Fondazione Archivio Antonio Ligabue
Parma - Archivio since 1983

Augusto Agosta Tota standing next to Antonio Ligabue's "Black Widow", oil on faesite, 102cm x 134cm.

Augusto Agosta Tota standing next to Antonio Ligabue's "Black Widow", oil on faesite, 102cm x 134cm.



Founded in Parma in 1983 and chaired by Augusto Agosta Tota, since its conception the Centro Studi has always pursued, with coherence and determination, the aim of studying the figure of the artist Antonio Ligabue, making his work available according to rigorous, scientific and academic criteria, beyond the legend of the man. The Centro is also responsible for affording him a place—when the artist was still a marginal figure and his work was believed by many to be a popular aesthetic expression—among the foremost twentieth-century masters, hence, making him known internationally. It took several decades of hard work to achieve all these goals, and it involved forging relations with people and institutions of culture. It has meant continually liaising with public bodies, rigorously documenting each exhibition with complete and graphically accurate publications, assisted by only the finest intellectuals and scholars (not only Italian ones), through the activity of the publisher Augusto Agosta Tota, accompanied by the graphic work of Franko Benedetti, and, when required, collaborating with other publishers as well, beginning with Franco Maria Ricci. 

As its own cultural, ideal and historically documented patrimony the Centro Studi & Archivio Antonio Ligabue in Parma inherited the following from the Fondazione:

- an Archive of documents in copy about the artist, the information for which, gathered from 1974 onwards, is uniquely complete. The archive also includes: all the press releases mentioning the artist; copies of original films about Ligabue, published books—catalogues and monographic texts—in the various languages;

- a Study Committee that covers all the traditional functions;

- activity that over the years has proven to be of remarkable relevance.

- It has also inherited a definition of the artist’s work that is free and rigorous and that has ultimately eliminated his initial classification among the naïf artists, critically developing a new one based on the various historic methods and the results of thinking, analysis, critical reading, and interpretations that have elevated Ligabue’s work to the highest levels, in the full and complete freedom to compare differing ideas. The titles of the exhibitions, retrospectives, and commemorations organized over the years have allowed us to reconstruct the artist’s own course of interpretation, a cultural itinerary which the foundation is heir to, and which it aims to continue;

-This has made it possible to continue cataloguing the works of Ligabue, also by recording the ownership of the works; 

- to complete or integrate all the material with historical, documentary and aesthetic research concerning popular artists who are often considered to be marginal or outside mainstream academic aesthetics, even when they are actually the exact opposite, such as Ligabue and Ghizzardi, as well as others who are snubbed, such as Salvatore Fiume, for which CS&AL curated the exhibition held in the USSR in 1991 at the Tretiakov gallery and in Gualtieri in 1998, or Giorgio de Chirico as the illustrator of popular novels (at the Versiliana in 1988 and in Milan in 1989). The Centro’s rigorous scientific activity has always had a practical, operative, and communicative side, and its outcome has often been of an educational nature.

- It has paid particular attention to private collections, with entry-writing, cataloguing and the drafting of catalogues (a case in point is the contemporary art inherited by Erminia Cremonesi, widow of Angelo Moratti, whose most significant works were exhibited in Orzinuovi and Lignano Sabbiadoro). It guarantees collectors the history of each of the works and it certifies their authenticity.

- It has been responsible for the direct and proper organization and installation of major exhibitions held both in Italy and abroad, and always in prestigious public venues.

- It has continued to promote and communicate art by every means possible. 

- It has promoted and put forward the production of theatre performances and, therefore, tours in theatres both in Italy and abroad.

- It has expanded editorial collaborations.

- It has provided collaboration and the choosing of works that guarantee the relationships with the owners, and it has offered scientific and practical consulting to public institutions that wish to organize exhibitions, displays, or other events with the artists whose works are the focus of the Centro Studi (Barbara Sillari, Nerone, Afro Daolio, Carlo Baruffaldi, Mario Pavesi).

- One of the Foundation’s goals is to welcome the cultural, promotional, organizational, functional, and scientific legacy implemented in toto over the decades by the Centro Studi & Archivio “Antonio Ligabue” in Parma, of which it considers itself to be, to all effects and purposes, both the heir and continuer, with the broadest range of action possible, from all points of view, and in total freedom.

