Together with the City of Palermo, Manifesta 12 has inaugurated its first major venue in July 2017, one year ahead of the biennial’s opening. After a period of inactivity and inaccessibility to public, an iconic historical theatre Teatro Garibaldi reopened its doors with a special pre-biennial programme “Aspettando Manifesta 12” (Waiting for Manifesta 12). The programme invites Palermitans to pro-actively learn about Manifesta and share ideas about the future of their city. It features an archival exhibition on past Manifesta editions; a library with a dedicated kids section; an all-day café; and a programme of activities including free guided tours, creative workshops with artists, film screenings, Manifesta 12 Cook & Talk social dinners and diverse collaborations with local festivals and organisations. The archival Manifesta Cultural Histories exhibition is on view until the end of December 2017, while the Aspettando Manifesta 12 pre-biennial programme will continue into the next year, with a free entrance.
During the biennial, Teatro Garibaldi will function as the main hospitality and meeting point for Manifesta 12, enhancing the café and library with ticket sales, retail and visitor welcome points. It will also host the public programme, including debates, workshops and film screenings.
Teatro Garibaldi is located in the Kalsa neighborhood of Palermo, a historical Arab quarter built in the 9th century and characterised by a dense network of orthogonal streets. Teatro Garibaldi has a long and complex history of over 150 years. Originally built in the gardens of Palazzo Ajutamicristo and later expanded by Moncada family, Teatro Garibaldi was transformed into a daytime wooden theatre by a musician and composer Pietro Cutrera and was inaugurated on August 15, 1861. The newspapers of the time mention that Garibaldi himself attended “Romeo and Juliette” in the theatre in 1862. Between the first and second World Wars, the theatre faced a period of abandonment, occasionally hosting boxing matches.
From 1966 till 1970, the theatre went through different hands and was eventually closed in 1970s, significantly deteriorating in the next decade. In 1983, the City of Palermo acquired Teatro Garibaldi, re-inaugurating it as an active theatre in 1996 with the Hamlet by Carlo Cecchi. Led by artistic director Matteo Bavera, in the next decade the theatre featured productions and co-productions with Carlo Cecchi, Emma Dante, Peter Brook and Wim Wenders, who also shot a scene of his film “Palermo Shooting” there.
In 2007, the theatre closed for renovation, which was completed in 2009 including the restoration of the ceiling frescoes visible today. In the following years, Teatro Garibaldi has been subject to vandalism, theft and degradation. From 2012 until 2014, over 60 artists, workers and performers occupied the theatre until it was entrusted to Matteo Bavera for 7 months in 2014. After a period of inactivity, Teatro Garibaldi re-opened in 2017 as the Manifesta 12 headquarters hosting the “Aspettando Manifesta 12” cultural programme. The City of Palermo and Manifesta 12 will look for local partners to take over the theatre after the closure of the biennial.