Author: Martin Holman

Martin Holman is a British writer and former Florence resident who returns often to Italy.
July 17, 2019

Art beneath an arched brow

Ralph Rugoff, the US curator behind the centrepiece exhibition at this year’s Venice Biennale, believes in the potential of art. “An exhibition,” he declares, “should open people’s eyes to previously unconsidered ways of being in the world and thus change their view of that world.” To that end, he has brought together 83 artists from […]
October 4, 2018

Abramović: the artist who made a Hell’s Angel weep

The single constant presence in the work of Marina Abramović is the figure of the artist herself. For more than 40 years, her body has been exposed to an alarming range of shocks, challenges and hazards. “I test the limits of myself in order to transform myself,” she explains and at Palazzo Strozzi, in a […]
December 8, 2017

The Radical Renaissance

As well as the calamitous flood, late 1966 saw the emergence of ground-breaking ideas about architecture in Florence. The spirit of collaboration that lifted the city’s treasures out of the disaster also released outstanding creativity from young architects and designers. They worked collectively in groups and Florence became the centre of their radical activities—“radical” because […]
May 31, 2017

Has the Venice Biennale missed the point?

Standing at over 20 metres and with its gilded surface, The Golden Tower by the American conceptual artist James Lee Byars is hard to miss. Until November 26, this elegant column rises with simple perfection from the pavement of Campo San Vio as if to connect the teeming streets around the Grand Canal in Venice—and […]
March 30, 2017

“I think in images”

Although Bill Viola’s installations employ innovative sophisticated video and computer equipment, the great themes he explores are ancient and universal. What’s more, during the past two decades, this internationally acclaimed American has established himself as one of the few contemporary artists to break through to mainstream audiences. While his electronic medium is cutting edge and […]
January 12, 2017

When Rauschenberg reached the depths

As an artist, Robert Rauschenberg’s radical objective was to operate “in the gap between art and life”. His work crossed boundaries and a major retrospective at London’s Tate Modern (touring to New York and San Francisco) confirms that, although he died in 2008, this innovative figure remains a strong influence, especially on young artists. But […]
November 1, 2016

Up, up Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei is now described as the world’s most famous living artist. Millions round the globe have followed him on Twitter and Instagram; his impassive, bearded portrait symbolises his defiant campaign for democracy. While his biography includes house arrest and prison beatings, and the illegal demolition of his studio by the Chinese government, his artwork […]
July 1, 2016

The man who scuttles man’s superiority over beetles

Jan Fabre, the Belgian artist whose monumental sculptures are enlivening three of Florence’s most august public spaces this summer, is a modern Renaissance man. As well as a visual artist with over 100 one-person shows to his name since 1979, he is an actor, writer, choreographer, theatre designer, stage director and filmmaker. That may account […]
April 2, 2016

Exhibition review: From Kandinsky to Pollock

“No meaning, no symbols, no sense” was one pre-war American verdict on mining magnate Solomon Guggenheim’s collection of abstract art. Echoes of that public resistance to painting and sculpture with no recognisable subject matter are still heard today. Why does abstraction leave many people scratching their heads? As the astonishing selection from the collections of […]
May 28, 2015

A review of the Venice Biennale

  The art world’s movers and shakers descended on Venice in early May by plane, train, boat and super yacht for the opening week of the 56th Biennale of visual art. While the oldest and most revered of the big international art festivals rides the stifling commercial hype in contemporary art that has surrounded collectors, […]