Villa Bardini's recently restored museum complex is quickly gaining a reputation as a first-rate center for art and culture. The opening of its newest portion signals a shift in the city's traditional static attitude towards contemporary culture. Along with the re-opened Strozzina and the new exhibits at the Marino Marini museum, the Bardini is now another piece in the city's cultural mosaic. Actually, it is two new pieces: the Bardini Contemporanea museum and the café/restaurant Terrazza Bardini.
The project has all of the elements for success: solid financing, a well- launched program carried out with enthusiasm, a good curator and an enlightened restaurant proprietor-respectively, the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, Osservatorio per le arti contemporanee coordinated by Carlo Sisi, Alberto Salvadori Restaurant and proprietor Umberto Montano, well known for his two other culinary jewels, Alle Murate and Osteria al Caffè Italiano. All of this against the backdrop of the incomparable panorama overlooking Florence from the grounds of Villa Bardini.
The first part of Bardini Contemporanea is a corridor spaced out over three consecutive rooms following from the ticket office to the restaurant. The space descends parallel to Costa San Giorgio, and its small, high windows create a sort of tube that lends itself to various sensorial suggestions. The second part of the museum is housed inside the restaurant-the two walls facing the wide French doors leading to the terrace boast works splashed in shadow-less light and shaded in grey by the surrounding draperies and walls. The end product is very elegant, even though the tables in front of the first wall do detract slightly from the overall effect.
Luis Molina-Pantin, a Venezuelan artist chosen for the inaugural exhibit, employes three landscape themes in his photographs. The visitor's gaze stops on a series called Narco-Architecture and its contribution to the community of Falls-Bogotá (2004-2005) where the artist concentrates on cultural phenomenon connected to architecture-essentially how the obscene aesthetic taste of Colombian drug lords, thanks to thoughtless wealth combined with arrogance and ignorance, have created a new landscape made of an indigestible mix of local style with Eastern and Western models.
In contrast, Pantin's Chelsea Galleries series (2001-2006) shows a private landscape, the offices of the influential galleries of the famous New York neighborhood. Monumental shelves erected in the name of cataloguing and corporate control of the art market demonstrate the disappearance of the singular work of art, leaving the field open for a new system worthy of a multinational company. New Landscapes (1999-2000) is a series of still-lifes composed of everyday objects made evocative by the landscape images represented on them. Pantin allows us to meet the contemporary artist, using classic themes such as landscapes and portraits, to convey a personal, ironic and estranged perception of memory, souvenirs that persist across possessions and the vision of an object.
During the inaugural press conference, Florence's museums superintendent, Cristina Acidini, reminded the audience that everything is connected to the aesthetic. In a place like Villa Bardini, it is easy to understand how the landscape reveals the story of the continuous work of man: our attempt to tame nature (and thus, ourselves); our urge to give the landscape significance as representative of culture.
In the same way, she noted, food is shaped by culture, offering infinite possibilities for different presentations and creations. Thus the restaurant's proprietor, Montano, intends for the food to be an active player in the exhibition space ‘contained' in the restaurant, offering an array of aesthetic experiences-not only good but beautiful. As with art, it is important, says Montano, to find the significance in sharing; he is inspired by the joy of offering food to others.
By its nature, contemporary art is done with faith in the uncertain-often finding a home in spaces not dedicated specifically to it, but where it is nonetheless able to express itself (even if impetuously). Villa Bardini decided to bring the contemporary experience to life-now it is up to us to take part in it.