Save the Date: Exhibition on Sicilian Cart Opens June 30 at Italian American Museum of Los Angeles

carretto siciliano

The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA) will be hosting an exhibition, the first of its kind in the Southern California city, dedicated to the tradition and symbolism of the Sicilian cart.

The Sicilian Cart: History in Movement, which opens June 30, 2017, will feature two original carretti (all the way from Sicily!), as well as folk art, ancient coins, a selection of carretti-inspired looks by luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana, which has partnered in the exhibition, and a limited-edition, hand-painted refrigerator and small appliances with the Sicilian carretto theme produced by SMEG, the Italian luxury household appliance manufacturer.

"Beyond their captivating aesthetics, carretti serve as an excellent instrument through which to understand Sicily and the Sicilian soul," says Marianna Gatto, IAMLA executive director, who wrote and curated the exhibition. "The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles takes great pride in showcasing this cultural icon, and promoting understanding of Sicily itself, the island to which a great number of Italian Americans trace their ancestry."

Among the island’s most recognized symbols of folk iconography, the carretto sicilano is an ornate horse- or donkey-drawn cart that emerged in the early 1800s as a popular means of transportation. The cart’s illustrations of historic events, literary works, and religious subject matter imparted knowledge to a population that was often illiterate and assisted in the transmission of culture. Carretti illustrate the numerous cultures that left an imprint on Sicily, including the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, and French, and serve as an excellent guide for understanding the island’s multilayered history. Countering centuries of conquest and heartache with color and optimism, the carretto siciliano is said to embody the Sicilian spirit.

The automobile eventually replaced the carretto, but the carts never disappeared from the Sicilian imagination. Carretti continue to occupy a revered place within Sicilian popular culture.

For the first time, two original Sicilian carretti, loaned by the MUSCÁ Museum of Taormina, will be on display in Los Angeles along with dozens of other pieces of folk art and elements from historic carts, some of which date to the early 20th century. Ancient coins, representing over two millennia of Sicilian history, will also be on display.

The exhibition examines the carts’ iconography, the process of making carretti, the artisans who continue this cherished craft and the cart’s role as folk and popular culture icons.

The Sicilian Cart: History in Movement is open until January 7, 2018. For more information, visit the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles’ website.