‘Parliamo d’arte,’ a guided conversation at the Picasso and Spanish Modernity exhibition currently held at Palazzo Strozzi, not only brings culture to life but sets an example for other museums. No expertise is required, just pure interest.
First, the diversity of the group that assembled for the conversation underscored that art is truly a universal language: we were an eclectic, multicultural bunch, ranging in age and background. There was no stuffiness, posturing, no art snobbery—just open-minded people.
Second, Parliamo d’arte, like the exhibition, with each room divided into various ‘chapters’ of Picasso’s life, featuring his works and other major pieces from Spanish Modernity, is well organized and intriguingly interactive.
Our well-prepared guide, Irene Balzani, knew precisely when and what questions to ask at every moment to keep the conversation stimulating, while making the participants feel comfortable in speaking about their impressions. And while some pieces elicited more reactions than others, overall, the exchange of opinions provided a special kind of tutelage to see the pieces from different perspectives. With Balzani’s assistance and the diverse observations of those in the group, I began to deepen my understanding of what I was seeing. It also gave me a chance to reflect on my own thoughts on the paintings.
For our last activity together, Balzani handed out pieces of paper with various quotes from Picasso to anonymous visitors at the Paris Expo in 1937. The goal was to connect the quote to any painting we deemed appropriate—interpret someone else’s feelings with a corresponding image. We had to think. We had to share. It was true interaction, a real and meaningful connection with people and art itself, a rarity these days, when selfies and hashtags are the means of expression. I walked away from this event with a renewed sense of faith in people.
But about five minutes later, my mood changed, and I found myself tormented, like Guernica. I started asking myself questions: How many exhibits? How many museums? How many people wanting to share ideas? How many people wanting to understand what they are looking at? How many art historians and curators wanting to share their knowledge?
The purpose of art, according to Picasso, is to ‘wash the dust of daily life off the soul.’ Yet how many people get to experience art that way as they file through a museum? Programs like Parliamo d’arte offer a means to shake off some of that dust.
Parliamo d’ arte
November 6, 2014, December 4, 2014, and January 8, 2015, 6–7.30pm
(or by request with at least six participants)
Free upon purchasing a museum ticket. Reserve in advance by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 055/2469600.