A school of thought


Silvio Santini, Paolo Grassi and Mario Fruendi

Silvio Santini was born in Torano, the first village you come to in the foothills above Carrara, a town known the world over for the quality of its marble, the crowning detail for architects, designers and artists. He is therefore very close to the people who live and breathe the mountains and marble, as if it were a food in need of care and attention ready for its processing and use.

Marble, the mountains and Nature weave a game of passions and knowledge that Santini has grown up with, accompanying him in his training first as an artisan and then as a sculptor. The young Santini’s thirst to work with marble naturally led him to the Professional Marble School “Pietro Tacca” in Carrara, which he attended in the early ‘60s. Here, he met Paolo Grassi and Mario Fruendi with whom many years later, around ten years later, he would go on to found the sculpture workshop SGF in Torano.

Carlo Tarabella, Cesare Ropa, Dominique Stroobant, Silvio Santini, Paolo Grassi, Mario Fruendi, Mauro Seghetti and Kenneth Davis

It is definitely a case of “nothing happens by chance”. On finishing school, with their under their belts, all three began working as craftsmen-stone cutters. Grassi and Fruendi went abroad, the former to Switzerland and the latter to the UK, whereas Santini stayed in the town of marble and started working straight away at Carlo Nicoli’s sculpture workshop. Many years later, when the two friends returned to Carrara, the three met up again but this time not as classmates but as workmates in the same sculpture workshop.

This was in 1971 and the three, with all their experience in the increasingly advanced sculpting techniques, decided to embark upon a new challenge. It was in fact that year when they founded the sculpture workshop S.G.F. in Torano that soon became a meeting place for sculptors from all over the world. Over time, the initials S.G.F. became known as the “Torano School”, forming an informal community of artists, sculptors and marble artisans. This proved to be an ideal place for them to air their thoughts, ideas and projects, discovering the professional expertise of the three young men and brave stonecutters.

Mario Fruendi, Paolo Grassi and, sitting, Silvio Santini

The cosmopolitan environment at the workshop, combining creativity and method often led to the creation of works of art where the solution of a problem was seen as a beautiful woman to be courted and seduced. In the space of forty years, the work of Santini, Grassi and Fruendi has made the S.G.F. into a world-renowned workshop of Sculpture and Design, turning projects by sculptors, artists, engineers, architects and designers into works of art and furnishings.

Atelier SGF

Among these are the works made for Max Bill: Continuità II located at the entrance to the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt; Richard Erdman: Passage situated in the Pepsi Cola gardens in New York; Julio Silva: Pygmalion placed in the garden of the Forum des Halles in Paris; Larry Kirkland: Monument to Martin Luther King positioned in the Civil Rights Garden in Atlantic City; Philippe Stark: three marble finishings to columns situated in the Museo Alhondiga in Bilbao designed by Stark himself.

Max Bill, Continuità, Francoforte
Richard Erdman, Passage, New York
Julio Silva, Pygmalion, Parigi
Larry Kirkland, Monumento a Martin Luther King (detail.), Atlantic City

And, last but not least, the French artist Roland Baladi: the famous Cadillac weighing approximately 14 tons made on a 1:1 scale from a shapeless block of approximately 74 tons of “arabescato” marble extracted from the Cardellino quarry in the renowned village of Colonnata, a small village above Carrara.

SGF and Roland Baladì, Cadillac, Carrara