Patrizio Di Massimo, The Escalator Cycle


La Risalita / The Escalator: Patrizio Di Massimo, The Escalator Cycle
In collaboration with the students of the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts
Curated by Stella Bottai
June 24 – September 26, 2021

Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, in collaboration with the City of Rivoli, unveils a new project by Patrizio Di Massimo (Jesi, 1983) which is part of the new program of site-specific commissions for the public space of the risalita meccanizzata, an automated escalator system originally designed to connect the historical city center to the piazzale by the Castello. Specific areas of the pathway, closed since 2011, have been reinstated and opened to the public to view the project and become an unprecedented exhibition space which can host new contemporarty artworks, specifically commissioned by Castello di Rivoli and open to the public Thursday to Sunday, 11:30am to 6:30pm. The first project is curated by Stella Bottai.

On Thursday June 24 at 4pm (CEST) in the Museum Theater, the artist will participate in a conversation with Leonardo Caffo, philosopher in residence at Castello di Rivoli. At 4:45pm and 6:45pm, special guided tours of The Escalator Cycle with the artist and the curator will be taking place. Due to the current health emergency, the Theatre and the guided visits have limited capacity. Please reserve your place in advance by phone +39 011 9565 213 or by email

Conceived specially for the spaces of the risalita meccanizzata in Rivoli and its four station, The Escalator Cycle (2020) was realized using the precious and labour-intensive oil on canvas tecnique, inspired by the historical tradition of large painting cycles. Developed over four monumental polyptychs, for a total of 17 canvases, the work was realized by thr artist in collaboration with Sara Bertin, Carola Blanco, Francesco Rocco Caputo, Francesco Isgrò, Khatereh Safajoo, Matilde Martinez, Giulia Polla, Sara Pirozza, Teresa Verrascina, students on the Scenography course of the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts in Turin, through a series of workshops hosted by Combo in Turin. Alike an ancient artist workshop, Di Massimo involved the students in all stages of production, teaching them his painting method from the photography of the characters and composition of the sketches to the actual execution.

In recent years, Di Massimo’s figurative practice has focused on the relationship between painting technique and subjects. In particular, the artist reflects upon the idea of the portrait as a vehicle for the expression as well as representation of certain moods, making reference to important historical and twentieth-century painters – such as Giorgio de Chirico, Otto Dix and the German movement of the New Objectivity. Sometimes focused on one character alone, more often depitcting the interaction between subjects, many of Di Massimo’s paintings depict characters at the height of an emotional transformation morphing them into extreme expressions of themselves, articulating paradoxical relationships between individual and collective identities. Until now, Di Massimo has only portrayed a close circle of family and friends.

On the occasion of The Escalator Cycle, the artist has for the first time involved strangers, well-known or anonymous, motivated by the desire to offer a choral representation of the local community through his work. Among the subjects portrayed are: Alberto Barbera, Director of the Venice International Film Festival; Michele Coppola, Executive Director Art, Culture and Historical Heritage Intesa Sanpaolo; Fulvio Ferrari, founder of the Museo Casa Mollino; Christian Greco, Director of the Egyptian Museum Turin; Paola Gribaudo, President of the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts; Massimo Lapucci, General Secretary of the Fondazione CRT; Francesco Profumo, President of the Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo; Gigi Raiola, Luxemburg bookshop; Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, contemporary art collector and President of the homonymous Foundation; Cally Spooner, artist; Giulia Valentina, content creator and influencer. Finally, some members of the Castello staff also appear, including Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Marcella Beccaria, respectively Director and Chief Curator; Stella Bottai, external curator of the project; and the students themselves who participated in the making of the work. As in the ancient painting tradition, the artist has included his self-portrait.

The Escalator Cycle offers an ironic glimpse of today’s society, dramatically portraying the feelings associated with the exhibitionism, mystery, anger and narcissism of the contemporary world. In this work, the artist combines distinctive leitmotifs of his work – such as the inclusion of monstrous creatures and the use of soft drapes as background, which recall closed theatre curtains and at the same time evoke monochrome backdrops of ancient painting – with historical references, such as the Pazzi conspiracy leading to the killing of Giuliano de’ Medici in the 15th Century, as well as contemporary events. A panel of over fifteen meters stands out, honoring the essential workers who have kept society going during the recent lockdown caused by the COVID-19 emergency, symbolically depicting them as intrepid circus acrobats with multiple skills. Elsewhere, a group of ghosts trigger panic in the room, evoking the feeling of fear which marks the historical moment we are going through. 

