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How Underwater Sculptures Sunk Illegal Trawling—Bringing Art and Life Back into an Italian Bay


Andy corbley

When Paolo Fanciulli threw 39 large marble sculptures to the bottom of the sea in front of Tuscany’s Maremma Regional Park, it was not his first blow in the battle against unsustainable fishing, but it was his first step into the art world.

A fascinating story, at the heart of which is a fascinating and charismatic figure, recounts the confluence of an ancient relationship between man and nature, and a celebration of the Mediterranean Sea as the cradle of civilization.

Fanciulli, 60, practices sustainable fishing and “fishing tourism”Or fishing-tourism at his house in the town of Talamone.

You still wake up at dawn before heading to the crystal clear waters off the coast of the Tuscan province of Grosseto. He and his colleague Francesco fish, as did their ancient ancestors, casting shallow nets that catch red mullet and sea bream without touching the bottom reaches.

Fanciulli’s “war” against illegal or unsustainable fishing methods has long been documented and has appeared in newspapers around the world.

From 2002 to 2006, he brought together the help of the Tuscan government and WWF-Italy to deploy a strategic formation of 126 underwater cement bollards to wreck any of the deep-sea trawls that he saw were rapidly destroying the fish stocks he harvested when grew up.

The nets would tear apart the delicate ecosystem on the seafloor, including seagrass beds, and simply decapitate the marine food web. But Fanciulli knew that the nets were extremely expensive to replace, and the relatively inexpensive bollards, which cost around € 560 to manufacture and transport, would last much longer than poachers.

That work took him twenty years to complete, the authors of his biography relate. The House of Fish.

Your next project would be similar, but also quite different. He would expand the protection of his beloved Mediterranean, while recruiting some of the greatest marble sculptors on Earth to draw the world’s attention to the biggest problem of general environmental degradation.

Andy corbley

The fish house

“The importance of the project is that we need a sensible consumption of resources,” said Fanciulli. GNN. “However, the illegal industry is devastating everything, and with this project we can send a message to the whole world to give back; not just to drink. “

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“But my intention is also to think about the future; a better future, with more sustainable fishing and greater respect for the environment ”, he said.

Paolo Fanciulli, as he told me when I went on tour with him and Francesco, is a fisherman, not a marketer or social media manager.

So, with the help of a childhood friend who had become a successful engineer, Fanciulli envisioned a series of large marble sculptures, taken from the Carrara Quarry, the source of much of the marble that Michelangelo used to create. his works of art.

While Fanciulli asked for two – after a meeting with the president of the Tuscan region of Grosseto and Ippolito Turco, president of an association that now deals with sculptures – he received 100.

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But who would sculpt them? He needed to find forward-thinking and generous sculptors who would put their creativity at the service of the sea, and sufficient funds to transport the 10-20 ton blocks from northern Tuscany to the south.

Arriving at the home of an artist named Massimo Catalani, who lived in Rome and worked at the famous Palazzo Federici, Paolo, who brought his morning catch in a large pot to cook for dinner, connected with dozens of people from the world of the art. and architecture, one of which was Emily Young, considered Britain’s greatest living sculptor.

“It was like a movie,” writes Paolo.

Atlantis in Tuscany

Young was among a dozen international and Italian sculptors who donated their time and effort to contribute to a project That would not be seen in traditional museums, but that little by little it would be covered with algae, and only divers would see it sitting like sentinels, defending life from the depths.

In May 2015, the first 20 stone blocks, each costing thousands of dollars simply to transport to the Talamone dock, were loaded onto a barge and floated to their final resting place. A second group of 19 dropped last summer.

Turkish Ippolito said The independent, “We have managed to totally stop illegal fishing in the area. We are now looking to extend the project along the coast to the north. We want to put more sculptures on the seabed. It has proven to be very effective. “

“What you want to happen is that in time, you won’t know that they are sculptures,” Ms. Young said. “They will be so covered in algae and algae that they will look like a coral reef or the remains of a shipwreck.”

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Young added that he likes to hope that one day marine archaeologists will find them, and he hypothesized that they were part of an ancient civilization.

Looking to the future

61 blocks of grayish marble remain in the possession of Turco and Fanciulli, awaiting world-renowned sculptors to carve them into statues.

For those familiar with 17 districts or Guilds of Siena, a sculptor plans to make one of each animal symbol on the guilds coats of arms, something that is sure to attract a lot of investment from the super patriotic city, while Paolo also wants to work with the Grosseto Cultural Office to install underwater lighting in the middle of the sculptures to illuminate them for a few hours at night.

Andy corbley

“If there are artists who want to come to the Casa del Pez, we are available, because the more artists we have, the stronger the project will be,” said Fanciulli. GNN. “I think if famous artists come here, there is a greater impact. If there are artists reading this, our sea needs your talents. “

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The The fish house website is a great fundraiser, where people can contribute in many ways to the project. Artists looking to carve a block will post their idea for a fundraiser, and anyone who contributes receives gifts in return, such as a dinner and a fishing trip with Paolo, paintings, and more.

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