“Somehow, in painting, I try to make some logic out of the world that has been given to me in chaos.” American Abstract Expressionist artist Grace Hartigan’s words hit home during the recent ‘Restoration Conversations’ series led by AWA director Linda Falcone around art collectors Christian and Florence Levett’s home gallery in the city centre. You can read the full interview in this month’s Art Issue of The Florentine, out Thursday, April 29, and watch the video below.
Art is what draws many of us to Florence, of course, and being surrounded by a seemingly boundless number of masterpieces inspires our daily lives. Of late, we have been denied entry to our cultural troves, but now museums, theatres, cinemas and concert halls are reopening to soothe our psyche, rouse creativity and provide artists with a livelihood at long last. It’s not the only resumption of culture in Florence as performance artist Marisa Garreffa gears up to offer a community act of healing in a seven-hour-a-day, week-long live-streamed storytelling piece, titled To Remember, To Listen, at The British Institute of Florence. Marisa will sew our stories together to create a living library for posterity, so send in your stories over the past year here. Satire takes centre stage in one of the first theatre shows of the year at Fiesole’s Teatro Romano as students at the European University Institute put on a tragicomedy about European crises, which features “a burned-out EU president” named Christine. Time to Retreat? will be performed on May 8. The show is subject to “yellow zone” Covid conditions, a refrain you’ll see in this issue of The Florentine.
Restoration is a practical way in which logic can be returned to art, and Florence is fortunate to have foundations that give glory back to age-worn pieces. We speak with Luke Olbrich, director of the Mircea Maria Gerard Foundation, upon the recent completion of a massive conservation project at the Basilica of Santo Spirito. A transgenerational and international team of women restorers worked through lockdown to spruce up Giovanni Baratta’s 15-metre-high Archangel Raffaele e Tobiolo. “Art has the enduring power to inspire, uplift and engage,” Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, reminds us, as the Friends of Florence president details the non-profit’s steadfast work to safeguard the city’s artistic and architectural treasures. Ongoing projects include restoring Michelangelo’s Bandini Pietà, Fra Angelico’s Bosco ai Frati Altarpiece, the Crucifix by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in Siena, and Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal in the Church of San Miniato al Monte.
From centuries past to the present, we go behind the scenes at the city’s contemporary galleries. This month, Florentine collage artist Cecilia Cosci shows her redefinition of Renaissance paintings at the Oltrarno’s Tobian Art Gallery and Emilian artist Omar Galliani displays 60 Stolen Kisses drawings at Tornabuoni Arte, while Thai-Italian talent Giulia Peyrone exhibits her printwork on construction-grade fabric in piazza de’ Pitti.
New reads are emerging on the Florence scene, from Lauren Mouat’s Open Doors Literary Review to ‘Perdigiornale’, an online publication “for the discerning hobo” and Jamie Mackay’s respected weekly newsletter, This Week in Italy.
This month’s cover photograph might cause a stir. Marco Borrelli’s detailed capture shows restorer Nicola Salvioli applying resin and Carrara marble powder to a statue. At first glance, we’d be forgiven for thinking that the muscular leg belongs to Michelangelo’s actual David, but alarm bells start ringing at the missing head and torso. Fret not, what’s shown is a 3D printed copy of the Renaissance masterwork, which remains safely at home in the Galleria dell’Accademia, while his “twin” has been flown east to the Expo 2020 Dubai, where the reproduction will represent the “beauty of Italy”. What role does a reproduction play in marketing a country’s cultural heritage? How civilized is it to spend money on a “clone” when artists continue to suffer the effects of the pandemic? Before grappling with these questions, turn to page 7 in this month’s issue to learn about the intricacies of a feat such as this, which benefitted from the involvement of the Galleria dell’Accademia, the University of Florence and the Italian Ministry for Culture.
Helen Farrell, editor-in-chief
What’s in the Art Issue of The Florentine
Cover story: David’s “twin” (Jane Farrell with photography by Marco Borrelli + Antonio Quattrone)
The most accurate reproduction ever of Michelangelo’s David is set to appear at the Expo 2020 Dubai, which has been rescheduled due to the pandemic.
Visitors returning to the Uffizi will find changes as Florence’s foremost museum expands its cultural offering.
Now that Tuscany has returned to yellow zone status, Florence’s museums and cultural centres are reopening their doors to the public. This article is updated as announcements are made.
Postcards from Florence (Jade Cheli)
Postcards from Florence is a digital exhibition created by the students of Polimoda, which reflects the multicultural creative minds unique to Florence.
Best events this May (Jane Farrell)
From the Florence Korea Film Fest to the reopening of the Iris Garden, there’s much to look forward this month in Florence, yellow zone remaining…
Friends of Florence: ongoing projects (Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda)
“As Florence cautiously moves toward reopening its cultural institutions, Friends of Florence’s work safeguarding the city’s artistic and architectural treasures has continued, albeit at a slightly slower pace per Covid-19 protocols.”