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Director of the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, states: “This artistic intervention by Patrizio Di Massimo accomplishes a small miracle – whilst waiting for a permanent resolution, it revives a dismissed area through art by connecting our museum, which is a world excellence, with the real life of the city below. Alike a historical fresco, it narrates today’s world through fiction – fragile in the face of pandemics, but also playful, energetic and vital. It is a real risalita.

Andrea Tragaioli, Mayor of the City of Rivoli, declares “That architectural work, the mechanical escalator, never loved nor used much by the people of Rivoli, built within the hill below the Castle, will finally become – as planned by this administration – an urban social space connecting the city to the Museum of Contemporary Art, through artistic and cultural itineraries. Work will soon begin on a new system for the escalator, which will no longer be mechanical, and The Escalator Cycle represents an anticipation of the future use of this area. I also consider it timely to highlight the fruitful collaboration with the directorship of the Castello di Rivoli in a shared vision of enhancing the artistic programme, beyond the walls of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Agreement signed between the Municipality of Rivoli and the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art for the artistic management of the escalator will be a significant act to start a new path of involvement of the territory and growth of the cultural offering.”

Artist Patrizio Di Massimo declares, “The Escalator Cycle is the most intense and demanding project of my 10-year career: for the first time I exhibited my work in a public space outdoor; for the first time I painted in collaboration with other people, sharing my method with them; and for the first time I have portrayed subjects whom I didn’t know personally. The workshop that allowed us to create the series of paintings collectively – which took place in October 2020, close to the second lockdown in Italy – was for me like an ante-litteram “vaccine,”like a turning point that allowed me to look beyond the period we were, and still are, going through and therefore get back in touch with what the pandemic has deprived us of: art as a physical encounter and as a space around which we gather.”

The curator of the project, Stella Bottai, notes that “in this historical moment of profound crisis in the world, it is particularly significant and necessary to develop intergenerational and collaborative approaches to the production and presentation of works of art in the public sphere, both in terms of support to the social fabric, as well as help and care towards art and artists. Patrizio Di Massimo’s project, which is commissioned by Castello di Rivoli and results from the cooperation between various local institutions, both public and private, is an expression of this intent.”

The Escalator Cycle by Patrizio Di Massimo is part of the Espressioni. The Proposition exhibition project on display at Castello di Rivoli.


Opening hours:
Thursday June 24, from 1pm to 9pm.
From June 25 to September 26, Thursday to Sunday, from 11:30am to 6:30pm.


Patrizio Di Massimo (Jesi, 1983) lives and works in London, where he earned a Master in Fine Arts at the  Slade School of Art. Solo exhibitions include: François Ghebaly, Los Angeles (2021), Palazzo Ducale, Urbino (2019), KURA., Milan (2019), ChertLüdde, Berlin (2018), Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels (2017), Monteverdi, Pisa (2015), T293, Rome (2014), Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon (2014), Gasworks, London (2013), Villa Medici, Rome (2012). Among the group exhibitions: ParaSite, Honk Kong (2020), Biennale Arcipelago Mediterraneo, Palermo (2019), Tale of a Tub, Rotterdam (2019), Museion, Bolzano (2018), EVA International, Limerick (2018), Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2017), CURA Basement, Rome (2016), Fiorucci Art Trust, London (2015), Triennale di Milano (2015), MUHKA, Antwerp (2014), Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin (2014), Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2013), MAXXI, Rome (2012).

The project has been made possible thanks to the contribution of Regione Piemonte

In collaboration with

With the support of



Main image: Patrizio Di Massimo with students of the Albertina Academy of  Fine Arts in Turin (Sara Bertin, Carola Blanco, Francesco Rocco Caputo, Francesco Isgrò, Khatereh Safajoo, Matilde Martinez, Giulia Polla, Sara Pirozza, Teresa Verrascina) The Escalator Cycle, 2020. Photo © Antonio Maniscalco Courtesy the artist and Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Torino

Workshop by Patrizio Di Massimo together with the Scenography students of the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts in Turin hosted by Combo in October 2020. Foto Studio Abruzzese
Documentation of a preparatory scene for the development of the painted subjects, featuring (clockwise from left): Alberto Barbera; Paola Gribaudo; Gigi Raiola, October 2020. Photo Patrizio Di Massimo
Documentation of a preparatory scene for the development of the painted subjects at Combo, October 2020. Foto Giulia Polla
Workshop by Patrizio Di Massimo together with the Scenography students of the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts in Turin hosted by Combo in October 2020. Photo Giulia Polla

Bio: Patrizio Di Massimo. Photo Andrea Guermani