Helidon Xhixha (b. 1970) has, in recent decades, affirmed his position as a leading figure in today’s contemporary art scene, with his work going on to receive much critical success on an international platform. Upon discussing Xhixha’s iconic stainless steel sculptures, the prominent Italian art critic Luca Beatrice is quoted as calling the artist “one of the most interesting sculptors on the contemporary scene”. Currently based in Milan and Dubai, Xhixha holds a prestigious role in the international art scene sharing his innovative vision and technique through monumental examples of public art and redefining the relationship between a sculpture and its environment.
Having inherited a passion for the arts from his father, Helidon Xhixha took the decision to study in Italy, where he was able to develop his technique whilst at Milan’s prestigious Brera Art Academy. In 1998 the artist was awarded a scholarship to attended London’s Kingston University where he was given the opportunity to work with new materials, including stainless steel, that would go on to become the signature medium through which he would lay down his artistic legacy over a 15 year period. Throughout his artistic trajectory, Xhixha’s three-dimensional stainless steel sculptures have shed light upon the inherent relationship between the artwork and its surrounding environment. As famously stated by Xhixha, “I don’t sculpt materials; rather I use materials to sculpt light.”
Ever since his academic years, Helidon Xhixha has been commissioned to design works in various countries across Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and the United States. One of Helidon Xhixha’s most prolific artworks was included in the Cornice Venice International Art Fair in June 2007 to pay tribute to the victims of 9/11. The 6-meter high installation, depicting the American flag as two towers, was titled “The Renaissance of the twin towers” and has since been displayed in numerous cultural capitals such as Florence and Berlin as a reflection of our desire for hope and optimism.
In 2015 Helidon Xhixha’s symbolism and artistry was famously included during the 56th Venice Biennale; representing the Syrian pavilion. Helidon Xhixha’s floating installation “ICEBERG”, a four-meter high stainless steel sculpture, captivated audiences, garnering much attention from industry professionals and the media alike; as it floated through the Canal Grande and the Venetian lagoon. This outstanding reflective sculpture made a statement for global warming and the potential impact it could have on a place such as Venice in the near future.
Soon after, Helidon Xhixha exhibited a contemporary response to Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” titled “Everlasting” at Milan-Malpensa Airport. Twelve pillars made of polished stainless steel stood before twelve panels depicting The Last Supper painting. Each stainless steel column designed to represents one of the twelve apostles standing firmly in place around the largest, central figure, Jesus Christ, in perfect symmetry. Contrasting these slick objects, Xhixha has created a column made of dull, browned Corten steel to depict Judas, the traitor. A juxtaposition of materials highlights the themes of good versus evil, eminent notions within da Vinci’s masterpiece. Featured in such a prominent exhibition space the installation was viewed by some 20 million passing spectators.
In 2016 Xhixha’s success from the previous year lead him to present a major solo exhibition entitled “Shining rock” in the historical town of Pietrasanta on the coast of Northern Tuscany. The artworks were designed and placed across the town to accentuate Pietrasanta’s beauty and rich history. The reflective nature of the work drew over 50,000 visitors during a period of 4 months, who travelled to admire the visually striking sculptures made using marbles - coming from the Cervaiole quarry, Monte Altissimo - bronze and stainless steel. By paying homage the famous history and tradition of marble sculpting in the area, Helidon Xhixha not only made works that were relevant to their setting, but he presented a shift in his practice where he moved beyond the use of stainless steel and into the realms of exploring materials taken directly from the Earth.
During the same year Helidon Xhixha was given the ‘Public medal Award’ for Best Installation at the first ever London Design Biennale. The event at Somerset House exhibited Xhixha’s installation titled “Bliss” in the central forecourt, the most prominent location in Somerset House. Within this exhibition, that included works coming from 37 different countries inspired by the theme of Utopia, the public had the opportunity to interact, socialize and self-reflect with his sculpture. This installation was sought to blur the line between art and design in order to create a stimulating and progressive experience of Plato’s concept of ‘Utopia’ as an individual and a community in an ideal city.
The summer of 2017 Helidon Xhixha, invited in person by the Director of the Uffizi Galleries, Eike Schmidt, unveils a major new exhibition set within the stunning scenery of the Boboli Garden’s in Florence. For this exhibition the artist has sought to explore the deeply complex themes of Chaos and Order, by taking inspiration from nature and sacred geometry. The exhibition can be understood as being split into two separate sections, where a clearly discernable difference between the worlds of chaos and order are apparent. In the Limonaia of the Boboli Garden’s the artist has looked to nature in order to discover Chaos. By taking inspiration from the crystal caves of Naica, Mexico, Xhixha has designed a complex response to the seemingly random selenite formations.
For the artist’s response to Order, monumental structures have been placed in prominent outdoor locations around the Boboli Gardens, inspired by sacred geometric principles, whose roots are again found in nature. Perhaps most striking of all are the large-scale sculptures placed in front of the Palazzo Pitti; Conoscenza and Infinito. Situated at either side of the palace entrance, these works display intricate levels of geometric regularity that instantly capture the viewer’s attention.
In 2019, two major open-air exhibitions, Riflessi di Luce, curated by Eike Schmidt, presenting twenty monumental sculptures throughout the city of Lugano and Steel and Stone, held in the city of Forte dei Marmi, featuring a series of monumental sculptures by Helidon Xhixha made in stainless steel and marble.
In July 2019 Helidon Xhixha presents an environmental project called “The Twin Bottles: Message in a Bottle” in collaboration with photographer Giacomo Braglia. The monumental installation features two stainless steel bottles floating on the Venice Grand Canal in front of the Vendrain Calergi Palace creating awareness on plastic pollution in the oceans. The site specific environmental installation is designed to remain in water and to tour the world due to its ability to adapt continuously to the environment in which it is hosted, generating a new work of art on each occasion while renewing its symbolic meaning.
On invitation by the National Institute of Contemporary Art, Helidon Xhixha installs nine monumental sculptures in the historic city center of Casale Monferrato in a solo Open Air exhibition entitled “Casale Risplende”. The exhibition held from October 2020 to February 2021 is curated by Anselmo Villata.
In December 2020, “Luce, La rinascita di Venizia” curated by Klodian Dedja, witnesses six monumental installations placed at the Arsenale of Venice in occasion of an exhibition evoking rebirth and reawakening after the global pandemic.
Xhixha embraces the role of the monument not only as a solid, physical object but also as a reflection and abstraction of our external environment. His artistic trajectory has redefined the boundaries of contemporary sculpting and will continue to reshape our vision in the coming years.