Ai Weiwei: Libero

Reframing Palazzo Strozzi

Andrea Paoletti
October 7, 2016 - 17:44

He’s the first artist to be left “free” to fill the fifteenth-century Palazzo Strozzi with his works, from the rooms of the Strozzina to the palace’s facades, and even the courtyard of the piano nobile.

All photos by Andrea Paoletti All photos by Andrea Paoletti


Ai Weiwei is considered one of the most influential contemporary artists in the world. When you visit Libero, you might find it challenging to reconcile what you are seeing with the concept of art; only by reading the explanatory texts about the origin of the Chinese artist’s work can we understand the political genius of Ai Weiwei. Each installation, each object on show is a clear denouncement, a cry against the power that represses the freedom of humans who do not have (and perhaps have never had) a voice of protest.

The exhibition was “announced” to Florence with the installation “Reframe”, 22 inflatable rafts attached to the building’s facades, with the aim of placing our attention on the continued landings of refugees on our shores. Predictably in the Florence that wants everything but accepts nothing, the installation has been met with commentary and controversy among many locals and political groups.

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This is a unique event. At last Florence has an actual site-specific installation. In my opinion, the exhibition should be visited beginning in the Strozzina, where dozens of photographs provide us with insight into Ai Weiwei’s artistic beginnings, a brilliant communicator and web marketing expert.

Another key aspect of the exhibition, linked to its setup (which might tempt all those Florentines still in shock about the rafts), is that Palazzo Strozzi has been returned to its former glory for the occasion. The awe-inspiring whiteness of the plaster and the grey of the pietra serena (previously hidden beneath false walls) turn a visit to the exhibition into a bona fide discovery of the palazzo itself.

This is an exhibition that will go down in Florentine history.

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Ai Weiwei. Libero
Until January 22, 2017
at Palazzo Strozzi

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