Opening on November 20, Cai Guo-Qiang’s newest exhibition is dedicated to the spirit of the Renaissance. Flora Commedia features over 60 works by the Chinese artist, spread throughout the rooms at the Uffizi Gallery, opening a dialogue with the historic artworks and the contemporary pieces they inspired.


“When looking at paintings by the Old Masters,” said Guo-Qiang, “we can still feel the warmth of the creative processes of both today and the past. Do we, as artists today, continue to pass this warmth on to our successors? I want to believe so...” As the title suggests, the artist portrays flowers in his works, which he uses as way to evoke the ideals of the Renaissance, like the connection with nature, the awakening of humanity and the newfound perception of the human body. The first part of the exhibition is dedicated to self-portraits, reminiscent of the Renaissance tradition, while the second room is a tribute to Medici collecting and display, its walls covered with paintings. Most of the pieces on display were made using lit incense sticks to sketch directly on the canvas, and were heavily influenced by metal point drawings the artist had seen in the Uffizi’s collection. Others still were made by igniting gunpowder directly on the canvas and paper, evincing Guo-Qiang’s interest in pyrotechnics.


In line with this interest, the exhibition was kicked off with a fireworks performance on November 18 in piazzale Michelangelo. City of Flowers in the Sky was inspired by Botticelli’s Primavera and involved nearly 50,000 fireworks that exploded in the sky in the form of Renaissance flowers and plants, the colours of which evoked the palette of the famous painting, on display at the Uffizi. The artist expressed how “the fireworks are reminiscent of the flowers one might have found during the Renaissance, while also evoking the palettes of the masters of this historic and artistic period. The Uffizi’s rich collection seems to move beyond the museum space, blending with the very city that nourishes it.”


Flowers in the Florentine sky

Cai Guo-Qiang uses Florentine panorama as his canvas

Despite the late-November winds and the chill in the air, if you looked up in the sky at any point yesterday in Florence, you could be forgiven for thinking it

Flora Commedia will run until February 17, 2019.

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