CCC Strozzina cancels show

Loss of curator and funding are temporary setback, says director

Alexandra Korey
July 3, 2014

An unfortunate coincidence has caused the cancellation of the upcoming exhibition of Spanish contemporary art at the Strozzina: on the same day, curator Franziska Nori left for another position and the Chamber of Commerce of Florence withdrew funding that would have covered the show. Yesterday, Palazzo Strozzi Foundation chairmanLorenzo Bini Smaghi and director James Bradburne announced that the space’s programming has been put on hold temporarily while they reorganize and raise funds to continue its operation.


The Florentine spoke at length today with James Bradburne, who reassures us that the Foundation is committed to contemporary art and that the Strozzina is not, in fact, closing.


Funding cuts

The call came on a Friday afternoon. 200,000 euros of funding cut by the Chamber of Commerce, a major sponsor for Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi; funds earmarked entirely for the upcoming Strozzina show, which was due to open October 1. Bradburne explained that ‘the board had to respond by cutting that show, which cost almost exactly that amount. We haven’t recovered entirely from this lack of funding but we were able to get the budget balanced.’


No more curator

Franziska Nori’s innovative programming at CCC Strozzina runs hand in hand with Bradburne’s directorship. He had worked with her in his previous position in Frankfurt, and when he arrived in Florence, he proposed a contemporary culture project to the board with Nori to run it. The curator has now left Florence for a job that sees her return to Frankfurt. Nonetheless, without Nori, ‘the show must go on,’ so to speak. Bradburne declares, ‘I’m delighted that she has gone back to Frankfurt to direct the prestigious Frankfurter Kunstverei, it’s a great opportunity. This does not alter the original commitment of the Foundation to contemporary art, but we need to find a way to make it happen.’


The Foundation will have to decide whether to search for a new curator or to use the system of guest curators adopted by the larger shows upstairs, which could work very well. The Strozzina’s staff has always been very involved in all projects and shows, with Riccardo Lami, project coordinator, co-curating the most recent show, Family Matters. As such, the vision of Nori and Bradburne might be continued by their staff.


Contemporary art doesn’t make money

‘Strozzina is not a money-maker; it’s a commitment to this city on the part of the Foundation. It’s the right thing to do,’ Bradburne told The Florentine in a telephone interview. I asked him why contemporary art doesn’t make money and his explanation was that this is the case also in other cities, like London, which we strongly associate with the contemporary. ‘It’s a loss leader to everyone,’ Bradburne replied.


It’s a multi-part issue. Firstly, big names sell tickets. The general public has more likely heard of Picasso or Pontormo than perhaps Francis Bacon (the artist, d. 1992, who headlined the Strozzina’s most successful show yet). Anselm Kiefer and Marina Abramovićare some of the most famous contemporary artists, but they are still not household names in Italy. Secondly, the public for contemporary art is younger and has less spending power than for modern or early modern art, so they are less likely to pay full price for tickets.


Nori has done an amazing job in what Bradburne referred to as ‘a difficult city.’ Indeed, Florence and contemporary art are sadly not synonyms, to put it mildly. Lacking a permanent contemporary art space until Prato’s Centro Pecci reopens with its permanent collection on view, we have relied on temporary exhibitions and the Strozzina has been the most prominent provider—especially after the closure of EX3 in 2012 (due to a lack of lease renewal and management problems). The public is often quick to jump to conclusions, while each individual case ought to be considered in light of external factors.



Hope for the future

Palazzo Strozzi will open the blockbuster show Picasso and Spanish Modernity on September 20, 2014, a show that is expected to bring crowds—and money. These major shows recover their investments and are what keep less profitable initiatives—like contemporary art exhibitions and talks—going.


It is going to take the Foundation some time to recover from the double blow received, but, in October, when the larger show is launched, the intention is to present a programme of initiatives, hopefully related to the theme of Spanish modern and contemporary art, which will use the Strozzina space. Soon after, we can expect the announcement of a new show to open in March 2015. How will they pay for this? Bradburne says he will just have to fundraise more. It is an appealing project that he can offer to a major sponsor, and he has got an excellent track record of making this happen.

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