was never carried out, but the preparation for the project acted to spur on the realisation of another of Bighi’s great dreams. This was a gigantic photographic book, a “bookobject” which focused on the immense richness of religious places on the Indian sub-continent. This became India prega, once again created in collaboration with Restany, who wrote the poetic texts which accompany the beautiful collection of photographs which were created by Bighi during the months he spend in India. A second volume followed it, India prega 2, completed and published in a limited edition in 1984. In a similar photographic vein, Bighi launched a collaboration with the Italian Navy in the early 1980s. This marked the beginning of a series of art books on military vessels.

The fascination which Bighi felt for unusual environments far from daily life then led him to create the book entitled I Moai, focusing on the Easter Island statues. His commitment to art was also ceaseless, both with regard to his personal collecting of the works of contemporary artists - a collection subsequently donated to the Comune of Copparo - and in respect of his own creation of art objects. Among his early works, we recall his “printed paper pressings”, compressed from sheets of newspaper and presented in flat surfaces, and the “Plexiglas showcases” which contain various objects of different kinds (tools, bones, stones, but also stamps, rock for sculpture etc) to create a kind of “catalogue” of memory, of conservation of recollections and of emotions.