Not your usual Christmas lights

Antonella Galli,

Changing from inside, renewing the urban dimension of Christmas: this is the goal of Christmas Design, a community event in Bergamo based on an idea by landscape architect Maurizio Vegini, in which nineteen light installations designed especially for the occasion by artists, architects and designers are funded by local businesses, lighting up the heart of the city.

Not your usual Christmas lights

“There are plenty of Christmas trees and stars, too!” landscape architect Maurizio Vegini of Bergamo’s Studio GPT assures us. His intuition was to bring the world of design to his town’s Christmas lighting, as artistic director of Christmas Design, one of the events closing the celebration of ‘Bergamo Brescia 2023 – Italian Capital of Culture’. “The idea was to give a blank slate to businesses and anyone else who wanted to contribute a light installation to beautify the city of Bergamo over the Christmas holidays, with a touch of contemporary creativity,” explains Vegini. “Christmas is a holiday for everyone, and the city is a place for everyone. DUC – Distretto Urbano del Commercio, the city’s business district – provided the venues, as well as organisational and operative support; all it asked for in exchange was beauty. The response was unexpectedly generous, as the city’s businesses contributed artists, content and resources in partnership with local institutions. The result is amazing: fifteen venues and four outdoor locations all over the city host nineteen original, innovative light design projects created by twenty-one studios, artists and creative designers from a variety of different backgrounds”.

And so Christmas in Bergamo offers an opportunity for new wonder and reflection inspired by art and creativity. All inspired by the beautiful exhibition ‘Infinito Presente’ by Yayoi Kusama featuring the ‘Fireflies on the Water’ installation, on display in the Sala delle Capriate in Palazzo della Ragione until 24 March 2024 (and already overbooked). “Light art dialogues with the extraordinary presence of Yayoi Kusama in the city, both directly and indirectly,” comments Vegini; “the itinerary for visiting the light installations is popular art, available to everyone, which can be enjoyed a bit at a time, as you make your way home from work, or by taking a guided tour, in a tourist train or an electric tuktuk.” The projects are all really interesting: “The themes of Christmas and light have been interpreted in very different ways by the various artists involved, touching upon themes such as the environment, our relationship with others, introspection, religion, or simply our need for lightness and joy”.

‘Le Sette Porte’, “The Seven Gates,” for example, is an installation designed by artist Matteo Rubbi specifically for the northern arcade of the Visconti Citadel in Upper Bergamo, in which a long line of neon lights represents the voyage of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Their 150-kilometre voyage is punctuated by the gates of the seven cities represented in the Tabula Peutingeriana, a medieval document based on a map dating from the time of the Holy Family’s travels. The artist has suspended the skylines of the seven cities under the arcades, joined by a line of LED lights forming the words of a poem by Palestinian-American poet George Abraham. ‘Epifània. Incorporare l’imprevisto’, or “Epiphany: Incorporating the unexpected”, is an installation designed by Studio Edoardo Milesi & Archos in partnership with Studio Azzurro, suspended from the Porta Sant’Alessandro city gate, which is also inspired by a voyage: in this case, the voyage of an ephemeral cloud of petals, all made from production scrap. The cloud gives off sounds, lights, colours and images, telling the story of its vagabondage around our surprising world.

“The idea of combining the opportunity for expression offered by Christmas with contemporary creativity has unleashed positive energy all over the city,” reports Maurizio Vegini, who is enthusiastic about planning another edition for next year. “Everyone contributed: businesses, artists, the city’s commercial and productive fabric. And everyone loves Christmas Design, including the mayor, Giorgio Gori. The content, technology, and inspiration for reflection are important, but what the event is really about is the simple joy of light: it’s all about getting together and having fun.” Christmas Design has opened up the gates of the city of Bergamo to innovation, turning conventional, commercial Christmas lights into an opportunity for dialogue, reflection and unity. And example well worth following!

Antonella Galli

Christmas Design
City of Bergamo, until 7 January 2024
Organised by DUC Distretto Urbano del Commercio, Bergamo’s business district

01, 07, 14 Le Sette Porte (The Seven Gates) installation, ph. Giovanni Diffidenti; commissioned by Persico Group and G.E.G. Telecomunicazioni and designed by artist Matteo Rubbi, in the northern arcades of the Visconti Citadel in Upper Bergamo.
02, 09 and 12 Horama installation, ph. Giovanni Diffidenti; commissioned by A2A with RPP. Run Power Plants Srl “La nuova Luce” or “The New Light” (Nocivelli Group) and designed by students Chiara Arrigoni and Martina Nodari of Accademia LABA under the guidance of professors Andrea Paroli and Nazareno Cerquaglia; exhibited in Largo Belotti.
03, 08 Christmas Pop installation, ph. Giovanni Diffidenti; commissioned by Zenucchi Design Code and designed by Massimo Castagna, on display in Largo Gianandrea Gavazzeni, near the Donizetti Theatre.
04 Epifània. Incorporare l’imprevisto, “Epiphany: Incorporating the unexpected” installation, ph. Giovanni Diffidenti; commissioned by Alias and designed by Studio Edoardo Milesi & Archos in partnership with Studio Azzurro, on display in Piazza Vecchia.
05 and 13 You for Christmas installation, ph. Giovanni Diffidenti; commissioned by Fra.Mar and designed by Steven Cavagna, on display in Largo Rezzara.
06 Le 7 Porte (The 7 Gates) installation, ph. Leonardo Tagliabue
10 Christmas Pop installation, ph. Barbara Gerosa Massimo Castagna ad architettura
11 Fiammetta installation, ph. Giovanni Diffidenti; commissioned by La Pasqualina and designed by Santo Tolone, on exhibit in Piazza Matteotti.
15 Fiammetta installation, ph. Leonardo Tagliabue
16 Inner Resonance installation, ph. Leonardo Tagliabue