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Artists of Ibiza

Artists on Ibiza

Ciro Intoccia-Italian Master

By Emily Kaufman



When an artist drops, unknown, into a new world and is able to glide effortlessly into the prestige circle of his trade, it makes a powerful statement. Such was th serendipitous case of Ciro Intoccia, whose fluid integration into the mainstream of Ibiza's artistic milieu says nearly all that needs to be said about his creative powers. In regard to style, his aesthetic brand of artistry can best be described as a modern-day equivalent to Renaissance art, while Intoccia himself fills the role of a latter-day Italian master.

Although he has been living in Ibiza for only five years, Intoccia's oeuvre is as well-known as that of our best long-term residents. His lion's share of recognition comes from the fact that much of his work is commissioned by top-line bars and clubs and is, therefore, on permanent public display. El Divino, Coastline, Can Fly and Kumharas are four of the popular venues marked with his distinctive cachet. It is, in fact, accurate to say that Intoccia's work epitomizes the culturally eclectic spirit of Ibiza, owing in large measure to the shrine of objets ésotériques he has created at Café Kumharas.

Intoccia Showcased at Kumharas

Among Intoccia's many interesting contributions to this café, the Shiva fountain, the Chinese dragon and the Moorish-style dining gazebo are the pieces that most immediately catch the imagination. Dreamers can often be spotted sitting near the fountain on a summer's eve, drinking in the soothing sound of splashing water and lost in private reveries. The blue-tiled Dragon that lounges along the back terrace is, in fact, a seating ensemble that easily accommodates a dozen people, positioning them directly in the line of fire of the café's many exotic dance shows. Entering the dining gazebo can only be described as stepping back several aeons to some mythological land before time became linear. Or before right angles were invented, for their calming absence is perhaps the most remarkable feature of this unique work of architecture. Put to the task of naming the style, I would have to call it 'streamline arabesque' or perhaps 'neo-Tolkien'. Interestingly, the local press has labelled Kumharas "a crossroads of meeting cultures", an epitaph that stems directly from the ethnic cocktail of Intoccia's creations. Like a wizard of form, he never fails to evoke that other-worldly appeal people have come to associate with Ibiza.

He is not, however, limited to any one artistic formula, and can adroitly recreate his inner vision in a broad array of styles and media. "I work in any medium that will produce the effect I'm after - or that happens to be on hand. I like the sandstone here in Ibiza and use it a lot," he confesses. "It's the island's traditional stone - easy to get and easy to work with. I use it for sculptures, totems, garden ponds, lots of different constructions." Because Intoccia has never worked in any field not related to artistic activity, he has covered a tremendous amount of creative turf. In his 25 years as a practising artist, he has worked as a painter, a carver, a sculptor, an architect and an exterior designer, in materials ranging from coral to marble to metal to plaster.

Old School

Recalling his years at the Instituto Statale d'Arte in Naples, where he was trained, primarily as a painter, Intoccia explains, "In addition to our painting instruction, there was also a strong emphasis on carving. Naples has a very old tradition of coral craftsmanship and is famous for its miniature coral carvings of religious and mythological figures. I ended up working as a coral carver for fifteen years in various wholesalers' workshops, as well as pursuing my own free-lance work.

One of Intoccia's most accomplished works in Ibiza is a large carving of a crucified Christ, commissioned privately for a cemetery niche. This remarkable piece, which can now be seen only in photographs, draws heavily on his early training in religious motifs. I was lucky enough to see the crucifixion before it was placed in the niche, and can attest to its power. The hanging figure of Christ is so filled with pathos - head drooping, limbs limp, ribs protruding, - that it could safely be compared to Donatello's or, perhaps even Brunelleschi's, rendering of the same theme. Like his Renaissance counterparts, Intoccia has achieved an amazing humanity and anatomical accuracy in his rendition.


Intoccia admits that his early formation in the classical canons has deeply influenced his aesthetic values - to such an extent that he is mostly unmoved by 20th century art. When asked his opinion on Frank O'Gehry Guggenheim in Bilbao (universally hailed as an opus of contemporary architecture), he shrugs, "It doesn't really speak to me. I respect the enormous amount of work that went into it, but my vision doesn't fix on the future. I wouldn't mind working with titanium though . . . " At that, his mind wanders off into the myriad possibilities, all of which undoubtedly lay buried in centuries long gone.

In effect, the signature quality of Intoccia's work can best be described as his penchant for anything that belongs to the past. The prehistoric bird that hovers over the entrance of Can Fly, for example, the stone totem that land-marks the same venue, and the visages of nymphs that only just emerge from its interior columns bear testimony to his creative bond with time immemorial.