- The Foundation is the rightful owner of all the copyrights for the events, published by any means and preserved, organized and held previously by the Centro Studio & Archivio Antonio Ligabue in Parma and by Augusto Agosta Tota Editore.

- Its task is to further officialize, if possible, and complete—or submit to further study—the Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings of Ligabue, curated in 2005 by Augusto Tota and Marzio Dall’Acqua, which must be enriched with new paintings, but also with entries for the artist’s sculptures, drawings and engravings, ultimately publishing volumes on the latter works. Each work is to be accompanied by a complete identifying description, including annotations concerning previous history (authentications, exhibitions, publications, etc.), specifying ownership, the location of the work and the recording of anyone who inherited or sold one or more of the works.

- Its task is to provide, upon request, assessments that correspond to the market value in a situation as fluid and specific as that concerning art.

- Its task is to continue its cataloguing work for other artists as well, including curatorship and efforts to publish catalogues raisonnés, as was the case with the first Catalogue Raisonné for the work of the painter Pietro Ghizzardi (1906-1986) in 2013, curated by Augusto Agosta Tota and Marzio Dall’Acqua, or of monographic texts, exhibition catalogues or any other form of communication.

- With a view to the aforementioned inheritances, also as concerns Augusto Agosta Tota Editore, the Foundation can provide services in addition to the cataloguing of private and public art collections or relative to individual artists, in art publishing (catalogues, monographic journals, other media), with an actual graphic studio for work in publishing, advertising, planning, exhibition literature for exhibitions and fairs, photographic services for works of art: paintings and sculptures. 

- Lastly, it communicates and collaborates at a national level with other countries, international organizations, bodies and institutions, in the freest of forms, in order to put forward, promote, support, and organize every form of initiative as part of this operative continuity, with no local restrictions.


Ligabue and Augusto Agosta Tota

Augusto Agosta Tota himself had a relationship with Ligabue that went way back: it datedto the early 1950s when, after years of hardship and sacrifice, the artist was finally becoming famous for his work. Agosta Tota acted as his art dealer, and together, in spite of the artist’s surly, mistrustful personality, they become closer as friends than as business partners (at the time, a painting by Ligabue would fetch fifteen/twenty thousand lire).

Today, Agosta Tota is well-known both in Italy and abroad as the artist’s most qualified ambassador. Thanks to his suggestions concerning the acquisition of works by Ligabue, he has enriched the most prestigious private collections in Italy, and with the help of the Centro Studi, for years he has fought hard for a complete critical reappraisal of the artist’s work, and for its dissemination around the world: among the many events are the exhibitions held in Toronto (’78) at the same time as “Il Premio delle Americhe”, in Milan (’80) at Palazzo dell’Arengario, in Paris (’82), and in Orzinuovi (‘83).

It goes without saying that the exhibitions and the various other events have always been promoted together with public institutions and bodies, in prestigious public venues, and with the involvement of the Italian Ministries of Cultural Heritage, Foreign Affairs, as well as of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the Heads of the Regions and Cities.


The Centenary of the Birth of Ligabue Celebrated in Zurich and Gualtieri

The success of the exhibition held in Orzinuovi (BS) in 1983, during which forty unpublished works were displayed, marked the start of a general cataloguing of the artist’s work, a process that took decades because of the rigour that it has always pursued. It was also the opportunity to create the Centro Studi & Archivio Antonio Ligabue: a private entity that has always worked in the manner of a public institution in order to guarantee the artist’s interests and his recognition, unconditionally so, often coming up against the prejudice and bad faith of others.

After the Centro Studi was established its activity intensified in time, thanks to the exhibitions held in Cencenighe Agordino (’84) and Lerici (’85), as did its ever-growing public and critical recognition, increasingly prestigious sponsorships, starting from the Patronage of the Presidency of the Republic, and the joint presentation of other artists who were contemporaries of Ligabue: from the exhibition in Viterbo (’90) to the one in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (’95), to the great travelling retrospective of ’96 (Gualtieri, Cencenighe Agordino, Modena, Naples) and to the series of events in 1999, the centenary of the artist’s birth, inaugurated with a great retrospective exhibition in Zurich in one of the temples of contemporary art: the Kunsthaus Zürich, designed by Karl Moser and Robert Curjel, built in 1910, where Ligabue’s works were placed alongside masterpieces from the museum’s own permanent collection: Edvard Munch, Alberto Giacometti, Johann Heinrich Füssli, Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Paul Signac, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Giorgio de Chirico, Paul Klee and Georges Braque, among others.

