Unlock the Keys of Unity: An Interview with Alfred Mirashi Milot

TEXT:CAFA ART INFO    DATE: 2023.11.19

MILOT with the sketch Key of Today, in his studio in Florence, Italy.jpgMILOT with the sketch Key of Today, in his studio in Florence, Italy. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

Coming from one of the most violent periods in the history of Europe, Italo-Albanian artist Alfred Mirashi Milot launches a message of peace with his “keys.” The keys in his paintings, sculptures and installations that have ceased to be useful anymore as they now have the ability to open things of reality, of the spaces of confrontation and relational possibilities that everyday become omitted and forgotten. Being a deeply passionate and ambitious artist, Milot tries to build connections and exchange experiences in his works with keys remaining as the icon of his artistic identification. For him, the symbolic collapse of broken keys stands for the sincere interaction between various people and cultures. With his installations, Milot wants to share his aspiration with the world: “We must not keep the doors closed, everyone must have the opportunity to realize their dreams.” 

MILOT and Passepartout, 2012; Mixed technique, 360x120x54cm, Museo Arcos di Benevento, Italy.jpgMILOT and Passepartout, 2012; Mixed technique, 360x120x54cm, Museo Arcos di Benevento, Italy. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

Alfred Mirashi Milot is a contemporary ‘69 artist living and working in Florence, Italy. He graduated in Painting from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in 1999, where he won a scholarship to the University of Art and Design in Loughborough, England. 

In 2003, he exhibited at the Museo del Maschio Angioino in Naples with his own solo exhibition “Le veneri di Milot” curated by Francesco Poli and Eduardo Cicely. In 2010, he won the “Award of Excellence” from the review of the Naples Cultural Classic. During the 2012 Olympics he won the gold medal in painting at the Barbican Centre Museum in London. In the same year, he was invited to take part in the VI edition of the Beijing International Art Biennale at the Beijing National Museum. In 2014, he participated in the “Open 14” collection, Venice Lido, an international sculpture and installation exhibition curated by Paolo De Grandis. In 2015, he won first prize at the Water Cube Museum in Beijing. 

7 Keys, 2015; Installation with 7 plates and 7 keys, 350x50x30cm, Florence.jpg7 Keys, 2015; Installation with 7 plates and 7 keys, 350x50x30cm, Florence. First Prize at the Rome Art Biennale in 2016. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

In 2016, he received the accolade of Honorary Visiting Professor at Shandong University of Art and Design in China. In the same year, he was the curator of the international sector of the 6th Photography Biennale in Jinan, Shandong, China. While in Rome, he won the first prize of the exhibition “Excellencies of Contemporary Art” curated by Francesco Gallo Mezzeo in 2016. In 2017, he was the curator of the solo exhibition of the international photographer Zeng Yi at the National Museum of Tirana. He exhibited in a double individual exhibition “Action and Thought Gigi and Milot” at the Royal Palace of Turin curated by Anselmo Villata. He participated in the 10th edition of “Dilution” Biennial of Paper Works in Turin and his solo exhibition “Beliefs” was presented at Tornabuoni Gallery in Florance curated by Lucio Trizzino. His permanent sculpture in Lizzanello was realized in the collection “Art and Human Rights” curated by Massimo Guastella.

The Key to Cervinara, 2017; Corten steel 2000 cm, Public monument, Cevinara (AV), Italy.jpg

The Key to Cervinara, 2017; Corten steel, 2000 cm, Public monument, Cevinara (AV), Italy. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

In 2018, he created the permanent 20-meter sculpture “The Key to Cervinara” curated by Peppino Vaccariello. In 2019, he exhibited in Beijing at the exhibition “International Artist and Children’s Art” curated by Liu Ruowang. In the same year, he exhibited at the Arcos Museum of Contemporary Art in Benevento in “The Key to Humanity” curated by Ferdinando Creta and Nello Valente. In 2020, he created the largest sculpture in Europe “The Key of Montevergine” where the artistic director was Michele Stanzione. By the end of 2020, he participated in the Jinan Art Biennale 2020. Conceived by MILOT, The Keys of Unity is a latest collection of giant, individually designed sculptures placed around the world, where people can congregate, converse, debate, find common ground and embrace their differences. 

