A MONUMENT TO THE ALFA ROMEO OF MILAN (1910-2010)
Is a car really more beautiful than the Winged Victory of Samothrace?
That is certainly a question that the Futurists never asked themselves in their 1909 Manifesto – one year before the foundation of Alfa.
“The world's magnificence was enriched with a new wonder: the beauty of race cars, with their bonnet fitted with big pipes like snakes with an explosive breath.... A roaring car that seems to run on a machine gun is more beautiful than the Winged Victory of Samothrace”. Marinetti was rather categorical and final.
But what made “a car” - a masculine object according to the futurists, since in the past the word was given the masculine gender in the Italian language - “a beautiful and outstanding promontory lasting throughout the centuries”?
Is it the shaft-wheel piercing the Earth and guiding its orbit, or rather “the graceful, slender, lively features of a seductress, ...that nonchalant lightness in overcoming every obstacle” due to which in 1926 D’Annunzio declared to Senator Agnelli that “the car is female”?
So who designed and sketched its early shapes? Who can proclaim its beauty?
The most beautiful sports cars, the timeless ones - which to me are those of the Sixties - were made by the hammer and talent of mechanics and metal-working coachbuilders, certainly not by designers nor by impersonal computers that can no doubt do great things together, but just as certainly less long-lasting.
Engineer Garcea, head of the legendary Alfa Experience Department, reminded us that at the Portello “el martèel l’è el mai’ster della tecnica, ma l’oli l’è elprufesso’r!” (the hammer is the master of technique, but oil is the professor!). And at Alfa the workers were really outstanding.
Enzo Ferrari, a real connoisseur, used to say : “Alfa workers can make gloves for flies!” And how beautiful those red “flies” were. Light and fast. They would win elegance competitions and all the most famous races.
Alfa started making beautiful and successful cars from the very beginning. Still nowadays, with Alfa celebrating its first hundredth anniversary, it is always Alfas that people love most and collectors desire all over the world. But they were not “home-made” at the time; the chassis was made by various coachbuilders, most of them from Lombardy, who would “cover” these coach-shaped pieces as their lucky owners required.
A true in-house coach building division was founded in Alfa only around the Thirties to better rationalise the already complex production system also from an financial point of view. The company would collaborate with external coachbuilders, though the Alfa management was the real decision-maker.
And Alfa was also the one to give every car a noble racing soul which, even if softened by the sinuous and light design, was never able to hide the unbridled power of its racehorses. Alfa's first Style Centre, or rather, Alfa's first Coachbuilding Design Office was established in the Forties, when in his forced idleness at Orta – where he was escaping from the turmoil of the war - Giuseppe Scarnati started “putting down” many sketches for the Alfas of the reconstruction.
That was how the first design and working teams were born, based on a common enthusiasm and enforced, if not “welded”, by solid friendships but also by productive rivalries, whose strong and unifying essence has always permeated those fruitful
environments and still does so despite the corporate production numbness of recent times. The results are now there for everyone to see and range from the small Mito to the powerful 8C Competizione. Cars that make the difference. Cars with a soul. Hermaphroditic cars with the loveliness of young girls and the strength of men. Cars that don't go unnoticed. Cars that make you feel sad when they eventually rush away.
These are the Alfa Romeos of Milan, those of the Arese Style Centre.
A Style that intends leaving a further mark in history. Right here in Milan, where the legend was born and where a monument will soon stand to remember it in time. A monument inspired by the Alfa Romeo Italian Register, on the eve of its 50th anniversary and supported by the enthusiasm of many fans all over the world. A monument that is best expressed in the renewed flair of the Style Centre staff and in the art of the Milanese artist Agostino Bonalumi.
THE ALFA ROMEO ITALIAN REGISTER INTERNATIONAL CLUB
A MONUMENT TO A STYLE
R.I.A.R. is a non-profit association that unites Alfa Romeo enthusiasts and sympathisers from all over the world.
Founded in Rome in 1962, it was among the first in Italy to study and promote the preservation of historical automobiles. Since 1968, it has been based on the Alfa Romeo premises in Milan, just a few steps away from its Museum, initially in via Gattamelata, in the old Portello district, right next to the Style Centre and then, from 1973 onwards, in the then brand-new Arese business district.
