Stories, images, games

Paolo Gioli, Quadro del movimento di una giostra 1980 ©Paolo Gioli

Faceted, fun and reflective.

A world in which childhood memories weave with fate and with life that spins and ploughs ahead.
A photographic exhibition with shots by Gabriele Basilico, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Eliot Erwitt, Luigi Ghirri, Paolo Gioli and David Seymour, to mention a few.
A sensory journey: from the paintings of great 20th century artists - such as Balla and Campigli - to the colourful manifestos of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and through to precious antique toys and a curious contemporary installation.
Meander through the imaginative world of merry-go-rounds, revelling in their childish fun and grown-up challenges.

Between childish fun and challenges for adults

Alberto Zampieri, L’Eden presso la Spianata dei Cavallegeri a Livorno
Opening times

From 23 March to 30 June 2019
Come and visit us every day Monday through Friday from 9.30 to 19.00, and Saturdays, Sunday and holidays from 9.00 to 20.00

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The fantastic world of the merry-go-round!

The origin of the merry-go-round, or Giostra in Italian, is rooted in the ancient ritual games of peasant societies, transformed through time into our modern-day, hyper-technological attractions.

Together with circuses, puppet shows and the masks of the Italian Commedia dell’Arte, fun fairs derive from the popular travelling shows of yesteryear.

With the advent of the industrial revolution, the late 18th century saw a radical transformation in the traditional “fair”, until then a place of trade, but also of entertainment, street artists, soothsayers and acrobats. As positivism got into full swing, promoting scientific and technical progress, fairs started to change appearance and purpose, introducing an increasing use of technology to attract and engage their audiences.
The Universal Expositions of the late nineteenth century - established to launch an evolving economy based on machines - transformed fairs into veritable amusement parks, with mechanical games, see-saws and merry-go-rounds.

In the course of the twentieth century, these amusement parks become known as “Luna Parks” - named after an amusement park that opened in Coney Island in 1903 - and were soon completely mechanized and, later, computerised. And so, we come to the present day.
This exhibition uses photographs, paintings, graphics and toys to celebrate the instantaneous and timeless charm of the merry-go-round. Each piece offers a visual interpretation that, while fun and playful, activates that part of our memory that evokes our childhood, the passing of time, and a sense of destiny.
Paolo Ventura, Carousel, Milano © Paolo Ventura


None of us can look at a merry-go-round without remembering. It is like an apparition: whether in an amusement park, on a suburban plot of land or in the middle of a pebbled city square, whether exposed to the sun or flooded by artificial night-time lighting, all at once it appears before our eyes, like a sudden memory.

With its colours, its music and its revolving model animals and vehicles, the merry-go-round has an extraordinary power of evocation. It needn’t call to mind a precise memory, moment or place. Often, it merely creates in us a “disposition towards remembrance”. A mysterious mechanism is set in motion, with the object of remembrance playing a twofold role: it evokes both our childhood and a sense of beauty.
Guy Le Querrec, Budapest, Thursday 1st May, 1980, cm 30 x 40. ©Magnum Photos, Paris.


The merry-go-round, along with other forms of travelling shows, pertains to the art world.
As in a game of Ring a Ring o' Roses, the merry-go-round revolves and takes us into an imaginary dimension in which life continues, always, with no beginning and no end. Everything turns in circles. Like the setting sun, which disappears, only to reappear exactly as it was. It is like being in another dimension, in a space that is simultaneously that of our childhood, that of a fantastical around-the-world trip, and that of the cosmos and the indescribable rotation of the planets. Welcome to the cyclical journey of time that eternally renews itself.
Luigi Ghirri, Scandiano, 1981©Eredi Luigi Ghirri


Suspended between reality and illusion, the merry-go-round is a direct descendent of the see-saw and, before that, of the wheel. It is the only machine not to imitate a part of the human body, its circular shape recalling the sun and the moon.

This unusual machine causes movement to itself alone, and this is done through three types of constructions: swing rides, traditional carousels with horses, and those mimicking the waves of the sea. The first two have preserved their original features almost intact, while changes to the latter have largely given rise to the more recent concept of merry-go-round.
Francesco Radino, Goteborg, 1987 ©Francesco Radino

In motion

In any merry-go-round, movement is key. To impersonate it, a fixed image - such as a photograph - is blurred, as if to show that time destroys form. This eternal conflict between movement and stillness reveals how, before the beauty of form and the joy of colour, everything else fades away before our very own eyes. “Blurring” moves us past the shot itself, the lack of sharpness giving shape to a kind of layering of time and resulting in a curious image that distorts the subject portrayed. Time becomes unstable; an evolving concept that, while capturing the sense of duration, generates a sort of destruction of physical materiality.


Associated in ancient times with war, tournaments and agriculture, horses are the cornerstones of the merry-go-round, in a symbolic interweaving of ancient combat and peasant labour. Like a magnet, the merry-go-round attracts crowds in search of entertainment, fellow neighbours and feasting communities, thus unveiling its profound social significance. And of course, the children of yesterday and today, with their smiles, their looks and kisses, are the great protagonists and faithful friends of the merry-go-round. But carousels are also popular among adults. Everyone loves them, because they derive from popular culture, conceived as they are to bestow brief yet recurrent happiness and to grant an experience of beauty to riders and onlookers alike.
Giampietro Agostini, Milano - 1995 - Piazza del Duomo ©Giampietro Agostini