CAFA ART INFO: Being an Italian artist of Albanian origin, you have used the “key” as an iconic visual element in your work which is highly recognizable and acclaimed in Europe. What has prompted you to use the artistic symbol of "key" as the motif and main visual element in your creations? Why is each of them a bent "key"?

MILOT: As artists we are always in a continuous creative search for a personal artistic language strongly marked by our origins and lived experiences. The idea of the Bent Key is a message of current European and global events... there are twists and turns in the middle.

CAFA ART INFO: Your artistic expression often stems from your individual experience of growth, such as being a member of immigrants, thinking about racial and regional cultural differences and the plight of immigrants, etc. So why do you choose public art as an outlet to make a positive appeal? In your practice, how do you think public art can fulfill its social function?

MILOT: I was born in Albania, a country geographically in Europe but outside the EU. A beautiful country with many cultural and political facets, a country in the heart of the Mediterranean, Balkans and for centuries an old bridge between West and East.

I have lived in Italy for more than 30 years and I am an Italian citizen. My immigrant experience, is not only individual but also collective and marked by difficult situations, my artistic growth too. I left in '91 along with the first Albanians from Durres to Bari on a commercial ship to discover the world after a great disturbance that lasted 45 years for the Albanians blocked by dictatorship and poverty. Unfortunately, today's society still lives with prejudices, where many think that one culture is superior to another, but my thoughts are different, cultures must create a dialogue, only in this way can we create cultural richness, openness and be ready to welcome everything that it's new and diverse. The most direct message an artist can give is his work with public installations, where citizens see his works every day, outdoors while they take their children to school, go to work, go for a walk. The Key is a great invitation that we must stop and reflect on, as big as the size of the work itself.

Key of Today in Naples, 2023.jpgKey of Today, Naples, 2023. Monumental work, 20mx10mx10m. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

CAFA ART INFO: As your public sculptures themed on “key” have "unlocked" more and more cities, coming to Naples, Tirana and other cities, you will also become the artist with the largest number of outdoor super-large sculptures in Europe. Why do you want to bring your "Key" to so many cities? Does this "migration" also form a part of the expression of the "Key" series?

MILOT: The first sculpture was in the in the Square of Lizzanello, Lecce, the second in Cervinara, the third was created for Montoro (AV), while the “Key of Today” sculpture was installed in Naples. A giant sculpture, 20 meters wide and 10 meters high, in collaboration with the Municipality of Naples and two art companies, Mille Volti Italy and Jean Wolf Company of Los Angeles.

MILOT with the Albanian Minister of Culture Elva Margariti and the Italian Ambassador in Tirana Fabrizio Bucci.jpgMILOT with the Albanian Minister of Culture Elva Margariti and the Italian Ambassador in Tirana Fabrizio Bucci. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

Instead, in Shkoder, a historic city in northern Albania, the large sculpture will be positioned at the main entrance of the city as a symbol of dialogue. This is a project of the Ministry of Culture of the Albanian Government and the Mayor of Shkodra, Mr. Benet Beci.

CAFA ART INFO: You have represented Italian artists in the first Jinan Art Biennale held in Shandong, China in 2020, and as a curator, you have also curated some Chinese contemporary art exhibitions in Italy. What is your relationship with Chinese art? Can you talk about your observations on the development of contemporary art in China?

MILOT: I have participated in many Contemporary Art Biennials around the world. The last one was in Jinan in Shandong. This time I participated with my paintings and I am happy that so many international artists were invited to the Biennial.

Mediterranean corner, diptych 180x280 cm Work exhibited at the Jinan Biennial in Shandong.jpgMediterranean Corner, diptych 180x280 cm, Work exhibited at the Jinan Art Biennale in Shandong. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

I have curated many exhibitions both in Europe and China. In Italy it is different compared to China because your museums are new and have enormous spaces, I found this intercultural exchange between different artists from the world very interesting.

I have met many Chinese artists, painters, sculptors, and photographers, I seriously think that within a few years Contemporary Chinese art will be the most attractive in the world. Not only in the creative side but you have great power in the organizational aspect.

CAFA ART INFO: You have purified symbolic imagery in your work to touch upon the increasingly acute issues of identity politics in the context of globalization. What makes us curious is that when you go to other parts of the world and work in different cultural contexts, for example, holding exhibitions and conducting curatorial work in China, what new experience does it offer you, for example, a different perspective on identity ?

