GAMeC Bergamo are helping us think like a mountain
A two-year project to embed a Bergamo arts institution with the communities and landscapes of the Lombardy region has started. Opening with exhibitions, site-responsive installations & participatory projects in the city & country, Will Jennings sees how GAMeC hope to create new ways for art to engage with human and non-human audiences ahead of their move to a new HQ.

Art institutions can often fall into a pattern of short-termism. The need to have a regular rhythm of exhibitions can mean that while having to be planned up to a few years in advance because of international loans and the logistics of mounting an exhibition, a museum can struggle to be read as anything beyond a place where exhibitions repeatedly pop up then disappear. All institutions speak a mean game in community connection and rootedness in place, but often such intent can run outside of and out of kilter with the exhibition churn.


The Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo – known as GAMeC – is trying something a bit different. Under the directorship of Lorenzo Giusti, the institution formed only in 1991 has created a curatorial umbrella running for two years underneath which a diverse exhibition programme will be organised in tandem with outreach, community, and contextual activities. With the framing of Pensare Come una Montagna – or Thinking Like a Mountain – GAMeC is mounting a series of projects with twenty artists or artist groups, designed to spread far beyond the gallery into the wider Province of Bergamo, northern Italy, with thematically exhibitions, events, workshops, installations, and performances.

The title Thinking Like a Mountain is a phrase adopted from Aldo Leopold’s book A Sand County Almanac, published posthumously in 1949. In it, Wisconsin-resident Leopold collected reflections upon nature of his local area with consideration to a deep spatiotemporal interconnectedness with the ecosystems’ elements. Relocating that phrase from the US Midwest to the massifs of the Alpine and pre-Alpine mountains offers opportunity for GAMeC to think outside of its Bergamo HQ.


The two-year project started in May, and while it looks into the landscape beyond the 15th century former monastery home of the institution, it kicks off with a major gallery exhibition of the work of Lin May Saeed. Born into a German-Jewish family in 1973, and sadly passing away during the planning of this exhibition, her work explores the interconnected ecosystem theme with a menagerie of works now acting as a memorial and a celebration to the artist’s dedication to human and non-human narratives.

Saeed mainly worked with the unlikely material of polystyrene. Initially choosing it while studying at the Düsseldorf Art Academy due the ease of finding waste fragments she could carve into, she went on to adopt it as her primary material, celebrating its lightness, fragility, and ubiquity while aware of its petrochemical backstory and how its use speaks to modern-day concerns into the Anthropocene.

In Saeed’s hands, however, polystyrene loses its disposable coarseness and every-day mundanity. Into it, whether as a relief or sculpture, Saeed carved detail and tales with wit and care, weaving stories from Islamic, Christian, and Hebrew histories in with the lives and histories of animals. A lifelong vegan and proponent of animal rights, Saeed’s work was dedicated to conflating human and non-human histories through the most-human of materials, albeit one as fragile as the ecosystems and animal lives we threaten the future of.


At the entrance to GAMeC the mountain theme takes a more literal, if functional, position. Studio Ossidiana, who work across architecture, design, and landscape with both production and research, have created Massi Erratici, a collection of functional objects and furniture which acts as the visitor’s introduction to the place but also interrogates the very material of the mountains. Using stone fragments – secondary raw materials otherwise headed to landfill – the studio created three different pigmented concrete mixtures in the production of new terrazzo units that can be arranged and rearranged into various configurations.

In GAMeC’s entrance, it forms the ticket desk and library, with fun additions of draughts and chess boards, while a separate space shows the process of material repurposing and construction towards the making of the elements. In 2026, GAMeC will leave its historic home into an exciting new gallery designed by C+S Architects, repurposing Bergamo’s former Palazzetto dello Sport to create a new centre for contemporary art. Massi Erratici’s terrazzo units will find a new home here as a table within the new entrance hall.

figs. x-xii


Outside of the current and future galleries, Giusti has also commenced the two-year programme with the first of a number of site-specific creative projects. Two sculptures from Bergamo-born artist Chiara Gambirasio, who graduated from Milan’s Brera Academy of Fine Arts in 2019, take the curatorial theme into the landscape. Giusti states that the desire for the project is for GAMeC to reach out into the ecosystem, and makes a point that strategically this means partnerships with local companies and organisations as a method for reaching new communities. To use capitalist relationships as a tool to explore civic connectedness and a deeper connection between people, place, and non-human neighbours, could be considered a neoliberal process more benefit to the corporate partner than the cultural originator. That said, in the early days of Thinking Like a Mountain it has led to Gambirasio’s first work and can offer a quick route to interesting locations beyond the gallery.

