Le Sirenuse - Albergo di Positano


02.05.2024 LE SIRENUSE

Created by Swiss artist Nicolas Party, this exuberant play of overlapping and interlocking organic forms was, the artist says, strongly influenced by ancient Chinese landscape painting, in which elements such as sea and sky, mountains and clouds, merge and swap identities.

Party’s vibrant creation in mosaic tiles had already dazzled everyone at Le Sirenuse when it was completed just ahead of the start of the 2024 season. But back then, it was still ‘dry’. Once the pool was filled, it became another thing altogether: a liquid artwork that changed with every breath of wind and shift in the light. It has become a truly interactive piece of art: not only one you can dive into, but one you alter by doing so, as the ripples expand and create optical waves.

Le Sirenuse Pool 1461

The project was something of an exception to the rule that has been followed by artists such as Martin Creed, Alex Israel and Rita Ackermann ever since 2015, when the hotel’s site-specific art programme was launched. “Usually”, Artists at Le Sirenuse curator Silka Rittson-Thomas explains, “when an artist first visits the hotel, they’re pretty much given carte blanche – within reason – on what the work will be and where it will be placed, but in this case, we knew it had to be the pool, and we knew also that the material should be mosaic”.



Mosaic tiles were chosen to create a link with the hotel’s past and to allude to the tradition of mosaic-lined thermal complexes in Ancient Rome. In the mid-1980s Antonio’s father Franco Sersale, whose design flair and passion for art and antiques lies behind the elegant ambience of Le Sirenuse as guests experience it today, asked Positano-based designer Raimonda Gaetani to add a mermaid mosaic to the small pergola at the eastern end of the existing pool, a work that referenced the shell grottoes of Italy’s great Baroque villas. Later, in the early 1990s, Franco had the pool itself entirely relaid in mosaic tiles, with a frieze running around the edge reproducing the border of a Greek-style floor mosaic from the second century BC that had impressed him in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum.


Back in his New York studio after visiting Positano to glean inspiration and study the site, Party began, he says to “walk through a few different ideas”. He soon dismissed the idea of creating a pastiche of Ancient Roman still-life mosaic styles and went instead in the opposite direction, sketching a swirling pattern of overlapping colour fields in his go-to medium, pastel.


Party enjoys the idea that the meld of land, water and sky in the work provokes a kind of fertile confusion in the viewer. “Are those mountains?”, he asks. “Are they clouds? Or are they waves or smoke? Are those pink patches glimpses of a forest fire?”. Everything, he points out “is interconnected, we’re just living in the middle of it: the clouds make the water that create the waves through rain”. Even the perspective is quite literally all at sea: “I removed the horizon because it didn't work with the pool. So the cloud comes from all sorts of directions”. In the centre of the pool’s deepest section he placed a disc made of golden mosaic tiles that, he says, “people will think of as the sun, so when you jump into the pool, you’re jumping into the sky”.

Le Sirenuse Pool 1185


The artist turned to Bisazza, Italy’s leading glass mosaic firm, to transform his sketch, and the model he derived from it, into the lining of a pool more than 18 metres long and almost 5 metres wide. Based near Vicenza, Bisazza was established just five years after Le Sirenuse, in 1956, and like Le Sirenuse, is still owned and run by its founding family. Over the years, the company has worked with a host of leading designers and artists, from Piero Fornasetti to Patricia Urquiola, from Sandro Chia to Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Bisazza produce mosaic tiles or ‘tesserae’ in a dizzying range of shapes and hues. For the pool at Le Sirenuse, artist, curator and patrons agreed on the 20mm square format, which came in around two hundred different colours. Initially, Bisazza suggested that he should send over his sketch and let them ‘translate’ it into mosaic tiles, but Party was keen to be in control of the entire creative process. He asked the company to send him their proprietary software, spent a few days learning how to use it, and set about converting his model into a full-scale template for Le Sirenuse’s pool, mosaic tile by mosaic tile.



At the Bisazza headquarters near Vicenza, Party’s digital template was reproduced on hundreds of sequentially numbered square sheets, each 15 tiles long and 15 tiles wide. These were then shipped to Positano, where in January 2024, the Fabrizi brothers, Luciano and Marcello, began the painstaking task of laying them. Born in Frosinone, south of  Rome, the brothers are today among only a handful of expert Italian mosaicisti. They learned their trade from their father, a builder and tiler who himself carried out several mosaic commissions in the 1960s and 1970s.



The job consists of far more than making sure the right sequence of sheets is followed. Each line of tiles is adjusted by hand with a mosaicist’s trowel, and once an entire area is laid, the mosaics must be sponged clean over and over, in several changes of water, before the adhesive they are embedded in sets. “It’s the finishing that makes all the difference with a job like this”, Luciano comments. “The glass tiles have a translucent quality, and if there’s even a thin film of adhesive over them, they just don’t have the same brilliance”.

The pool was inaugurated with a ‘Party party’ attended by the artist and a host of art-world guests on the third weekend of April, straight after the Venice Art Biennale vernissage (pictured: Antonio Sersale and Nicolas Party).


We regret to report that not a single guest jumped into the artwork fully clothed. But on the following chilly morning, several brave souls plunged into the creation named Pool, 2023-2024 dressed in appropriate bathing garb. We invite you to do the same, in order to experience its ever-changing moods. To paraphrase Heraclitus: you can never dive into the same pool twice.


Photos © Brechenmacher & Baumann (1, 2, 4, 5), Roberto Salomone (3, 6, 7, 8)


Le Sirenuse Newsletter

Stay up to date

Sign up to our newsletter for regular updates on Amalfi Coast stories, events, recipes and glorious sunsets

From our


View all articles

A member of

Proudly included in