Via Palazzuolo takes on colourful new additions in the form of street art installations painted on the shutters of ten shops along the street near piazza Santa Maria Novella. Each a different artist, each a unique style, they aim to refresh via Palazzuolo and give it a reputation for urban art.
A collaboration between the A Testa Alta association and Street Levels Gallery, which is headquartered along the street, the three-day Palazzuolo Strada Aperta festival in mid-September invited ten renowned artists—Clet, Exit Enter, Droste, James Vega, Kraita317, Luchadora, Miles, Monograff, Mr. G, Nian and Urto—to decorate ten of the shutters in their individual styles, creating an open-air gallery that is accessible to all. With curatorial guidance from the resident gallery, this initiative forms part of a collective effort to turn via Palazzuolo into an urban art hub in Florence, something both the association and art gallery believe is missing from the rest of the city.
This, however, is only half of the project’s dual purpose. A less frequented part of Florence, via Palazzuolo becomes the site of an urban revival, as the initiative hopes to redefine it and give it a “new vocation”, in the words of city counsellor of culture, Alessia Bettini. The safety and livability of the area has long been a subject of debate, making it the perfect venue for a project that brings together modern and diverse artists, with a view to creating something different and regenerative through art. If there is one thing that Florence knows how to do well, it’s pushing boundaries with art.
Unexpectedly, the initiative manages to take on historical importance as well. This area was historically known for its abundance of artisans’ workshops, meaning that current efforts at renewal that draw on innate Florentine traditions of creativity are fitting. Paolo Materassi, owner of a jeweller’s store whose shutter now boasts one of the murals, feels that the artisanal history of via Palazzuolo has been lost as young people pursue other types of jobs, but hopes that this will bring young people back to the area.
Speaking with participating business owners on via Palazzuolo, the positive impression that the artwork has made is tangible. From offering something new and colourful to look at, to attracting tourists and urban art enthusiasts, those on the ground are largely happy with the results. In particular, it has made for an interesting new way to promote the area and give it a personality that does not exist elsewhere in Florence. Urban murals would be an impossibility in other parts of town, so business owners are generally pleased that via Palazzuolo has become a home in the city for this type of art. Whether or not painting the steel shutters, which are hidden throughout the day, was a flawed concept is a repeated concern, but the greatest impression is gratitude that via Palazzuolo has new potential to explore.
At present, the open exhibition features ten works of contemporary art spread throughout the street, but the Street Levels Gallery has greater ambitions. They aspire to repeat the project, enlisting new artists and following new themes and styles, such as a specific focus on graffiti or abstract art. Their vision sees every shop shutter uniquely decorated in years to come, connecting the residents and wider Florentine community, as well as marking a welcome shift in the way this part of Florence is understood and appreciated.
Until September 30, the Street Levels Gallery hosts the Prossemica exhibition, showing art by Clet, Exit Enter, Droste, James Vega, Kraita317, Luchadora, Miles, Monograff, Mr. G, Nian and Urto. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-1pm, 3-7pm.
Guided tours of the street art will be held (in Italian) on Sunday, September 24 and Sunday, October 1. Email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.