The artistic resistance of Missive Selvatiche (Lauren Mouat)
From a handful of artists seeking to combat the depression of lockdown, Missive Selvatiche is now in its third edition, incorporating the work of over 150 artists in 1,500 packages, always delivered to complete strangers.
Reading matters (Jane Farrell)
As we all seek ways to stay connected to each other and to Italy, new publications have emerged in recent months, giving us plenty to sustain our appetites.
Play after lockdown: A tragicomedy on European crises and non-European sanctuaries (Jamie Mackay)
On Saturday, May 8, Fiesole’s Teatro Romano will be the stage for Time to Retreat?, a satirical play by two EUI students about “a burned-out EU president” named Christine.
Marisa Garreffa: Storytelling as an act of healing (Helen Farrell)
The Perth-born performance artist and pillar of the community talks about arriving in Florence and her current projects.
Giulia Peyrone: art where it’s least expected (Jane Farrell)
Contemporary artist and designer Italian-Thai artist Giulia Peyrone talks us through her large-scale installations beside the Ponte Vecchio and piazza de’ Pitti in a somewhat unusual setting: construction sites.
New revenue streams for artisans (Artisan Quarter)
The Artisan Quarter Association was founded to raise awareness of the deteriorating situation in the Oltrarno and to privately fund support efforts through donations.
Cecilia Cosci: Redefining Renaissance art (Jade Cheli)
Born and raised in Florence, Cecilia Cosci brings her strikingly modern take on Renaissance art to the Oltrarno’s Tobian Art Gallery this May.
Omar Galliani: Stolen Kisses
The new exhibition by Emilian artist Omar Galliani, scheduled to be held at Tornabuoni Arte from May 13 to July 2, aims to be a powerful expression of symbolism.
Restoring the Archangel: Mircea Maria Gerard Foundation (Helen Farrell)
The conservation and restoration of the Archangel Raffaele e Tobiolo, which Giovanni Baratta sculpted between 1696 and 1698, has proven a months-long labour of love for the Mircea Maria Gerard Foundation and an international team of women restorers.
Art courses online and in-person (yes!) to inform and inspire
As we begin to peer hopefully back into illustrious halls, ensure that you’re as knowledgeable as possible with art courses to make the most of your upcoming gallery explorations.
Room for art: residencies at Hotel Torre Guelfa
Hotel Torre Guelfa decided to make its rooms available to young local artists. Shuttered for several seasons due to the ongoing health emergency, the third floor of Palazzo Acciaiuoli is now an arts residency for a handful of Florentine creatives struggling to work in these months of unending confinement.
In the gallery, at home, with Christian and Florence Levett (Helen Farrell + Linda Falcone)
Former investment manager, now full-time art collector Christian Levett and his wife Florence recently moved to the city. Their central Florence home is an inspiring gallery in its own right, hung with abstraction art by women artists, alongside classical busts and lovingly framed family photos.
The artists among us (Hershey Felder)
“Daniel looks at his image in the mirror. Then very carefully, and very specifically, he paints one stroke, and Daniel the man is no longer before me. Instead he is looking at me alive and breathing out of the canvas itself.”
Storm clouds on the horizon: Lewis Hammond at the Casa Masaccio (BHMF)
Black History Month Florence takes us on a tour of the exhibition by the young yet seasoned British artist Lewis Hammond with his first Italian institutional exhibition While We Were Sleeping at the Casa Masaccio in San Giovanni Valdarno, curated by Rita Selvaggio.
Michelangelo AI (Harry Cochrane)
“I was brought up as a Luddite and a technophobe, so my feelings about artificial intelligence have always pitched somewhere between scepticism and dystopian alarm. My first question, therefore, is expressly conceived to confound Michelangelo AI…”
All the lost albums (Michelle Davis)
A few musicians braved the pandemic void by injecting some beauty into this uncertain world with new releases, and Tuscany has its fair share of pandemic paladins.
Places to picnic (Jane Farrell)
We’ve always been fans of picking up a panino and chowing down on the nearest panchina (bench). Now our need for nature is stronger than ever as spring fills the air and we can’t resist a leisurely afternoon spent picnicking in one of Florence’s green spaces. Here we take you through a few where you may not yet have laid out your picnic blanket, as well as the popular spots that are firm favourites for Florentines and Florence aficionados.
TYPIQO: quality bites (Helen Farrell)
It takes guts to open a business during a pandemic, but Antonio Badalamenti has shown he can stomach it.
St. Mark’s English Church (Deirdre Pirro)
“By 1906, the original St. Mark’s building proved too small for the growing congregation, so a church member, Thomas Brocklebank, bought the adjoining building and gifted it to the church.”