The artist worked with several women who in their youth had attended the summer camp of Dalmine, a metal working company with a Fondazione. The old summer camp building, an abandoned rotunda on a nearby hill, overlooks Gambiriaso’s multicoloured arch that sits upon a redundant bridge, next two the later-replacement, the three creating a triptych of arches. The colours were derived from workshops with the women, exploring their sense of loss for shared childhoods in the location

A short distance away, and a little further up the river valley is M’ama, another sculpture from Gambirasio. Placed in the small hamlet of Rusio outside a small church, the cement mortar and glue form reads as a natural form out of place, drawing from the participants reach for memory coupled with a collective sense of distance from nature and rootedness. The sculpture is shaped as an emerging mountain fused with a wooden stump, the artist inviting visitors to embrace the work with a hug.


The two-year programme will include a mixture of creative acts. Indeed, in May Mercedes Azpilicueta already presented Que Este Mundo PermanezcaMay This World Remain in English – as a performance in the Oasi della biodiversità in Brembate. In the landscape, undergoing environmental regeneration and recovery after a sand-quarrying past, the artist considered three local birds – the green woodpecker, kingfisher, and hoopoe – and worked with participant performers to explore their characters and personalities.

Bergamo is a city of two parts. The fourth largest city in the Lombardy region, the historic and fortified city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site encircled in massive Venetian defensive systems. The modern city travels further down the hillside and into the landscape, with the current and future GAMeC buildings in late-modern extension of the city as it grew following the 1815 Congress of Vienna. Thinking Like a Mountain finds also finds a place in the historic centre with a presentation of a new site-responsive work from British artist Sonia Boyce, found in the Sala della Capriate, part of the Palazzo della Ragione.

Here, Boyce has mounted a multi-screen audio and video work reflecting on the local function of music to both unite and divide. Recalling Covid-era experiences of Italians singing the song from balconies as an act of solidarity and togetherness, Boyce recorded local musical students singing radical and political folk song Bella Ciao from balconies overlooking the historic Piazza Vecchia, where the venue is located. In her video collage, further footage documents the students improvising with sound amongst the neighbouring Angelo Mai Civic Library spaces, alone and rooted in place.


The starkly-shaped financial towers of Milan can be seen in the near distance from the historic centre of Bergamo, as can the highly industrialised plains across the whole region. Such development continues through to the Alpine and pre-Alpine ranges, though it intermingles with rich biodiversity and natural history – from urban and rural forests, through agricultural areas, and into more wilderness-oriented ecosystems. Lorenzo Giusti’s Thinking Like a Mountain is an ambitious project for GAMeC to look further than its gallery walls, and further even than its home town, and into the human and non-human communities beyond. It has a close relationship to the current Biennale Gherdëina – also curated by Giusti and which presents the other half of the important Lin May Saeed exhibition – located deeper into the Dolomites, centred on the city of Ortisei.

The project will not only feature local and international artists, as these early examples show, but ongoing workshops, laboratories, seminars, and opportunities for other forms of cultural engagement in the effort to explore ways for art and art institutes to develop new forms of relationships with people and place, all of which will be archived with supporting writing and research on the project’s website:

The Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo was opened in 1991. A virtuous model of shared public-private management, the museum is located in the spaces once occupied by the fifteenth-century Monastery of the Dimesse and Servite, the restoration of which was entrusted to Studio Gregotti Associati International between the late eighties and the nineties. Over the years, diversified planning has transformed it into a versatile space that draws many types of visitors with its targeted activities. With its 1,500 square meters of exhibition space, GAMeC welcomes contemporary art in all its forms.
Temporary personal and collective exhibitions by international artists, and an intense calendar of fringe activities designed for different types of users are among the strong points of the Gallery’s cultural policy. It is a dynamic place for debate, analysis, and cultural integration, and one evolving daily. Thanks to both donations and acquisitions, the Gallery has built the collection of modern and contemporary art of the city of Bergamo, which includes works by Italian and international authors of the twentieth century, and works by contemporary artists.
GAMeC is a supporter and founding member of the association AMACI – Associazione dei Musei d’Arte Contemporanea Italiani, and works actively with contemporary art museums and centers both in Italy and abroad.