The exhibition in Zurich, inaugurated by the Italian ambassador to Switzerland, withan attendance of approximately two thousand visitors, was remarkably successful; after Paris, which shall be discussed further on, it reconfirmed the artist’s European status, his quality as an original master. Indeed, in the following major retrospective hosted by the Palazzo Bentivoglio di Gualtieri, a section of the retrospective compared Ligabue’s portraits with those of the major twentieth-century artists. At the start of the new millennium the same exhibition was transferred to Rome, to the rooms of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, in the monumental complex of San Michele a Ripa Grande. Recently restored, this great architectural structure on the Port of Ripa Grande, which was at one time an apostolic hospice, was founded between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as a home for orphans and the elderly; it also served as a juvenile and women’s detention centre. The Antonio Ligabue exhibition, inaugurated by the Minister of Cultural Heritage Giovanna Melandri, at the same time as the Jubilee of 2000, made it possible for visitors to see the restored spaces of this prison for juveniles, built in 1704 by Carlo Fontana, at the behest of Clement XI. It was the first building used for this purpose in history.


Ligabue and Other Protagonists of Contemporary Art and Culture

Antonio Ligabue was consecrated by the Centro Studi via a selection of his masterpieces, beautifully reproduced in Toni, a deluxe edition published by Franco Maria Ricci, and presented in 2001 at the Casa del Mantegna in Mantua and in Arezzo in the Galleria d’arte Contemporanea (2002). It was thanks to the exhibition in Mantua that Franco Maria Ricci, who had published a seminal monographic text on Ligabue in 1967, and who more than once, over the years, had dedicated books (in French, Spanish, and German as well) to the artist, began collaborating both with the Centro Studi and the Augusto Agosta Tota publishing house. This collaboration continued into the following decades, as we shall see further on.

In 2003 Ligabue went back to Orzinuovi, twenty years after the first major retrospective of 1983, accompanied by two important figures who had so much influence on his artistic career: Marino Renato Mazzacurati and Cesare Zavattini. 

TheCentro Studi and Augusto Agosta Tota have followed the artist’s career with passion, dedication, and professional skill: their love of art has encouraged them to extend the same care and interest to other great Italian artists as well: this has included exhibitions of the works of Giorgio de Chirico (La Versiliana - 1988, and Milan - 1989), among others, and the major shows dedicated to Salvatore Fiume in Moscow and Leningrad (1991), and the retrospective held in Gualtieri (1998) a year after his death.


Descriptive Entries for the Paintings

In 2005, after years of research and study, the Centro Studi published the two-volume “Catalogo Ragionato dei Dipinti di Ligabue” (Catalogue Raisonné) edited by Augusto Agosta Tota and Marzio Dall’Acqua, where a critical interpretation of the works—conducted and written by a team of the finest writers of entries—was combined with the history of the works’ ownership and bibliography. Every effort made is to be attributed entirely to the Centro Ligabue’s scientific department. The first result of this painstaking analysis of the artist’s known pictorial output—868 paintings—led to the accurate dating and understanding of an immense number of works, as well as to an accurate definition of the artist’s three canonic periods of activity. It has continued to modify the scenario of sensitivity and culture that Ligabue strongly contributed to determining in twentieth-century Italian painting. This is the truest and greatest result achieved by the Centro Studi since it was founded several decades ago: not only is it responsible for a rigorously scientific interpretation of the artist’s work, his life, and his relations, reaching a peak in 2015 with the collaboration with the Roman publisher Castelvecchi for the publication of Marzio Dall’Acqua’s monographic work Ligabue, but it has also helped to overcome the unfounded bias and assumptions concerning the quality of the artist’s works. Thanks to the intelligent, unceasing efforts of the Centro Studi in Parma, today Ligabue is considered one of the greatest figures of European art, equal to the very best.

The year 2005 also witnessed the commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the death of Antonio Ligabue with an official exhibition in Cencenighe Agordino, his mother’s birthplace, from 27 May to 25 September.