MILOT: I think art has never had borders. It’s a fantastic form of pacifist dialogue. Seeing international exhibitions where artists meet is very beautiful, communicating with each other and discussing creative and personal research, creating and sharing identities as artists.

Corner of the East. MILOT.jpgCorner of the East, 50x70cm, work exhibited at Villa Strozzi in Florence
 Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

CAFA ART INFO: "The Keys of Unity" is an international project that you have officially launched in 2023. The huge twisted key sculpture was exhibited for the first time in the form of "Key of Today" from March to June this year in Naples, Italy. How did you envision and start this project? What thoughts and expectations do you have for subsequent sculptures "The Dream Key" and "The Water Key"? What are the different considerations for the different shapes of the "Key" series and their interaction with different cities and public environments where they are exhibited?

MILOT: It is an international project that I am carrying out thanks to Jean Wolf Company and the Mille Volti Association.

“Today's Key” will go through various European cities, sending the message to all citizens of the world that dialogue is the most beautiful form of respect for any culture. It started in Naples, in one of the most historic Piazza in Italy, more than 700 years ago and will soon go to Brindisi, Florence, Barcelona, Paris, Berlin and many other European cities.

Albanian Key , rendering della scultura che sarà messa alla entrata della città del nord Albania a Scutari.jpgThe Key of Today will be implemented at the entrance to the city of Scutari in Albania. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

I have another dream that I am going to conclude with the city of Boston "Key of Dream" and the message of the great Martin Luther King, where the world needs to seriously begin to live in peace and no one should think of being superior but dialogue civilly. Every citizen has the right to make his dreams come true.

CAFA ART INFO: In addition to sculpture, painting is also one of your main creative methods. At the same time, you also participated in the planning of the international photography works for the 9th Jinan International Photography Biennale. In your opinion, what is the significance and influence of cross-cultural and trans-disciplinary artistic creation (or diversified artistic creation) in the current international cultural and artistic environment?

MILOT: I graduated from the prestigious Brera Academy in Milan, in Painting. Today's artist expresses himself in any language and form of Contemporary Art, Painting, Sculpture, Installation, Video Art, Photography or Performance etc. The important thing is not to copy, to have a personal identity and language, different from another artist, it is a way to compare ourselves as an artistic exchange. I must say that the international artistic environment is a bit in crisis, maybe. There is a lack of new creative ideas, but every one within us must never give up to find professional happiness, not just commercial interest.

Mediterranean corner 2020, Florence. 10x120 cm mixed media work exhibited at the National Museum in Albania.jpg

Mediterranean corner, 2020, Florence. Mixed media, 10x120 cm, exhibited at the National Museum in Albania. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

Primatus Petri, 2017; Iron, wood, resin, fabric, gold leaf, 130x160x200cm , opera esposta al Museo Comunale di Pietrasanta, Italy.jpg

Primatus Petri, 2017; Iron, wood, resin, fabric, gold leaf, 130x160x200cm , opera esposta al Museo Comunale di Pietrasanta, Italy. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

The Venus of Milot, 2010; Mixed media, marble, alabaster, acrylic, 63x33x18cm, esposta al Museo Pretorio di Certaldo in Toscana.jpgThe Venus of Milot, 2010; Mixed media, marble, alabaster, acrylic, 63x33x18cm, esposta al Museo Pretorio di Certaldo in Toscana. Photo Courtesy Michele Stanzione.

CAFA ART INFO: You have expressed through your own creation: "We cannot close the door, everyone must have the opportunity to realize their dreams." For you, what is your artistic dream? How many dreams have been achieved so far? And please share your current and future creative plans.

It’s not easy to give a right answer. In the future I would like to put a large installation of mine in the Forbidden City, in Beijing because it goes well with my ideas, my universal message, there must not be closed places and the “Key of Mine” is perfect, because as once it was forbidden, but today everyone comes to see this magical city. Now for Albania I’m starting to create the large 35 meter sculpture "Albanian Key" in the city of Shkoder. Also, I'm finishing another sculpture in the city of Jinan, where it will be placed in front of the Zeng Yi International Museum and Tianshian Experimental School, which is called “Key of Infinity”.

Dreaming is beautiful but it is important to dream big because the effort is also very great. Never think that the door won't open and dialogue honestly first with yourself and then with others.

Image Courtesy of the Artist, edited by CAFA ART INFO.