Lorenzo Giusti (Ph.D) is an Italian art historian and curator, director of GAMeC in Bergamo. He has produced exhibitions and publications dedicated to leading figures in 20th-century art history and curated contemporary art projects in Italy and abroad involving numerous artists from the international scene. His special interests lie in the relationship between historical avant-gardes and contemporary languages as well as between ecological thinking and the visual arts. Curator of the two major retrospectives dedicated to Maria Lai (2015) and Regina Cassolo Bracchi (2021), he is the author of various essays on art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
In 2024 he curated the ninth edition of the Biennale Gherdëina. In 2023 he curated the Modern section of Art Dubai. In 2022 he served on the international jury of the Venice Biennale.
From 2020 to 2022 he was president of AMACI – Associazione dei Musei d’Arte Contemporanea Italiani. In 2020 he conceived the digital platform Radio GAMeC, recognized by UNESCO as one of the most important museum initiatives in the world during the pandemic. From 2019 to 2021 he coordinated the curatorial team of the Back to the Future section of Artissima, Turin. In 2018 he was part of the curatorial team of the Curated by festival in Vienna. In 2017 he curated the international conference Museum at the Post-digital turn at OGR, Turin. In 2016 he was part of the curatorial team of the Third Shenzhen Biennial of Animation (CHN). From 2012 to 2017, he was director of the MAN Museum in Nuoro, Italy.
He has curated solo and group exhibitions in public and private institutions, including Kunsthaus Baselland (Chiara Bersani. Deserters, 2023), the Triennale di Milano (Thea Djordjadze-Fausto Melotti, 2017), FRAC Corse (Nomadisme, 2016) and Palazzo Strozzi (Green Platform, 2008).

Will Jennings is a London based writer, visual artist, and educator interested in cities, architecture, and culture. He has written for the RIBA Journal, the Journal of Civic Architecture, Quietus, The Wire, the Guardian, and Icon. He teaches history and theory at UCL Bartlett and Greenwich University, and is director of UK cultural charity Hypha Studios.


Thinking Like a Mountain, organised by GAMeC and curated by Lorenzo Giusti, continuesin Bergamo and the wider region through 2024 and 2025. Further details available at:


figs.i,iii,iv,vii,ix,x,xiii,xvi Photographs © Will Jennings.
fig.ii Lin May Saeed, Landscape with ant hills (2021). Styrofoam, acrylic paint, steel, wood. 139 x 210 x 30 cm. Photo © Wolfgang Günzel.
Courtesy: Lin May Saeed Estate, Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt/Main
fig.v,vi Lin May Saeed, Installation views - GAMeC, Bergamo, 2024. Photo © Antonio Maniscalco. Courtesy GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo.
fig.viii Studio Ossidiana, Massi Erratici (2024). Veduta dell'installazione - GAMeC, Bergamo, 2024. Courtesy  GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo. Photo © Riccardo De Vecchi.
figs.xi,xii Chiara Gambirasio, V'arco (2024). Photo © Nicola Gnesi. Courtesy GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo.
fig.xiv Chiara Gambirasio, M'ama (2024). Photo © Nicola Gnesi. Courtesy GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo.
fig.xv Performance Que este mundo permanezca by Mercedes Azpilicueta. Photo © Paolo Biava.
figs.xvii,xviii Sonia Boyce, Benevolence (2024). Installation view - GAMeC / Palazzo della Ragione, Bergamo, 2024. Photo © Lorenzo Palmieri. Courtesy GAMeC - Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo. Work © Sonia Boyce by SIAE 2024.

publication date
07 July 2024

Mercedes Azpilicueta, Bella Ciao, Bergamo, Biennale Gherdëina, Sonia Boyce, Bridge, C+S Architects, Dalmine, Film, Chiara Gambirasio, GAMeC, Lorenzo Giusti, Italy, Will Jennings, Landscape, Aldo Leopold, Lombardy, Mountains, Performance, Polystyrene, Rusio, Lin May Saeed, Sculpture, Studio Ossidiana