Increasingly Prestigious Successes

Ligabue returned to Milan in 2008, almost three decades after the first exhibition that was held at Palazzo dell’Arengario in Piazza Duomo (1980). This time the venue was the prestigious Palazzo Reale. Antonio Ligabue. L’arte difficile di un pittore senza regola, held from 20 June to 4 November, and curated by Augusto Agosta Tota, is no doubt the greatest exhibition of Ligabue’s works ever held: over 250 works, including 215 oil paintings, fifteen of which never seen before.

In 2009 the Centro Studi provided scientific consulting for the exhibition Arte, Genio e Follia held from 30 January to 25 May in Siena; the project, which was promoted by the City of Siena and curated by the Fondazione Mazzotta in Milan, focused on the theme of the relationship between art and psychological disorders in light of seminal studies of a phenomenological nature. Works by Messerschmidt, Van Gogh, Munch, Kirchner, Picasso, de Chirico, Max Ernst were on display, among others. Ligabue was also present with thirteen of his most interesting and significant canvases.


Thirty Years after the RAI film: Nocita and Bucci Again

In 2009, the Centro Studi co-produced with Rai Trade and Officina della Comunicazione the documentary film Antonio Ligabue: fiction e realtà, directed by Salvatore Nocita and narrated by Flavio Bucci. The film premiered at the Rome International Film Festival (15-23 October 2009) and it was also shown at the “Film, Fashion and Art Fest” in Los Angeles (28 February - 6 March 2010).  The film in DVD format was distributed in the newsstands in the month of October by the publishing group Repubblica l’Espresso. The venue of the Festival (now Festa del Cinema), founded in 2006, was (and still is ) the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome. Designed by Renzo Piano, in terms of visitors it is number one in Europe, and second in the world after the Lincoln Center in New York. In this vast complex of structures having different functions, between the Santa Cecilia room and the Sinopoli room, visitors can see the remains of a Roman villa that was unearthed as the complex was being built. The discovery of the remains resulted in a substantial change in Piano’s original project, and findings can be viewed in the small museum located under the cavea. In this museum space, at the same time as the Festival, the Centro Studi organized an exhibition comprising eighty paintings entitled: "Antonio Ligabue: espressionista contemporaneo", inaugurated by the President of the Italian Republic Luigi Scalfaro. 

This wasn’t the first collaboration with the director Salvatore Nocita and the actor Flavio Bucci, unforgettable in the role of Ligabue in the RAI production of 1978, with a script by Arnaldo Bagnasco and Cesare Zavattini: the three televised episodes, which won the “Premio delle Americhe” in Montreal for the television series category, led to the making of a film, shown in movie theatres on the occasion of the world premiere in France; furthermore, in 1982 Augusto Agosta Tota, in collaboration with Marzio Dall’Acqua, organized a major exhibition in Paris, with two venues at the same time: the Italian Cultural Institute and the Galerie Ratié. Ligabue was introduced and honoured by the title of the article Ligabue, la différence, which spread over nine columns in “Le Figaro”. The comparison was with Van Gogh, to whom the artist has often been likened, whether or not justifiably.

On their trip back to Italy, the works were shown at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The enthusiasm expressed during these events sowed the seeds that led to the founding the following year (1983) of the Centro Studi & Archivio, whose mission was to study Ligabue—thefigure of the man and the work of the artist—with the assistance of some of today’s greatest critics and scholars. 


The Critical Path to a Definition of Art: In-depth Analysis of Madness

In 2010 the Centro Studi organized the exhibition RUGGITO. Antonio Ligabue: la lotta per la vita at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Palazzo Pitti in Florence (30 October 2010 - 16 January 2011), which isolated and compared a series of masterpieces recording the existential vision of the artist’s vital conception. This was the start of a series of exhibitions, as always documented, discussed, and studied in dedicated catalogues, on the intriguing theme of the artist’s “madness”, starting in 2011 with the retrospective Antonio Ligabue. La follia del genio held at the Fondazione Magnani Rocca di Mamiano in Traversetolo (Parma); from 12 March to 26 June, about 150 works, including oil paintings, drawings, sculptures and engravings were on display. On that same occasion, visitors were able to enjoy the performance written by Elisabetta Salvatori with Marzio Dall’Acqua amd performed by the author under the direction of Flavio Bucci. The title of the text, which was edited by Augusto Agosta Tota, was Delicato come una farfalla fiero come un'aquila - Il mondo libero di Antonio Ligabue.