R.I.A.R. has always promoted many prestigious initiatives and events, both in Italy and abroad, in order to further enhance the Alfa image and increase people's awareness of its fascinating history. In 1968, R.I.A.R invented and organised the first historical re-enactment of the “Mille Miglia”, followed by the Milano-San Remo in 1969 and by the Targa Florio in 1973.
It was R.I.A.R’s idea to build a monument in Milan, a city whose symbol Alfa Romeos display on their bonnet – together with the city’s name for several years. A monument to celebrate the brand's cars, people and great racing victories, to be inaugurated the very day of its anniversary.
In 2008, an International appeal was launched to finance the building of this monument among R.I.A.R. members, Clubs and the many enthusiasts all around the world. Milanese architects Monica Mariani and Claudio Lo Paso voluntarily and enthusiastically outlined its structure by designing an appropriate base. However, the initial interest shown by the Management of the Alfa Romeo- FIAT Group and the subsequent meetings with the Alfa Romeo Style Centre later determined that the project of the monument was to be designed directly in-house and made in bronze. The idea was to find an obvious inspiration in the past to imagine the future of Alfa and cars in general. A slender and futuristic Alfa heading futuristically towards new achievements and renewed enthusiasms. A sinuous shape with unmistakable lines to embody the pride and values of the past while also looking towards the future.
The first choice was obviously the 6C 1750 Gran Sport of the Thirties, a legendary vehicle full of glory and fame, but still too much anchored to the past. The following and final
choice was almost unanimous and immediate, and fell on the 1900 C52 “Disco Volante” of the Fifties. A sporty vehicle made by very important Alfa designers and technicians; a car that did not obtain the racing achievements it could have reached if only the company had applied different policies, but still a modern, up-to-date and fine example of design. And the Arese Style Centre, though experiencing difficult times, was strongly spurred on by R.I.A.R's enthusiasm and starting making sketches that excited us from the very beginning. Indeed, the Arese team perfectly and immediately grasped the message that R.I.A.R wanted to launch with its monument. A real flying saucer taking off towards the future, with its traditional, much loved lines and its unique Alfa Romeo soul. And the Register approved the proposal, whose final approval was sealed by Lorenzo Ramaciotti, Head of the Fiat Group Automobile Design Division, great scholar and car enthusiast.
The company then contacted a few designers who could carry out the project. Il Cigno GG Edizioni from Rome offered the best guarantees and a consolidated expertise in the field. An Italian publisher with experience in placing monuments created by artists like Manzù and Pomodoro in New York, Francesco Messina in Catania, Igor Mitoraj in Rome, Emilio Greco and Umberto Mastroianni in Palermo. A company of indisputable management skills that was a privileged partner of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and celebrated the papacy Jubilee of His Holiness John Paul II with a contemporary art exhibition in the Pantheon in Rome, with works by Pablo Picasso, Salvator Dalì and Piero Guccione.
From the final drawings we then went on to the making of the mould, that was initially made in Arese and then moved to Turin for the finishings. This was the last work of the Arese Style Centre before it was closed down and all its materials and workforce moved to Turin. For this reason, the monument takes on an even higher value as a symbol of the centenary history of Alfa and the strong feelings it embodies.
The mould was then taken to Rome where Il Cigno followed all the manufacturing phases, from the counter mould to the wax, from the melting to the chiselling, from the final assembly to the base.
The precious and suggestive 1:10 scale model of the monument, sprung from the work and interaction between Bonalumi and the Style Centre, was also melted and made in bronze. The wonderful artwork stands tall in front of the Milan Rho Exposition since 26 June 2010. The 100 copies (corresponding to Alfa Romeo’s 100 years) of the original model are a pleasure for the eye and heart for us Alfa enthusiasts, who wanted and supported this project, but also for anyone who loves beauty, elegance, sophisticated modernity and speed, even if expressed in art, just like the Futurists conceived it.
The Multiple of Alfa Romeo's Hundredth Anniversary is thus added to the many multiples of the most important Masters of the 20th century which Alfa Romeo commissioned, from the Sixties to the Eighties, to reward its most active and loyal drivers and to confirm the tradition of good taste, culture and passion for art which always characterised it throughout its 100 years of history to confirm its all-Italian style. An ongoing tradition thanks to R.I.A.R which, throughout its almost 50 years of existence, has been able to keep it strong and alive, by combining technology and art with design and culture on the occasion of this important event.
dr.Stefano d'Amico - President of RIAR