Contemporary art highlights at Villa San Michele

Contemporary art highlights at Villa San Michele

French conceptual artist Daniel Buren brings colour and stripes to the former monastery turned luxury hotel near Fiesole.

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Wed 29 May 2024 11:20 AM

There’s something enthralling about the journey up to Villa San Michele, A Belmond Hotel. Whether it’s the gently winding ascend, the change from urban to rural or the distinctive slowdown in pace, the final straight to the hillside sanctuary leaves a lasting impression. While the luxury hotel belonging to the Belmond group is a pantheon of sublime amenities, the contemporary art collection is an attraction in its own right. 

Photos-souvenirs: Daniel Buren, Sosta colorata per Villa San Michele, lavoro in situ, 2024. Details. DB-ADAGP, 2024. Photographer credit: Marco Badiani. Courtesy of the artist, Galleria Continua and Belmond

New for 2024 is the bold and brilliant riot of colours and stripes in the hotel bar by French conceptual artist Daniel Buren. Inspired by the surroundings of the 15th-century former monastery, Buren chose the covered cloister as the novel location for his work, Sosta colorata per Villa San Michele, lavoro in situ, 2024. Hotel guests and external clients are invited to settle in and experience the architecture in a renewed light as coloured reflections sweep the space with the transit of the sun. The artist’s signature black-and-white stripes top the pietra serena arches while a breeze drifts in from the Renaissance loggia with captivating views over Florence. A concentration of warmth, energy and optimism is the vibe as waistcoated bartenders mix drinks, such as the art-awakened Riflessi cocktail with a tangerine and exotic orange liqueur base in the historic locale. The artwork will be available to view through September 30. 

Photos-souvenirs: Daniel Buren, Sosta colorata per Villa San Michele, lavoro in situ, 2024. Details. DB-ADAGP, 2024. Photographer credit: Marco Badiani. Courtesy of the artist, Galleria Continua and Belmond

Buren’s site-specific work at Villa San Michele is part of Belmond’s annual artistic series, MITICO, curated by Galleria Continua, which focuses on a single artist for the first time. Launched in Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel, Cape Town, the global series has been extended with further commissions at Copacabana Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Rio de Janeiro; Castello di Casole, A Belmond Hotel, Tuscany; Hotel Cipriani, A Belmond Hotel, Venice; and La Residencia, A Belmond Hotel, Mallorca. Titled Haltes Colorées, meaning “colourful halt”, each of these site-specific works offers onlookers a moment to pause for a fresh perspective on the surrounding location and unique landscape. For this year’s MITICO series, Belmond’s storied properties continue to act as the stage for contemporary creativity, simultaneously investing in the heritage of the future and the past. 

Daniel Buren – Photo-Souvenir: Colourful Halt for Mount Nelson, work in situ, 2023. Detail. © DB-ADAGP

“What brings together the six Haltes of the 2024 MITICO season is the beauty of each location’s environment,” comments Daniel Buren. “Celebrating nature and architecture, these six highly varied in situ works offer a new perspective on Belmond’s properties, fitting into a different space each time.” 

Born in 1938 in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, Daniel Buren started to develop a radical style of painting in the 1960s, which played on the relationship between the work and where it was displayed. In 1986, he created the in situ (site-specific) work Les Deux Plateaux (also known as Les colonnes de Buren) for the Cour d’Honneur of the Palais-Royal in Paris. That same year, he won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale. He is one of the most active and recognized artists on the international scene. 

More contemporary art at Villa San Michele

The contemporary art collection at Villa San Michele continues with Leandro Erlich’s Window & Ladder and The Cloud, which remain as a permanent staple of the hotel from MITICO’s first series in 2022. The large piece by the Argentinian artist develops as a staircase leading to an open window overlooking Florence. Set among the hotel’s charismatic Italian gardens, the installation metaphorically invites observers to view the future with curiosity, while becoming inspired by ancient arts, especially from the cradle of art, the Renaissance. 

Leandro Erlich’s Window & Ladder. Ph. Marco Badiani
Leandro Erlich’s The Cloud (United Kingdom). Ph. Marco Badiani

Meanwhile, indoors in the old refectory where the friars once took their meals, The Cloud (United Kingdom) continues to beguile, challenging the curious to wonder where the limit between illusion and reality actually lies, playing with the paradoxes of perception and relativity. The cloud, which appears to float within the case, bears the shape of the United Kingdom when viewed horizontally and is recreated by a sequence of glass panels, with silk screen ceramic. 

Contemporary art at Castello di Casole

Photo-souvenir: Daniel Buren, Sosta colorata per Castello di Casole, lavoro in situ, 2024. Details. DB-ADAGP, 2024. Photographer credit : Marco Valmarana. Courtesy of the artist, Galleria Continua + Belmond

Continue the MITICO contemporary art experience with a drive out to Belmond’s Tuscan property, Castello di Casole

Set on an expansive estate, Daniel Buren’s response to Castello di Casole was to create three “portals”, a circle, a square, and a triangle, through which to view the natural beauty. Covered in geometric black and white stripes, the “portals” titled Sosta colorata per Castello di Casole, lavoro in situ, 2023 have been placed in the gardens, where they create new focal points within the rolling hills. By integrating natural abundance into the artworks, Buren brings the Tuscan hills into the Castello’s gardens, while maintaining their independent beauty and accentuating the intrinsic connection between the property and its surroundings. 

These isolated natural captures echo the Japanese tradition of Shakkei gardens, integrating near and distant landscape features through openings of various shapes, giving the garden an impression of infinity. Originally a medieval castle of an ancient Etruscan site, the hotel pays homage to the surrounding astonishing natural life and maintains agricultural traditions, as such a sense of infinite spaces and time align perfectly with the property’s history. 

The artwork will be available to view until November 17.

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