 Full recognition for the critical and interpretative results achieved over the years by the Centro and its scientific collaborators came in 2012 with the request to lend works by Ligabue to the exhibition Novecento italiano. Passione e collezionismo—held at the Museo Civico di Bassano del Grappa from 20 October to 20 January 2013—and in 2013 to the exhibition Borderline, artisti tra normalità e follia, held at the MAR in Ravenna from 17 February to 16 June, curated by Claudio Spadoni, for the section dedicated to Ligabue.

From 11 July to 6 October 2013 the Centro Studi collaborated on the exhibition Ligabue “Toni” e la sua arte nel racconto di Cesare Zavattini, held at the Villa Franceschi Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea and Villa Mussolini in Riccione.

As part of the cultural programme sponsored by the 2015 Milan Expo the Centro Studi took part in three events of considerable cultural importance:

- Museo della Follia. Antonio Ligabue-Pietro Ghizzardi, at Palazzo della Ragione in Mantua (18 May 2015 - 10 January 2016). The event, produced by the Lombardy Region and curated by Vittorio Sgarbi in his role as “Ambasciatore Expo alle Belle Arti”, was organized by Augusto Agosta Tota.

- Arte e Follia. Antonio Ligabue-Pietro Ghizzardi is the title of the exhibition, curated by Vittorio Sgarbi and organized by Augusto Agosta Tota, at Franco Maria Ricci’s Labyrinth (28 May - 31October 2015) in Fontanellato near Parma; on display were 30 masterpieces by Antonio Ligabue, and 48 paintings by Pietro Ghizzardi.

- Il tesoro d’Italia, curated by Vittorio Sgarbi at the Milan Expo branch of Eataly. For this exhibition the Centro Studi exhibited one work by Ligabue and one by Ghizzardi, representing Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy, respectively.

The theme was further analysed in 2016 during Museo della Follia. Antonio Ligabue-Pietro Ghizzardi, held in Catania at the Castello Ursino from 22 April 2016 to 12 February 2017, and in the exhibition Arte e Follia. Antonio Ligabue-Pietro Ghizzardi, which opened during the same period in the Centro Studi in Gualdo Tadino (PG) (from 18 April to 30 October 2016). 


The Merger between the Fondazione Archivio Antonio Ligabue Parma – Archivio since 1983 and the Fondazione Cavallini Sgarbi

The cultural alliance between the Fondazione Cavallini-Sgarbi and the Fondazione Archivio Antonio Ligabue Parma, although recently formalized, actually dates back in time. It is first of all based on an intense collaboration of many years with Vittorio Sgarbi, the heart and soul of the Fondazione, which has resulted in some major exhibitions where Ligabue is compared with Ghizzardi: the show at Franco Maria Ricci’s Labirinto della Masone in Fontanellato in 2015, the exhibition “Museo della Follia”, created by Sgarbi, held first in Mantua at the Palazzo della Ragione and then at the Castello Ursino in Catania, and, lastly, the exhibition in Gualdo Tadino in 2016. 

Both institutions’ mission is to base their activity on “methods of research”, to educate people about beauty and artistic quality, with particular interest in collecting. Both institutions liaise with the outside world through exhibitions, shows, conferences and other events, and anything that helps to achieve the goal of disseminating the culture and the knowledge of art, while at the same time preserving their independence so that they can function separately.



Vittorio Sgarbi


Marzio Dall'Acqua


Pascal Bonafoux, storico dell’arte
Gianni Calloni, avvocato e scrittore
Luigi Cavallo, critico d’arte
Marzio Dall’Acqua, storico dell’arte
Dalia Gallico, presidente corso di laurea, curatore
Gustavo Marchesi, scrittore e critico musicale
Renzo Margonari, critico d’arte
Gabriele Mazzotta, editore
Gianfranco Negri-Clementi, avvocato e art advisor
Carlo Arturo Quintavalle, storico dell'arte
Franco Maria Ricci, editore
Michele Saponara, avvocato e consigliere Expo Milano 2015
Marco Scansani, storico dell'arte
Vittorio Sgarbi, critico d’arte