Pieces of Art: Interview with Sicis’ Maurizio Leo Placuzzi

The mosaic, as an art tradition, has a long and storied past, dating as far back as the eighth century B.C. Pieced together through the ages from Southwest Asia to Mesopotamia and ancient Rome, the mosaic has been a form of expression — an artist’s way of communicating with the world.

“It’s a confluence of art, man and technology, an aesthetic leap towards immortality,” proclaims the website of Sicis, a high-end Italian jeweler and mosaic tile manufacturer. “Mosaic is a language that challenges limits and forces one to overcome them.”

From the company’s headquarters in Ravenna, Italy — fittingly famous for its wealth of Byzantine mosaics — Sicis launched the world’s preeminent Art Mosaic Factory to celebrate the ancient art form. Showrooms in Paris, Istanbul, Dubai and several in Asia, in addition to the Ravenna headquarters, have popped up over the years. Their works are also stateside, including the floors at the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort or New York City’s Plaza Hotel and Spa at Trump SoHo. Continuing our story, which first appeared in the Homes & Estates fall 2015 issue, we recently interviewed Maurizio Leo Placuzzi, founder and president of Sicis, to learn more about his company’s modern approach to the ancient art form.

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Maurizio Leo Placuzzi

Previews Inside Out At what point did you see the intersection between tile installations from your earlier years and art? What was the connection for you?

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi Mosaics, by their very nature, lend themselves to an infinite variety of applications. The tesserae with their different materials dance with one another and create contrasts, chromatic affinities. The result is always something new and unique. We understand that communicating art is part of our core business and confirm our own previous intuitions. The vibrations that the thousand faces of the mosaic can add in terms of light, material impact and three-dimensionality become like a sophisticated “dress.” The mosaic tesserae represent vibrant brush-strokes, so that Sicis becomes an exceptional interpreter of art projects in limited editions or in one-of-a-kind-pieces. Sicis is proof of this every day, all over the world. It fits its cloak of tiles and renders places beautiful, elegant and glamorous.

Previews Inside Out What was your intent for the Art Mosaic Gallery?

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi Sicis promotes the mosaic art at its essence, collaborating with artists, art galleries and international authorities to create, reinterpret and show off a collection of art. Sicis is the interpreter of these works of art in limited edition. This is the starting point to collect all of these projects in a unique art gallery, all together.

Sicis acquires the rights and licenses from artists and foundations with the intent to create unique and limited edition works of art that recall centuries of tradition. The special link between artist and benefactor brings us back to golden days of high art. These works of art are rich with vibrations made from the millions of facets and colors of the tesserae that reflect light and the quality of the materials alluding to three-dimensional manifestations. Beside this plan, Sicis has young graduated masters who have the ability to create by themselves the masterworks from the inspiration, creation and completion.

Previews Inside Out You see the mosaic as a “means of communication.” Can you elaborate on that concept?

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi Since 1987, Sicis has made the ancient art of mosaics the reason for researching and developing its forms of expression with a modern and decorative flair, without ever compromising the quality and tradition that link this art of the past with the present. The objectives are to bring this Italian art form to the rest of the world, spreading the mosaic decorative culture signed by Sicis. We envision the mosaic as a potential element in every interior and setting, and Sicis opens up a world of possibilities. Sicis offers an extensive portfolio encompassing high-profile hospitality, commercial, architectural, residential and retail projects around the globe. Enviably innovative in its modus operandi and committed to esteemed creative endeavour and adaptability, Sicis continues to revolutionize the world of lifestyle with poetic insouciance.

Previews Inside Out The idea that surfaces exist to be transformed into beauty…that’s an extraordinary thought — especially when faced with a blank wall.

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi The art of mosaics boasts centuries of tradition. Every day, our creative endeavors reflect our awareness of this glorious past as a common legacy; for this reason, we strive to develop innovations in mosaic technique. Thanks to our expert intuition and know-how, we are able to look into the future and breathe new life into mosaics. Sicis expresses trends, lifestyles and contemporary fashions. It is important to know how to deal with clients’ requests in order to satisfy them in a highly personal fashion with an ad hoc approach to each individual. Indeed, it is often through cultural diversities where we are creating mosaics that we come up with a trend, not only creating a surface covering but creating a fashionable setting. In this case, it is essential to know how to interpret contemporary tastes and realize that our very creations make us trendsetters.

