Digging Up. Atlas of the Blank Histories, a project by Lara Favaretto, presented by the Fondazione Donnaregina per le arti contemporanee and the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, is the winner of the second edition of the Italian Council 2017 call, a competition created by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Art and Architecture and Urban Peripheries (DGAAP) of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism to promote Italian contemporary art around the world.

By creating connections between History and stories and working amid different disciplines, Lara Favaretto has created a rich plotline in which different spaces and times intertwine in a continuum full of potentiality, discovery and narrative, able to critically redefine both the concept and the experience of a work of art, the exhibition, and the museum.


The project is based on a cognitive investigation of the ancient and contemporary city of Pompeii, in search of narrations and unknown stories, omitted or forgotten, interwoven with memory but also with possible narrations, hypotheses and interpretations. These stories, considered minor, but which flank History, are imprinted and have settled in the subsoil and will be brought to light and mapped through a series of drill cores. A digital publication will reconstruct the complex articulation of these stories, while the cores will first be exhibited in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii (partner of the project) and then archived in the archaeological area inside a container, a sort of Time Capsule, a “time machine” that, once sealed, will be buried in the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. A lava headstone stone from the Vesuvius, about the same size as one side of the concealed time machine, will be placed over the burial site. The plaque will represent the time’s machine shadow and will be engraved with the date of burial and that of exhumation, planned after one hundred years.


Manifesta 12 becomes an opportunity to show, for just eight days, the research methodology guiding the project, by sharing with the public the process of a work that investigates the history of a territory through the less known events that took place there. In this case, a story that has emerged during the research conducted in Pompeii will be compared with the activity and history of the Monte dei Pegni (the pawnshop) of Santa Rosalia, Palermo, in Palazzo Branciforte, which houses the exhibition. Both stories revolve around the presence and absence of objects: the findings of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, which had been stolen and then returned in recent times because considered bearers of the “evil eye”, of bad luck, as evidenced by the letters accompanying their return, and objects given to the Monte di Pietà as collateral, which were destroyed by an accidental fire that broke out during the 1848 uprisings. Likewise, the ancient finds, extrapolated from their original context, are fragments, pieces of a hypothetical mosaic impossible to reconstruct with certainty, so the personal effects deposited and then lost at the Monte di Pietà, can only be imagined through the descriptions in the historical records. The rooms of Palazzo Branciforte, imbued with narratives and events in which official and alternative history intersect, giving a tacit but allusive testimony of Palermo’s events, become thus the custodians of these finds, fragments from another context, from an ancient past, filled with suggestions and stories, while becoming ideally and temporarily also collateral through their transfer to the pawnshop (Monte di Pietà) of the City of Palermo. Together with these objects are letters, visual testimonies of forgotten side-stories, and exhibited together with a selection of historical documents related to the activity of the Palermo pawnshop, between 1560 and 1950.

By showing the process beneath the overall design of the Atlas, an attempt is made to bring out that potential intrinsic to the activity of a memory that is made by subtraction. The very identity and practices of the Palermo pawnshop, especially all those neglected stories stacked on the shelves of the Monte di Santa Rosalia, whose documentation was lost in the fire, emerge through the use of an environment deprived of its pawns, as the books that scrupulously documented the activity of the shop while reconstructing its official history. The association between the historical tomes, the selection of letters and the objects from Pompeii is guided by the investigation of the passages extracted from each text, which link to other testimonies of events, as a symptom of an annulled temporality that we try to recover.

The void left by the stolen object, which will never return to its place of origin, like that of the pawn-object that will never be returned to the owner or to the place where it was once held, are the main story. While the exploration of alternative narratives that work as a time machine, is an attempt to reconstruct a small omitted part of the historical memory of Palermo, just like the Time Capsule, which closes the Pompeian project, tries to reconstruct that of the Roman and contemporary Pompeii.


In 1801, the headquarters of the Monte di Pietà of Palermo in the “Pannaria’s plan” are insufficient to meet the functional needs of the “pawnshop”, so on November 23 of the same year, the Governor of the Monte asks to take to census the Prince of Butera’s palace in Santa Cita and destine it as the second branch of the Monte, where on December 21 the institute is located.

Between December 1801 and April 1803, the renovation works were completed to adapt the building to house the pawnshop, called Monte Santa di Rosalia, in honor of the patron saint of the city. Monte di Santa Rosalia became a sort of economic “first aid” for poor people: between 1822 and 1841 about 4 million operations were carried out for the repossession of linen and wool.

On 17 January 1848, on the occasion of the revolutionary uprisings, the building was hit by an incendiary bomb that caused the collapse of the roof and the vaults below, causing serious damages to the roof of the large stables. With the consolidation works, the columns of the stable were incorporated into the walls and once the roof was rebuilt, the attic between the first and second floors was replaced by a large wooden shelving with its service balconies, a structure that can still be seen today.

In 1929 the Monte di Pietà merged with the Cassa Centrale di Risparmio V.E. for the Sicilian provinces, an institution that continued for more than 50 years to carry out the repossession of non-precious objects. In April 1943, the bombing of the Second World War hit the building causing the collapse of the corner between Via Lampedusa and Monte Santa Rosalia, destroying the upper southern porch of the main courtyard and part of the building. In 1958 the Cassa di Risparmio incorporated the “Lauro Chiazzese” Cultural Foundation from the name of its President, who had died prematurely, and Palazzo Branciforte became its seat.

17 – 24 JUNE 2018
Opening 16.06.2018
10.30 a.m. – 7.30 p.m.



June 16
from 10.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.
(free admission)

from 17th to 24th June
from 9.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.

June 17
free admission for those accredited to Manifesta 12

Until 24th June entry at 7 euro
(visit to the Palace and the exhibition)

On 17, 23 and 24 June visits
to the exhibition curated by Civita Sicilia
(3 euro for the visit to the exhibition only,7 euros for the visit to the Palace and to the exhibition)

Closed on Monday