When you think of Florence, what comes to mind is probably the architecture of Filippo Brunelleschi, the sculptures by Michelangelo Buonarroti, the incredible collections of paintings in the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti, and important frescoes in many of the churches in the city.
What we view today as historically important records of human thought made manifest in art and architecture, were in their time, contemporary. ‘All Art Has Been Contemporary’ is a text-based work by internationally recognized Italian artist, Maurizio Nannucci, who posted this message in blue neon on the façade of the Uffizi as part of the 2010 exhibition ‘Alla Maniera di Oggi’ (In the Manner of Today). Other artists in the exhibition, including Paolo Masi, Paolo Parisi, Massimo Nannucci, Mario Airo, Remo Salvadori, Marco Bagnoli, and Massimo Bartolini, were invited to place their contemporary works in dialogue with historic spaces in Florence such as San Miniato al Monte, The Duomo, The Accademia Museum, and The Museum of San Marco. While contemporary art spaces in this small city number far fewer than their historic counterparts, they provide a necessary international platform for the exchange of current thought. Three of the most active spaces showing international artists in Florence are Base Progetti Per L’Arte, Museo Marino Marini, and the Strozzina Center for Contemporary Art.
Base Progetti Per L’Arte is an idea of artists for artists. Base is a unique place for art practice in Italy and maintains a flag of contemporary art in Florence. The activity, begun in 1998, is curated by a collective of artists who live and work in Tuscany, promoting in Florence, some of the most interesting aspects of art today. Base is a dialogue on contemporaneity open to an international discourse. It is part of an important history of artist-run spaces in Florence dating back to the 1970s when the idea of independent alternative spaces outside the art market was just beginning to emerge worldwide; the first ones were in the New York, Montreal, and Florence. Since its foundation, in this 20 square meter space in the Oltrarno, there have been more than seventy exhibitions by prominent artists including among others: Sol Lewitt, Marco Bagnoli, Alfredo Pirri, Cesare Pietroiusti, Jan Vercruysse, Heimo Zobernig, Robert Barry, Liam Gillick, Rainer Ganahl, Nedko Solakov & Slava Nakovska, Olaf Nicolai, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Matt Mullican, Jeppe Hein, Jonathan Monk, Carsten Nicolai, Franz West, Tino Sehgal, Erwin Wurm, Thomas Bayrle, Diego Perrone e Christian Frosi, Hans Schabus, Maurizio Mochetti, Lawrence Weiner, Koo Jeong A, Christian Jankowski, and Martin Creed. Base Progetti Per L’Arte members are artists Mario Airò, Marco Bagnoli, Massimo Bartolini, Vittorio Cavallini, Yuki Ichihashi, Paolo Masi, Massimo Nannucci, Maurizio Nannucci, Paolo Parisi, Remo Salvadori, Enrico Vezzi. Open in the evenings by Accademia student interns and founding artists in the San Niccolo neighborhood on Via San Niccolo 18.
Museo Marino Marini, the first-ever contemporary art museum in Florence founded in 1988 is housed in a deconsecrated church whose origins date back to the 6th century. One of the more curious aspects of this museum, that at one point in its history was also a tobacco factory, is that inside the museum’s former Rucellai chapel, one can still visit the hidden jewel of Alberti’s 15th century marble sacellum – an idealized replication of Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem. The mission of the Marino Marini Foundation is to provide a space in which to view the 20th century Italian artist, Marino Marini’s work. The permanent collection of Marini’s sculptures and drawings ii in itself worth a visit, and it provides an exciting context for the richly varied series of contemporary events and exhibitions. Recent shows include the Lebanese artist Rayyane Tabet, Americans Tony Lewis and Betty Woodman, Canadian Mark Lewis, Italian Massimo Bartolini, and many more. Located steps from the heart of the city center near Santa Maria Novella in the Piazza San Pancrazio.
Strozzina Center for Contemporary Art was created in 2007 as part of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation. There are two exhibition spaces in the Palazzo Strozzi, and they curate thematic shows that dialogue with each other over genres, styles, nations, and decades in the history of art. Palazzo Strozzi and the Strozzina provide a substantial didactic program that embraces students, families, as well as seasoned art lovers. Recent exhibitions include ‘Power and Pathos Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World’ in Palazzo Strozzi and in The Strozzina, ‘Sculptures Also Die’. Other important exhibitions in the past few years include ‘From Kandinsky to Pollock Art of the Guggenheim Collections’, ‘Family Matters Portraits and Experiences of Families Today’, ‘Unstable Territories Borders and Identities in Contemporary Art’. The next exhibition to utilize the entire museum, inside and out, is by the world-famous Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei. Find this prominent exhibition space in Piazza Strozzi, through the archway in the Piazza della Repubblica.
Regan is SAI’s Florence Program Director