Intoccia has never entered the gallery circuit of the here and now, either in Ibiza or in his native Naples. "I have no interest in art showrooms. My work - any artist's work - belongs in a living environment where it can bring beauty to the everyday world, where it can be enjoyed as an integral element of its surroundings." While somewhat extreme, these views have stood their holder in good stead during a long and prolific trajectory that is only just coming into full fruition.

His dream is to be given a large, completely formless space, the grounds of a house or a villa, say, and to build it up from zero. "Because I worked for so many years doing minute carvings, I now feel the need to go large," he explains. My first experience with exterior design was at Kumharas, whose owner, Maymó, gave me complete freedom to do whatever I wanted. That was when my work began to evolve toward large, open spaces and exterior design. All of a sudden I was having fun, like a kid with a new toy. Since then [1999], my vision has become much more global."

Midas Touch

Intoccia's work is rumoured to have the Midas touch. Virtually all of the establishments that have contracted his services go on to enjoy immense commercial success. Can Fly was one such venue. It had formerly been a country restaurant on the Sant Joan Road, but had never met with any degree of commercial success. Intoccia's son and daughter-in-law decided to try their luck, undaunted by the obscure location. They and a group of friends decorated the place in a born-again hippie motif with fairly good results. (Intoccia's son, Rino, is also an artist.) Somehow, though, the decor didn't quite come together and the young couple called in Intoccia fifteen days before the opening, asking for a bit of paternal guidance. He began by blocking out the space in the dining area more effectively, adding some arches and capitals, and, to make a long story short, succeeded in creating a rich, warm ambience in what was once a vast echoing hall.

Another of Intoccia's 'emergency stints' involved Coastline Café, one of last season's blockbuster venues. "They called me early in the morning on the day of the inauguration," he remembers, "asking if I could quickly come to put the final touches on the pool area. They'd ordered these huge slabs of stone to decorate the terrace and whoever delivered them had just left them lying helter-skelter with no artistic sensitivity whatsoever. I arranged them in an aesthetic motif and began carving a figure of Tanit in one of them. Obviously, I couldn't do the whole job in one day, so the piece stayed as I left it all summer. Luckily, it has that emergent quality that can pass a finished product. A lot of people probably think the goddess was meant to look like she was being born out of the stone - which isn't a bad idea either!"

Intoccia's contribution to El Divino was also a minor one, but again quite effective. Back in 1998 the club was angling for a more distinctive look. Being Italian, Intoccia recommended marble walls for that palatial touch. Eyebrows shot up at the thought of the expense, but far from overtaxing the club's budget, the project turned out to be entirely feasible: Intoccia painted the walls in a technique known as 'finto' marble, a remarkable contrivance for transforming plaster walls into elegant halls.

Teacher's Nightmare

Intoccia's art training was as exhaustive as any young apprentice could hope for. The ten years he spent at the Instituo Statale d'Arte were spent producing all manner of brilliant art . . . but doing virtually no academic work - ergo his decade-long 'tenure' at the school. The aseptic world of maths and grammar left the young pupil thoroughly uninspired, a circumstance that worked out better than might be expected. A mutually satisfying symbiosis accrued, for, as a dynamo of raw talent, Intoccia was invaluable to the institute's artistic standing. His teachers were only too willing to overlook his poor academic performance in exchange for his consistent excellence in art - and the prestige this conferred on the school. "It was almost comical," he admits. "I was hopeless at any subject other than art, and my conduct was atrocious. I never studied; I never even tried, because I didn't care. I remember my final drawing exam. We had three hours to compose a still life from objects they had placed in the patio. I spent the first two and a half-hours clowning around and helping my classmates with their compositions. Eventually, I put a few objects together and sketched them in about 20 minutes. I got an 'A'! Finally, though, they had to let me go. I was twenty-four and the situation was getting a bit ridiculous. I'll always be very grateful to them for their special treatment."


Intoccia's plans for the near future include a full agenda of private building commissions, venue design and décor, as well as an ample allotment of leisure time. He loves fishing in his small boat, cooking, and (like any good Napolitano) playing the guitar and singing serenatas. At the moment, he is vacationing in India whence he is sure to bring back a trove of fresh ideas. His patrons and admirers, I among them, wait with pleasure to see how these new influences will manifest in his art.

Thank you for your attention. Next week, it's back to business as usual with our third and final instalment on the Santa María bells. Please join us then.

Ciro Intoccia
Ciro at work on a Totem
Medusa at Kumharas
Mythical Figure
Don Quixote at Restaurant
Es Barruguet (Cala Bassa)
Madonna & Child
Neptune with Mermaid
Olive Sculpture
Exterior of Dining Gazebo
Interior of Dining Gazebo
Mythological Goat
Dragon Bench at Kumharas
Construction in progress
Detail of Capital

All Pictures Courtesy of Ciro Intoccia

If you should require any further information whatsoever on the work of Ciro Intoccia then please don't hesitate to contact this office at your own convenience.

Emily Kaufman