Some people say Florence is stuck in the cinquecento, in other words, the Renaissance. And to be totally honest, they’re right. Florence may be the city that inspired the Renaissance, giving birth to artistic genius unlike any other epoch; and it may hold one-fifth of the world’s art treasures, but it’s not exactly the place that is synonymous with contemporary. When you talk about Florence and all the amazing things it holds, you are generally talking about its past. Florence doesn’t hold a famous biennale or have a contemporary art museum. You’ll want to go somewhere like Milan, Turin or Venice for those sort of things in Italy.
So what has happened to art here since the Renaissance? Is Florence still the budding artistic city it once was?
Florence’s famous artistic heritage really overshadows anything else that might be happening in the city in terms of art, but that’s also because it’s glaringly tough competition to beat – it would have to be something rather impressive to draw people away from going to see things like Botticelli’s Birth of Venusand Giotto’s frescoes. But this is also one of the reasons why artists have always been drawn to Florence, for the inspiration and the study of these masterpieces. In fact, it is really an artist’s rite of passage to visit and see Florence and experience first hand that jolt in your heart when you set eyes on Michelangelo’s original sculpture of David. But then artists seem to move on to more ‘happening’, more contemporary art scenes such as New York, Berlin, Paris, Milan... No longer is Florence the centre of the art world.
Having said that, Florence is not altogether devoid of contemporary art. Indeed, there are many artists who work and flourish in the city, absorbing by osmosis the genius of geniuses past. And amongst the cinquecento palazzi and museums hoarding medieval and Renaissance treasures, here and there you can also find galleries showing quality contemporary art by current Italian and international artists, such as Gallery Biagiotti Progetto Arte near Santa Maria Novella.
Gallery Biagiotti is devoted to showing the work of up and coming artists, mostly Italians, including some of the hottest young talent on the contemporary art scene, such as Sissi, Andrea Mastrovito, Sandra Tomboloni and Nico Vascellari. Many of these young Biagotti artists work very hard to create a little nucleus of contemporary art here in Florence, often initiating collaborative art projects with other galleries, institutions or cities, and then, of course, getting these artists known in the rest of the contemporary art world.
Biagiotti hosts a whole series of collections, from Sandra Tomboloni’s obsessive plasticine works, such as a strange and fanciful suitcase full of pink chickens, to Nico Vascellari’s glowing neon sign and video performance of Nico & the Vascellaris featuring him and his family, to Mastrovito’s incredible monochromatic cut-out paper works that combine pop images with religious scenes (such as Spiderman as St John the Baptist). And alongside Sissi’s elegant images of her performances with woven objects are works by other artists such as David Casini, Mariella Bettineschi, Alessandro Casati and Andrea Facco. The gallery will trigger that part of your mind which has been laying dormant for a while – that’s right, the part that digests and contemplates imaginative, new artistic concepts. Being able to look at and appreciate contemporary art by young “it” artists is really a different experience from appreciating masterpieces of Renaissance art.
As the ever-evolving worlds of aesthetics, culture and technology change our view of art, you shouldn’t expect to see things like Renaissance-style frescoes and paintings still coming out of Florence. Art is all about something else now and, anyway, who wants to live in the past? But it really is something to be able to walk down an ancient street, pass by a medieval church that holds the works of Masaccio, Ghirlandaio and Brunelleschi and then step into a modern space to see a video performance, a crucifixion with Batman or a quirky plasticine chicken sculpture.
Biagiotti Progetto Arte
Via delle Belle Donne 39r