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Stefano Zardini's “The pioneers' passion” takes off again

Lagazuoi EXPO Dolomiti pays tribute to the great photographer from Ampezzo
by means of a cultural approach to the 2026 Olympic Games

In 2014, the great photographer from Ampezzo paid tribute in Pop Art style to the spirit of the communities in the Alps, which more than a century ago invented the winter sport par excellence, providing impetus for a profound social transformation. The exhibition is an explosive and innovative photographic experiment made up of family archive images. It is an invitation to rediscover colours, energy and the craving for the future, which today, with the Olympics coming up, resonates louder than ever. Stefano Zardini's sharp and ironic eye combines different stories and epochs with skilful graphic interventions and links the centre of Cortina d'Ampezzo - and the Ikonos Art Gallery - to the Dolomite peaks. 

Cortina, 17th February 2023_ A little less than a thousand days before the Milan-Cortina Olympics, Lagazuoi EXPO Dolomiti - the high-tech exhibition and museum centre located halfway between Cortina d'Ampezzo and Alta Badia - begins its journey towards this great sporting and cultural event. Stefano Zardini's 'The Pioneers' Passion' inaugurates this new curatorial journey: a tribute to the great photographer from Ampezzo, a homage to his unique eye, and an extraordinary opportunity for collective remembrance thanks to an exhibition that was futuristic in 2014, when it was conceived, and that ist still cogently relevant and a reminder.

Stefano Zardini began with his monumental family archive, graphically reworking images of skiers from the early 20th century to give them new meanings, imprinting them with his style and transforming them into Pop Art. The original photos recount the birth of winter tourism in the mountains, a complete novelty at the time. Stefano Zardini does not erase or overwrite anything: he amplifies with innovative conceptual and expressive editing. And he changes history. The monochrome images of the early 20th century, regenerated by his interventions, acquire new light and anticipate what will or could be. They transmit new energy, a confidence that is now more necessary than ever in facing the challenges of the future.

The exhibition is a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Alpine communities, who 'invented' mountain tourism and skiing at the beginning of the last century. Rather than a generic faith in the future, they had the ability and desire to create it themselves, using their own resources: a pioneering spirit that - as stated by Zardini - is still needed today. The rudimentary wooden skis laced with leather straps set in motion a colourful, enthusiastic revolution leading to great dreams.
In 2014, this photo collection was a spur to regain that courage and think ahead. Today, with the Olympics just around the corner, the invitation is equally loud and clear.

The exhibition links via the Lagazuoi cable car the Ikonos Art Gallery in Cortina, where some works of this collection are exhibited, and the Dolomite peaks, which captivated the photographer's imagination from his childhood onwards. But it also connects different epochs - the turn of the century and the beginning of the millennium -  extending ideally to 2026.

"The pioneers' passion" is a bridge between generations, a direct thread with his ancestors. And it is a stage in the history of the Zardini family, a dynasty of photographers that began with his grandfather, who in 1892 started what is now the most remarkable collection of images of the Dolomites. Grandmother Antonia was the first woman photojournalist during the First World War; her son documented with his camera the Russian retreat and the 1956 Olympics. A grandson and son of artists, Stefano Zardini expanded his horizon, collaborated with numerous media and agencies and travelled to 60 countries around the world, including the most inaccessible. A photojournalist and writer for major international magazines, he came back to his mountains after having travelled around the world to devote himself to experimental projects, becoming an important exponent of Fine Art.

Even though Stefano Zardini's journey came to an end in 2019, his works continue to surprise, make us reflect and excite, circulating in international collections and reaching close and distant places. In recent years, Lagazuoi EXPO Dolomiti has already dedicated two exhibitions to him, to celebrate a figurey who, starting from the Dolomites, was able to tell stories with a universal character. And now everything is ready for the great return, from 27th May to 118th June 2023, with the images selected by Valentina Vidali Zardini, the photographer's wife and curator of this immense iconographic and imaginative heritage.