As curators, we need curiosity to keep our fingers on the pulse of the art world; a keen eye for spotting special creations; to make sure we get to display these pieces; and constant hunger to continually find, gather and present extraordinary artworks by talented creators. In short, it takes a lot of passion and dedication to create the M.A.D.Gallery collection.
We thought we were doing pretty well. Since we opened our doors in autumn 2011 (that’s right, we have just celebrated our 3rd birthday!) the M.A.D.Gallery has attracted over 15,000 visitors, who have bought over a 1,500 artworks created by more than 20 international artists and designers.
But then we met architect Bruno Gritti and it put our passion for collecting into perspective. This 75-year-old Italian has dedicated the last 50 years of his life to patiently putting together the definitive collection of rare and beautiful 19th century surveying instruments.
Designed and crafted off the back of the Industrial Revolution, these instruments, such as theodolites, tacheometers and levels, were used to literally shape the world – they helped trace the lines needed to map countries, dig canals, build roads and lay down railways.
These tools were highly precise for their era – in fact, any era. But beyond their utilitarian function, they were – and still are – stunning objets d’art. Made of gleaming brass, bronze and steel, these instruments were created by skilled artisans who had to rely on pencil and paper to draw their gorgeous designs and the dexterity of their hands to operate the tools used to finely craft and finish them.
Like many collectors, Mr Gritti never intentionally set out to build up a collection. Back in the early 1960s as a fledgling architect, he attended a conference on topography and his curiosity was piqued by the measuring instruments that featured in it. He soon acquired one antique surveying instrument for himself, then another, then more, through visits to the Mercante in Fiera in Parma and other antique fairs in Arezzo, Lombardy and Brescia.
At first, he was merely interested in ‘possessing’ these vintage tools, being able to analyse them up close and take advantage of their striking aesthetics by using them to decorate his office and house.
As the objects began to increase in number and size, and their features became more and more special, it was a natural step for Mr Gritti to begin cataloguing them and carrying out extensive research on them. Before long, amassing these devices became a major part of his life, and with each fresh acquisition came that inimitable feeling that is the privilege of being a passionate and dedicated collector.
Rarity and aesthetics gradually became the overriding criteria Mr Gritti used to select pieces. Over half a century, his collection has grown not just in quality and quantity but also in value, as these instruments became coveted collectors’ pieces.
With a heavy heart, Mr Gritti believes it is now time to hand over his collection of wonderful surveying instruments to the next generation of collectors. But for that to happen, he wanted to find the right avenue and, luckily for us, he has chosen the M.A.D.Gallery to pass on the baton. Mr Gritti saw that we shared his passion for and devotion to mechanical art and that the M.A.D.Gallery would be the perfect place to find kindred spirits with a fascination for history and an appreciation of fine mechanical craftsmanship.
So I invite you to visit the M.A.D.Gallery in Geneva and discover first-hand the Gritti collection of 19th century surveying instruments that are themselves a joy to survey!