When Helidon Xhixha floated his monumental stainless steel ICEBERG through the Canal Grande during the 56th Venice Biennale, it represented a pivotal moment of change not only through its message but also for the artist himself.
Whilst the artwork was a comment on the potential disasters that await us if man-made climate change is allowed to continue, the iconic occasion also marked the moment in which Albanian born sculptor Helidon Xhixha truly asserted his name amongst those of the art world elite.
Born in Albania, now living and working between Milan and Dubai, Xhixha has achieved fame through his iconic stainless steel structures that have rightfully garnered much success and critical acclaim from both spectators and industry professionals alike. His works have been commissioned for large scale, public installations all around the world, as well as becoming some of the most desirable pieces for private collectors in recent years. Xhixha has, for the majority of his career, primarily chosen to work with stainless steel, mirror polished and of the highest grade. Enjoying the reflective nature it has with light and sound, elements which are in fact equally, if not more, important than the solid material itself. He is quoted as saying "I don't sculpt materials; I use materials to sculpt light".
Whilst the artist's contribution to the 2015 Venice Biennale exposed him truly as a leading contemporary sculptor today, Helidon Xhixha's 2016 projects will affirm his position amongst the top echelons of the art world, such is the magnitude of these events. In a ground-breaking new exhibition, running from June to September this summer, Helidon Xhixha has begun to explore a new direction in his practice by exhibiting in the deeply historic and culturally important towns of Pietrasanta, Forte dei Marmi and Lido di Camaiore. Having been invited by Mayor Massimo Mallegni, and by way of paying homage to the surrounding area, Xhixha is experimenting with sculpting in marble for the first time in his career. Having chosen to create his latest works entirely from the stunning white marble of the famous quarries of the Versilia region, widely considered as the best quality marble in the world, the exhibition, titled Shining Rock, is presenting an exciting new juncture in Xhixha's career.
For any artist, the opportunity to exhibit in Pietrasanta must be considered an achievement of the highest order. For hundreds of years the people of Pietrasanta have been quarrying the famous marble, most notably the white stone of Carrara, which has been favoured by artists such as High Renaissance greats like Michelangelo, all the way through to some of the leading marble sculptors of today. Beyond this, the local area has developed into a thriving artist community, becoming one of the most desirable places for creative people from all around the world to reside in. Naturally, with this new artistic community, Pietrasanta has also become the home of arguably the best metal foundries in the world, including the famed Artigiani foundries.
In keeping with the exhibitions theme of utilising the abundant amenities of the local are, Xhixha has also presented new pieces made from bronze. These works tell the story of the local area and its people, whilst at the same time staying true to his own artistic vision. Inspired by the quality of the local metal foundries in the Versilia area, Xhixha has decided to embrace this ancient technique in order to, once again, work with a material that is entirely new to his practice.
Whilst Shining Rock is displaying a new level of diversity in Helidon Xhixha's refined practice, 2016 has also seen the artist unveil a brand new, 8-foot-tall sculpture in a newly built luxury apartment building in the heart of Miami.
The 497-unit tower, delivered by Melo group, opened its doors in early June. With the addition of a ground floor retail and restaurant space, this new build will provide the arts and entertainment district of Miami with high-end living spaces.
Permanently installed in front of the tower, the 16th of June saw Helidon Xhixha's latest monumental sculpture "Endless Melody" revealed as a focal point of the building, providing visitors and residents with an object of great artistic beauty. Standing eight feet tall at the highest point, the sculpture consists of three deconstructed parts of a cello; a true monument to both the artistic and musical vibrancy of the surrounding area.
Looking toward the future, this September will also see the artist take on an entirely new challenge when he represents his home country of Albania at the inaugural London Design Biennale. To be held at Somerset House, this year's theme is Utopia by Design, chosen to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Thomas Moore's seminal book Utopia.
In this innovative show, Xhixha will seek to overcome the barriers between Fine Art and Design. Bliss, to be staged in the central forecourt of Somerset House, is an installation that is informed by platonic utopian ideology. Inspired by the Ideal City, Xhixha will parallel Plato's concept of the state and the soul by creating a functional site for both self-reflection and interaction.
As a work of design, Xhixha's iconic style plays directly into the function of the piece. The use of manipulated stainless steel reflects the viewer as well as providing a strong surface on which to sit. It will be a place for both community and individualism, a site of great beauty and harmony; and will become a modern manifestation of an ancient idea. Whilst maintaining his use of manipulated reflective steel, Xhixha has taken aesthetic inspiration from the Renaissance reimagining's of the Ideal city, by adopting their use of concentric circles. These complex sources of inspiration exemplify the almost limitless potential of the artist's practice, and the fascinating process through which he transitions from initial concept to final outcome.