There’s a closely held secret in the heart of Florence, a place worth reverence but known to so few. The Museo Marino Marini is a stone’s throw away from piazza Santa Maria Novella, in the city centre but visited by little more than 7,000 people a year. The museum, dedicated entirely to Italy’s foremost 20th-century sculptor, is a bastion of contemporary art in Florence. So why do only a handful of people know of its existence? The Florentine recently ventured to the museum to explore this unique institution and learn more about its plans for the future.
The permanent collection of the Museo Marino Marini
Following a year of renovations, the Museo Marino Marini recently reopened to the public, now boasting revamped heating and air conditioning systems that will make the museum experience much more comfortable than in years past. The (re)inauguration was launched at a pivotal moment, coinciding with Pitti Uomo 95 (January 8–11, 2019), and hosted Slam Jam, an urban culture and clothing company from Ferrara, who collaborated with select clothing brands to create multi-disciplinary installations, performances and exhibitions inside the museum space, all in the name of fashion. President of the Museo Marino Marini, Patrizia Asproni, told The Florentine that nearly 1,200 people came to the opening, many of whom were young. What’s more, throughout the entire week that followed, more than 3,500 people visited the museum, introducing the space to a community that may not have otherwise known of its existence.
Asproni’s wish, she says, is for the Museo Marino Marini to become a laboratory of the future, and through the events hosted for the reopening, she and her staff were able to bring something into the museum that is not usually found in its spaces. This does not mean, however, that the visiting artists designed their creations outside the realm of the museum’s influence; on the contrary, the artists were there for a month before the opening to study Marini’s works and start their projects, which they continued during the opening week, offering an intersection between art and moda and relaunching the museum in full fashion (pun intended).
Reopening of the Museo Marino Marini
The reopening was emblematic of the direction Asproni sees the museum going in, in which the rooms are seen as a continuation of the piazza, where visitors can wander freely from one space to the next. Indeed, part of the museum’s grand reopening was the removal of the admission fee. From now on, the permanent collection at the Museo Marino Marini will be open to the public free of charge, while the Rucellai Chapel and temporary exhibitions will require a ticket. The experience, Asproni says, is intended to be a slow one, where visitors can come in, relax and contemplate the artworks.
The museum is also investing much of its energy in events, talks and conferences, many of which will be open to the public for free. A big part of this is the Visiting Artistic Director, a year-long position held by a leading museum professional who will craft the Museo Marino Marini’s calendar of events. The benefits of bringing in someone from the outside every year, Asproni explains, is that not only does this offer the potential for a vastly different program each year, but the directors also brings with them all their international expertise and connections. The 2019 directorship has been taken up by Dmitry Ozerkov, Head of the Department of Contemporary Art at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. When asked if it could get confusing for the calendar of events to change hands every year, Asproni said no, adamant that “the greater the diversity of ideas, the better it is”.
Ytalia, a 2017 temporary exhibition at the Museo Marino Marini, ph. Andrea Paoletti
The Museo Marino Marini’s openness towards outside ideas and free entry is a recurring theme in its mission. Its Playable Museum Award, launched in 2018, was dedicated to seeking out pioneering initiatives that reimagine the museum of the future, aiming to create a hub of technological, social and cultural innovation that encourages participation and the spontaneous involvement of visitors. When the museum announced its call for proposals, Asproni had expressed how the award was “a challenge and comes from the increasingly evident need to change our way of thinking about museums, especially for attracting and involving younger generations.” The Museo Marino Marini received 240 projects from around the world, with the award going to Lumen, a mixed reality storytelling platform created by interaction designer Arvind Sanjeev, who won a 10,000-euro grant to develop his project. Inspired by the award’s success, the museum is set to launch a second edition in the coming year.
When looking towards the future, the Museo Marino Marini is set on giving back to Florence and Tuscany as a whole. The museum’s administration is already in talks with other institutions and sites in the area, like the Museo Novecento, to create a sort of 20th-century itinerary through the city that contrasts with the more famous Renaissance sites frequented in Florence. The museum is also dedicated to offering educational workshops not only for local school children but for those suffering from Alzheimer’s as well. Asproni explains how these patients are allowed to interact with sculptures through touch, and that the accompanying doctors and caregivers can, in turn, research the effects of this kind of art therapy. Furthermore, initiatives are being planned that will collaborate with artists and artisans in the territory, because as Asproni says, “Museums must help the territory express itself, otherwise what’s the point of a museum?”