The Contemporary Museum of Art at Luzzana – Meli Donation

A mediaeval castle hiding Dada treasures

What could one of the founders of Dadaism, Hans Jean Arp, possibly have been doing within the walls of a castle of mediaeval origin? Arp is one of the leading names of the collection of contemporary art at Luzzana, which contains some of his rare works of art and which was founded on the donation of the sculptor Alberto Meli and his artist wife Ester Gaini. They bequeathed a large art collection to their home town and this collection can be found today in the great rooms of Castle Giovannelli, in the heart of this fascinating little mediaeval village in the Val Cavallina.


There are more than 220 works of art on display at the museum, all of which were donated by the artist couple to the Comune (municipal district) of Luzzana. The paintings of Ester Gaini Meli are flanked by the numerous sculptures of Alberto Meli. These form the core body of works of the museum and stand in dialogue with the works of Meli’s teacher Hans Jean Arp, the French sculptor, engraver and poet, who espoused the ironic ideas and eccentricity of the Dada Movement. Alberto Meli worked as Arp’s assistant in Locarno for over eight years. Also on display are works by Hans Richter, Jacob Probst and Italo Valenti, other eminent exponents of the Dada Movement.

Of particular note is the spectacular installation “The Tree of Life”, a recent acquisition that has just been restored. This is a series of twenty-four crucifixes created by Alberto Meli, who, together with his wife, left his entire life’s work to his home town.

Not to be missed is the room dedicated to Giosuè Meli, the 19th century sculptor from Luzzana, who carved the extraordinary rock sculpture, Il Gigante (the Giant), not far from the museum, in 1840.

The Contemporary Art Museum of Luzzana – Meli Donation hosts many temporary exhibitions in the spaces of the Castle, as well as events of an interdisciplinary nature, such as the Festa della Cultura (Festival of Culture) that enlivens the village every year.


Promotional material by the association “Amici del Museo Meli”.