Fondazione Merz



Nona Inescu, Preservers (Case for the Earth)

installation Preservers (Case for the Earth) by Nona Inescu


outcome of her residency in Palermo as part of the ad occhi chiusi award, promoted by the Fondazione Merz together with Artissima.


7 April – 12 May 2024 (opening 7 April at 12 pm) – Orto Botanico, Palermo


in collaboration with Artissima and SIMUA – Sistema Museale di Ateneo, Università degli Studi di Palermo

Preservers (The Case for the Earth), Nona Inescu’s project has its basis in the plant species present in the city of Palermo.

After having explored the city, experienced the spirit and soul of Palermo, Nona dwelled upon the power of the local flora, noting in her wanderings that most of the species are not local at all; even the famous Ficus macrophylla, an emblematic tree species that stands majestically in the centre of Piazza Marina, is not from here.

Similarly, the Jacaranda mimosifolia, found in several places in the city, including the Garibaldi Garden itself and in the inner atrium of Palazzo Butera, is a subtropical tree native to Central and South America. Thus, the artist identifies these ‘inhabitants’ as a true vegetable ‘multi-ethnic community’ that clearly echoes the characteristic of a city, Palermo, that has always been cross-fertilised and inclusive.

The artist’s research thus attempts to trace how these plant species have moved across the globe and arrived in Palermo, where they currently thrive, sometimes surprisingly becoming national symbols.

In her journey, the artist realises that the history of the movement of plants is the same as the history of colonialism. Palermo is defined by the overlapping of these histories, like multiple layers, a mosaic of species and cultures from all over the world.

Materially, therefore, Nona Inescu imagined a project that entrusts a new series of metal sculptures (containers for dry plant matter, such as flowers, roots and seeds) with her perception of this very particular contamination.

The sculptures are inspired by the anthropoid sarcophagi and funerary stelae in the collection of the Museo Archeologico Regionale Antonio Salinas in Palermo, but also by what is considered to be the most emblematic sculpture of the fifteenth century in Sicily, Eleonora of Aragon by Francesco Laurana, a masterpiece of the Regional Gallery of Palazzo Abatellis. Another source of inspiration was the Wardian Case, the innovative wooden box used to transport plants to and from the colonies, the same box that helped shape the collection of botanical gardens throughout Europe, including the one in Palermo.

Nona Inescu’s intervention elects precisely this fascinating place as the site of her intervention, a place that hosts an immense and singular variety of tree and plant species and that represents the extreme and peaceful coexistence of several species in dialogue with each other. The artist places her works by integrating them into the visitors’ route through the Gardens, in a sort of exchange between art and nature, in line with her own research and vision.