Stefano Pilato was born in 1965 in Livorno, Tuscany, and grew up in the town’s Borgo Cappuccini district, where his art lab is located today. He began drawing when he was a child, and cultivated a love of design and architecture through his studies at the Art Institute in Pisa.
He began to create his fish designs in the early ‘90s and enjoyed immediate success following an exhibition in a Livorno restaurant in 1993.
His works of recycled art are created by assembling objects that are found on the beach, together with scrap materials from dumps, warehouses, forgotten and unwanted things in attics and friends’ houses. In other words, Stefano gives a second life opportunity to objects, often creating extraordinary results.
What made you pursue your career as an artist?
It was a vocation, an unstoppable and constant drive to express myself through what I can do spontaneously: through drawing as a child, then through graphics and painting, and now with sculpture and the assembly of materials.
What do you try to communicate through your artwork?
The communication happens through the elements of irony and surprise, which are evident most of the times.
Why is the fish the main protagonist of your artwork?
The first fish as a subject was casual, and to me it has become an unlimited source of inspiration, along with some other characters.
Who are the artists that you admire the most?
There are many and from different periods of time, so it’s hard to select a couple. Let’s say that I don’t have a “rank” of my favorite artists. However, one great maestro for me is Bruno Munari [editor’s note: Bruno Munari (1907-1998) was an Italian artist, designer, and inventor who contributed fundamentals to many fields of visual arts (painting, sculpture, film, industrial design, graphic design) in modernism, futurism, and concrete art, and in non-visual arts (literature, poetry) with his research on games, didactic method, movement, tactile learning].
Which of your works of art is your favorite?
The one that I still have to create.
Your town, Livorno, is only 90 minutes away by car from Portovenere. Do you know the Gulf of Poets?
I know this beautiful territory, although still not as much as I would like. The sea and the local architecture have always fascinated me. To be able to work in this area is a privilege.
Tell us about your artwork that is on display at Grand Hotel Portovenere.
The artistic collaboration started after meeting new friends that work at the Grand Hotel (friendship is the thing that I look for first and foremost through my work).
I was asked to make some sculptures that could bring some character to the hotel’s Palmaria Restaurant by recreating local marine animals, and so I created a seahorse and a crab. Later, I created more fish from Mare Nostrum, and these were put on display in and around Venus Bar.
And then, last fall, I started working on the newest and largest artwork in the hotel’s hall, which was unveiled with the Spring Reopening in March 2017. It is called “Follow Me Help Me”. When I was asked to think about what could decorate the high walls of the lobby, the idea flashed immediately: a school of fish with a stylized form and with warm and cold color tones inspired by the existing décor and furniture. I created more than 100 fish using mainly recycled wood and objects of different origins. I am very pleased with the outcome.
The “final touch” of the installation resulted from the intense collaboration with the hotel’s General Manager Antonio Polesel, who suggested the creation of a predatory fish, apparently aggressive but actually ironic. The big fish follows the last of the small fish (“help me”), located opposite the first fish of the school (“follow me”).
Where else can we find your art installations in Liguria? And in Italy?
In Liguria: besides Grand Hotel Portovenere, also Galleria Sciaccheart in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre.
In Tuscany: Galleria Paoli Pietrasanta (Versilia), Galleria Paoli (Prato), Pesce Fresco (my studio in Livorno), Libreria Gaia Scienza (Livorno), Laccato Lucido (Piombino).
Elsewhere: Esmeralda Bazar (Porto Cervo), Brandstorming (Milan), Galleria il Sole (Rome), Acasa Gallery (Poncarale and Salò, Brescia), Fishart (Siracusa).