Arte Sella, open-air art museum – Valsugana

Malga Costa, Borgo Valsugana
Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
Phone: +39 (0)461 761029
closed on: open daily
Museum Type: Art
Arte Sella open-air art museum Italy

Arte Sella is an open-air art museum, among the most renowned in Italy and possibly in the entire Europe, that combines nature and contemporary art.

arte sella Dougherty

Patrick Dougherty, Tana Libera Tutti, 2011- copyright Arte Sella – Photo Giacomo Bianchi

Sites and venues
Located in a fir tree forest in the Valsugana alpine valley, about 40 kilometers / 25 miles east of the city of Trento, Arte Sella was founded in 1986 to promote a creative relationship between contemporary art and nature. The institution runs three distinct venues.

The Spazio Livio Rossi in the town of Borgo Val Sugana accommodates the main office of the Arte Sella Association, a documentation center, a public library focused on contemporary art, educational and creative workshops, and a permanent exhibition area. This project was started in 2006 to offer a varied and lively cultural framework for visitors of all ages and different cultural backgrounds. The Arte Sella building also reaffirms people’s relationship with their territory and livens up the old town center.

Malga Costa is a restored mountain barn (a malga is a traditional Italian alpine farm) where various contemporary artworks are permanently on show, including the famous Cattedrale Vegetale (Tree Cathedral), an impressive giant wood sculptural installation by the Italian artist Giuliano Mauri.

Inaugurated in 1996, Artenatura is a four-kilometer-long “art trail”, running through a fir tree forest along which several sculptures, created by renowned international artists and mostly made of natural elements, are carefully positioned. Sometimes the pieces of art are tiny objects almost hidden in the surrounding forest, while sometimes are large works competing with the nearby imposing fir trees in a silent dialogue.

Albeit a bit difficult to reach, if you are in the Trentino region we warmly suggest you do not miss this fascinating museum (and unconventional art experience). Since the museum is located in a forest, remember to wear hiking clothing and consider at least three hours for the full visit.

Arte Sella | When contemporary art arises from Nature

The Arte Sella project was created in 1986 in Trentino, northern Italy, as an alternative to mainstream contemporary art networks, to promote the relationship between Art and Nature. The project mission is to stimulate artists to make art both in Nature, encouraging them to form a creative alliance with the surrounding Alpine environment, as well as with Nature, by using materials directly collected in the local forest. Over time, Arte Sella has become a research and cultural center of International relevance, promoting various forms of creative expression including fine arts, music, performing arts, photography, and literature.

arte sella Schaller rigorth

Left: Anton Schaller, Rifugio, 2011 – copyright Arte Sella – Photo: Giacomo Bianchi
Right: Roger Rigorth, Drago, 2013 – copyright Arte Sella – Photo: Giacomo Bianchi

arte sella Frost-gazzolai

Left: Stuart Ian Frost, A fior di Pelle, 2012 – copyright Arte Sella – Photo: Giacomo Bianchi
Right: Gianandrea Gazzolai, Lo stilo – copyright Arte Sella – Photo: Giacomo Bianchi

The locations where the Arte Sella permanent exhibition takes place are quite far from the ordinary.
ArteNatura is an open-air itinerary spanning along a forest trail, etched into the side of Mount Armentera, currently featuring 45 artworks, arranged into an “exhibition gallery” where the forest is the backdrop, the groundcover is the pavement and the only lighting source is the Sun. Do you want a seat? No stylish benches or sofas can be found here, but the trunk of a fallen tree could be used instead as an appropriate alternative. By walking along the exhibition itinerary, glimpsing the sometimes subtle presence of the artworks is like playing a game. Many of them are visually imposing and easily perceivable, while others require a more attentive quest to be discovered: huge woven nests resembling fairy dens, towers made of trunks, subtle traces made of cobblestones, and “ghost” wolves. Nevertheless, all works look like intriguing creatures living in the forest and having been part of it ever since.

arte sella Wilder

Aeneas Wilder, no title – copyright Arte Sella – Photo Giacomo Bianchi

Roger Rigorth - Copyright Arte Sella

Roger Rigorth – Wassergehäuse – 2013 – Copyright Arte Sella –  Photo Giacomo Bianchi 

At the end of the trail, the visitors find another venue, Malga Costa, a restored alpine hut used as a permanent exhibition space in Summer. The fascinating artworks located in the building and its surrounding pasture were again conceived with a strong conceptual relationship with the natural environment; among them, the Cattedrale Vegetale, realized by Giuliano Mauri in 2001 is truly impressive. Numbers can give an idea of this gigantic work:  three naves, 12 meters high, on an area of 1220 square meters; 420 columns; five hundred brackets; three thousand woven twigs form the Cathedral framework. Young hornbeams were planted inside the columns, which support the growing trees until, in about 20 years, they will be adult; over time the tree-bracing columns will erode, thus leaving only the trees as a memento of the Artist’s work.

arte sella cattedrale

Giuliano Mauri, Cattedrale vegetale, 2001- copyright Arte Sella – Photo Giacomo Bianchi

A further venue, the Livio Rossi space, is located in the small town of Borgo Valsugana and since 2006 houses a permanent exhibition space, the Arte Sella central office, a library, a workshop, and educational art space for children and adults.


above: Artenatura art trail, Photo: Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit

Cover image, Roberto Conte, Cerca, 2012- copyright Arte Sella – Photo Giacomo Bianchi

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