Since 1930, one of the most prestigious artistic restorations.
Art is one of the most enthralling passions, because it is capable of awakening different emotions in each beholder every time it is contemplated. Enzo Basiglio tells us how Gabba Antichità was established and how it evolved to become a business capable of conserving the artistic heritage of our country. Together with his wife, Donatella Gabba, Enzo passes on the traditions of the restoration which began in the workshop, combined with the innovation of “minimum intervention”, which relies on the most advanced technologies to ensure interventions that are more meticulous and less invasive than ever on the works of art.
When and how was Gabba Antichità founded? And what are the values on which your work is based?
The Gabba workshop was opened in the early 1930s, when its founder – Piero Gabba, who was seventeen years old back then – was named “Champion of the Province of Alessandria” for the trade of Furniture Carver, during the National Trade Championships held in 1934. From then on, the workshop became extremely busy, carving decorations into furniture and mirrors, but business unfortunately came to a halt due to the onset of the Second World War. Piero was nevertheless able to continue his work as a carver during the long years he spent in Libya. Indeed, in 1944, thanks to his great skill and manual dexterity, he succeeded in returning to Italy – saving his life – to procure the solid wood he needed in order to make a full set of chess pieces for his Commander. Following his return, thanks also to the strong partnership he formed with his brother Renzo and, later on, also with their other brother, Carlo, the “Fratelli Gabba” workshop soon became increasingly busy and well-known on a regional level. In the 1950s, as customers began to take more of an interest in period furniture, they began to perform the first restoration interventions on all kinds of other works of art and the workshop was extended. In the early 1960s it employed approximately ten employees who together– each performing their own specific tasks – succeeded in making the workshop a magical place where it was possible to recover, in the true sense of the word, even the smallest fragment of a work without ever changing it drastically. The team reinterpreted age-old techniques, combining these with brand new discoveries and constantly and almost obsessively dipped into every element, in terms of old procedures and trade secrets, that might come in useful in order to give the objects and furniture entrusted to their care a new lease of life.
So, your story contains all the values intrinsic to the artistic workshop. An important point you have in common with Cesare Attolini, whose daily work ethic is based on the story of a family that has always strived with great passion on a timeless project, upholding excellence, genuine craftsmanship and innovation as its founding principles. Would you agree that these values can be achieved because of the close affinity that exists within your company?
Yes, undoubtedly, this is precisely the guiding spirit that continues to distinguish our work over the years: a passion shared by the members of the family and our employees – who are now also an integral part of the family -, the constant quest to ensure that the “savoir-faire” and ethics we use when restoring any work about to leave our workshops are clearly visible. Another key element is our continuous quest for improvement thanks to the new technological possibilities offered by the market, although these must always be interpreted and adjusted to suit our requirements. And this is a difficult task that can only be successfully completed with the sensitivity of a team like ours, backed by many years of experience.
It has been 86 years since Gabba Antichità was established. The date in question was 1930, which is, strangely enough, the same year in which Vincenzo Attolini created the first ever unlined jacket. An extraordinary coincidence!
Yes, it’s true…it really is an extraordinary coincidence! And indeed, those first decades of the 1900s marked the entire 20th century, nurturing those natural talents who made our artistic craftsmanship famous all over the world with a unique combination of passion, imagination and determination.
We can therefore define the Gabba workshop as a place that hosts the culture of restoring art in line with the principles of excellent workmanship and with full respect for the integrity of the painting. What role does technology play in the culture of modern and contemporary restoration?
New technologies and new materials have been the elements that have allowed us to make an additional quantum leap in terms of quality over the last twenty years: we were the first in Italy to use the hot table, vacuum and cold table to consolidate paintings on canvas, experiments that have also since been used to great benefit for contemporary paintings, enabling us to intervene on contemporary multi-material works of art and on restoring paper. If for conservative restoration these developments could be defined as an evolution, for us they were a true revolution, in particular due to the rate at which they all took place, in a sector which, incidentally, had been at a technological standstill for centuries.
From your esteemed position as President of Italian Restorers of Confartigianato, what do you see as being the fundamental element required to launch the talented craftsmen of the future?
I believe that the fundamental elements for launching the talented craftsmen of tomorrow can be summarised as sacrifice, hard work and dedication, humility and a willingness to recover traditions. These must be combined with continuous and constant practice to maintain one’s manual dexterity, and the willingness to incorporate imagination into our work with a view to creating innovation. Now, more than ever before, we need young people, for their excellent ability to learn, their creativity and innovation. But the future will only be able to witness the full affirmation of artistic craftsmanship, especially here in Italy if they are also willing to absorb and call their own the know-how passed down by the craftsmen of the past.