She first met him in the early 1970s, casually, and then again on trips to Paris, where she went for work and he, Franco Maria Ricci, to check on his new gallery. She then stayed with him for the rest of his life, until his death in 2020, sharing his prolific publishing career and extreme passion for beautiful things, inseparable and working together to produce what was described as the “most beautiful magazine in the world” – FMR. First published in 1982 and then for another 20 years and more, in four different editions and languages, it was printed in Italy, as Ricci explained, in order to transmit first-hand all the nuances of thought and sensitivity, and to keep a tight control on the production processes. The magazine had 100,000 subscribers in America and Europe. For the launch of the very first edition 8 million copies were sent to America on an Alitalia jumbo jet, so they could be presented to the cultural and financial elite and attached to the Sunday supplements of the leading newspapers, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc. It was a unique and slightly reckless enterprise, but it was a sign of his boundless passion for beauty, quality and, why not, sheer marketing genius. While still working as a geologist, scouting for oil in Turkey, he realised that what he was truly passionate about was something else entirely, the magical Tomb of Antioch, for instance, which taught him what then became his mantra: beautiful things should be sought out and appreciated. “My work has always been a quest for beauty, it’s the way I look at things and interpret them. It’s my life,” he said. Reviving the magazine, after selling the publishing brand in 2002 to follow a different dream – building the largest labyrinth in the world – was a project that Franco Maria Ricci, and his wife Laura, his companion in life and work, embraced obsessively. The FMR brand came home in 2020, alas just a few months after the death of its creator. Thus, alongside the Labirinto della Masone and its art collection at Fontanellato near Parma, thanks to Laura Casilis every new season will herald a new edition of the iconic magazine, a jewel in the crown of art publishing, unique for the ebony colour of its pages, loved by Federico Fellini, who referred to it as “the black pearl.” New books will also continue to be published, perpetuating the traditional quality and elegance of Made in Italy publishing.
In tandem with the launch of the magazine, the exhibition Franco Maria Ricci: the Signs of Man is being held at Parma’s Palazzo Pigorini until 30th January 2022.