The artist behind the handprints on the Walk of Fame

Gianmarco Torriani is the sculptor who takes the handprints of the famous artists who perform in Locarno for the Moon&Stars music festival and turns them into bronze sculptures that are then put on display as part of Locarno’s Walk of Fame. The project began in 2008 with a small group of four handprints set up in Largo Zorzi, the avenue linking Piazza Grande to the lake. But the number of artists who wanted to leave their mark on Locarno has grown enormously and a new project had to be planned. In 2022, a new Walk of Fame is coming to the Giardini Rusca. Together with the Ticino sculptor Gianmarco Torriani, we look back on his history and discover the new project.

“My first imprint was Sting. It was a real baptism of fire. I was quite nervous about meeting him. Then when he arrived, he was the calmest and most relaxed person in the world. Taking the handprint is very important”, says Gianmarco Torriani. “You have to be careful, quick and do a clean job that doesn’t present any risks to the artist’s health”.

Gianmarco Torriani is a sculptor from Ticino. He attended the Centro Scolastico per le Industrie Artistiche (CSIA) in Lugano and was taught by Nag Arnoldi, who ran the courses in decorative arts, and graduated in 1984 from the Accademia di Brera in Milan (sculpture section). He began his artistic career by setting off for the United States and gained experience with American and Swiss galleries. His work during Moon&Stars involves taking the artists’ hands and pressing them into a layer of semi-soft clay. “You have to put talc on their hands, rest them on the clay panel and press down on the fingers to make the handprint. Then the artist can sign it or write something. The first few times, I would show them the process by taking a print of my own hand, then smoothing out the clay again with a spatula before taking the real print”. The handprint itself is done in no time, but it takes about six weeks to create the bronze sculptures we see. Gianmarco makes a plaster cast of the clay handprint in his workshop and this is then used as a model for the bronze casting.

So many artists have decided to leave their handprint in Locarno: there are as many as 90 pieces in Gianmarco Torriani’s plaster cast gallery. And the sculptor has a story to tell about every single one of them. The French singer Zaz, for example, wanted to take a print of her feet and draw on the whole panel. “There have been some really touching moments. When we took Gotthard’s prints, Leo Leoni wanted to add Steve Lee’s harmonica. It took everyone by surprise”.

Ten totems are on display in the Rusca Gardens, located by the lake in Locarno, where various species of palm trees and varieties of camellia that are over a hundred years old thrive: Each of them consists of three revolving cubes of 50 x 50 x 50 cm, which allows to interact with the structures. Spin them around to look at all the sculptures and find out about the artists who have all left their indelible mark behind in Locarno. Almost like a game, it combines both an interactive dimension and the importance of showcasing the handprints properly. On the Walk of Fame, you can see handprints left by artists such as Elton John, Joe Cocker, Santana & Cindy Blackman Santana, Die Toten Hosen, Gianna Nannini, Roxette, Patent Ochsner, Luciano Ligabue, Pino Daniele, Bastian Baker, Hecht, Lo & Leduc, J-Az & Fedez, Amy Macdonald and many more – 81 in total. All you have to do to see them is take a stroll and with the help of the map at the beginning of the path, you can discover all the prints. 

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