Previews Inside Out How do you see the mosaic fitting into the Italian art tradition?

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi Sicis masters drew inspiration from the antique tradition of micro mosaics and revived it in a contemporary form, transmitting ancient emotions through contemporary jewels. Sicis Jewels are inspired by nature, flowers, animals, landscapes and by ancient art and history, too. Some of the jewels and watches are inspired by Roman labyrinths, by Byzantine Empress Theodora, who used to be a very modern figure for that time and is considered to be the Sicis inspirational muse, by ancient aqueduct systems and by laurel leaves worn by the Romans. Consider that Sicis is located in the heart of the mosaic capital city of the world, Ravenna, which is a city protected by UNESCO for the amount of mosaic and art heritage to be protected.

Legittimo Sacrilego by Francesca Fabbri

Legittimo Sacrilego by Francesca Fabbr

Previews Inside Out Can you talk about some of your most famous (or most memorable) artist collaborations to date?

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi Lots of artists who grow within the Sicis atelier create unique works of art. Miss Francesca Fabbri is an example. She ideated and realized beautiful mosaic sculptures like “La Tomba di Nyrayev,” “L’immenso in Tasca” and “Legittimo Sacrilego.” Buying the rights and the licenses of single artists, Sicis reinterprets their creation in a unique way: the photographs of Milton Green portraying the diva Marilyn Monroe are an example, or the portraits of Tiziano or Klimt. Sicis collaborates with lot of art galleries through the creation of works of art by the artists of schools creating a continuous exchange of thoughts. Sicis provides the artists with its exceptional material: the mosaic tesserae.

Previews Inside Out Her gold mosaic tesserae at the Legittimo Sacrilego museum is particularly beautiful. How long did it take her to create it?

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi Six months, more or less.

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Previews Inside Out The Sicis Mosaic Masters also interpreted the stories of the Book of Genesis through the mosaic. Can you tell us more about this?

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi This work of art was realized by our mosaic masters in Ravenna, and then it was sent to Kuala Lumpur to be installed. The panel measures 30 meters by 3.6 meters, but it also reaches 7.6 meters high and it is entirely handmade. There are more than 2 million mosaic tesserae in this panel, and it took more than 5,000 hours to realize it.

Previews Inside Out What did it mean to your company to recreate one of Italy’s most iconic pieces of art?

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi For us, this was an interesting challenge, since we had to reproduce and reinterpret one of Italy’s most iconic pieces of art. Sicis brought the ancient art of mosaic to the contemporary age. Revered for its exceptionally exquisite Italian mosaics, made in Ravenna, Sicis continues to entice by preserving its admirably high artisanal standards and seeking out cutting-edge technology, and it demonstrated by realizing this amazing work of art.

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Previews Inside Out It takes incredible patience to work with mosaic, obviously. Is there spirituality to it — to the painstaking labor?

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi By its very nature, mosaic requires the utmost precision, and Francesca Fabbri knows that harmony is the product of primal instinct and absolute mastery of technique. The more a mosaic surface is the result of spontaneous expression, the more it will resemble an animal skin, for instance, or the harmonious appearance of a leaf. With the material she uses, the actual technique requires time and a methodical approach, and it is the balance of these elements that helps her keep the spark of an initial idea alive without digressing. With mosaic, the form of expression is in its execution; the more meticulous it is, the better it can express the artistry.

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Previews Inside Out What’s next on the horizon for Sicis and the Art Gallery?

Maurizio Leo Placuzzi We continuously draw inspiration from trends, fashion and contemporary tastes, combining decorative arts through modern idioms with the craftsmanship of mosaic art, focusing on know-how as well as the quality and exclusiveness of its products. So we will continue in this direction in order to provide the art market with unique and inimitable creations.