New Art in the Old City

By Aimelie Moen, BA 2014-18

With an upcoming exhibition March 9th-12th of works focused on “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges” by contemporary young artists featured in the Sala d’Arme in Palazzo Vecchio, it seems fitting to shoutout to the young and innovative population of artists in Florence whose lives and works are both blessed and burdened by the great nature of the Renaissance history of the city. As yet another amongst hundreds of new artists living in this old town, I am proud to be standing on the shoulders of giants—they broke barriers in innovation, technique, material, and design that, although obvious today, were transformative and visionary and still do affect us each day. Their triumphs, however, come at the cost of my work and my contemporaries’ works being much smaller to see under the greatness of their legacies and breakthroughs.

With daily classes taught in la Chiesa di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Bargello, Uffizi, Palatine and Pitti galleries, and all the hundreds of other museums featuring works by great and heavy names like Raffaello, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Filippo and Filippino Lippi, Donatello, Fra Angelico, and so many more, we have our work cut out in a solid foundation. We found the basis of our art careers here in solid rock—composition, line, value, tonality, hue, contrast, form, and texture—and we incorporate the most classical element of art into our works: meaningful subject and iconography (although the Dadaists would quite disagree with that!)

“All art is contemporary, if it’s alive, and if it’s not alive, what’s the point of it?”

   -David Hockney

This is Florence’s greatest attribute to its young artists, this breadth of knowledge and ‘rigid’ rules formed generations ago which each generation seeks to mutate and transform. Perhaps the greatest thing I have heard from local semi-Florentine artist Clet Abraham, an echo of Picasso’s own words, is this, “We learn the rules so we know when to break them.” Those words may not have been original, but his sentiment still finds its target. Florence is the greatest place to be breaking tradition and finding new significant works, styles, and artists simply because they are commenting and rebelling on their surroundings and demanding recognition for their own feats.

Besides the ‘graffiti’ street artists like Clet, Blub, and Enter/Exit whose murals and stencils seem to imitate and parallel respected works by Renaissance fresco painters, other new art arrives in this town each day.

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The history of the Museo Novecento parallels the most dramatic events of the 20th century. The 1966 flood left curators and one man in search of highly influential young contemporaries to donate their works for the cause of a renaissance of the new Italian art era.

This month is Florence’s first Black History Month, founded by artist and professor Justin Thompson of Instituto Lorenzo de’ Medici, whose own works are on display in a side street gallery behind Santa Maria Novella. His performance work “Dem’ Golden Slippers” is a marvelous work of audio, visual, and tactile sensation, where each note he sings and each chord struck seem to deliver these reverberating and thrumming rings of overwhelming emotion as you view his sculpture works. His performances on the 26th and 27th of February at the Fondazione Biagiotti Progetto Art and Teatro del Gallo, one a talk as part of a group of artists and the other a theatrical performance piece, seem to be quite promising as works focusing on the African Diaspora and African and American Soul music. The month concludes with two closing pieces on February 28th at 14:00 and 18:00, two performances Randolph will do in collaboration with other performance and audio artists, the former at San Jacopo Show and the latter at Le Murate. The final concluding piece is March 4th at Sala Vanni and is a live concert performed by Bilal, an artist whose own innovative sound lies somewhere between gospel, jazz, and hip hop, but extends into something greater.

“People don’t like contemporary art, but all art starts life as contemporary—I can’t really see a difference.”

  -Damien Hirst

Besides great collaborations between artists in live events and performances, many other contemporary and new works and artists can be easily discovered by traversing the streets here in the city. While the Oltrarno hosts the most authentic Florentine aspects of the city and is visited less frequently by tourists, the San Niccolò neighborhood features a few galleries of modern artists while Santo Spirito has evening performances by musicians and singers. Side streets outside of the Centro Citta offer surprising new works, like via San Zanobi, which hosts three galleries within a block, each of which exhibit only contemporary and modern art, a bit of fresh air in a city quite perfumed by the Masters.

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Il Museo Novecento features works from midcentury – mainly pop art, photography, collage, sculpture, painting, audio tracks, and mixed media.

So, while Florence can sometimes get overwhelming in terms of the history and old names who refuse to budge of their pedestal, always seek out those side streets and off-the-beaten path galleries featuring the next greatest work of all time—works made by the unknown artists of today, waiting to be discovered along the way.

Museums to visit in Florence for contemporary art are:

Museo di Palazzo Vecchio for the upcoming young artists’ show, March 9th-12th

Strozzina Centro di Cultura Contemporanea

Hours and location: Tues. to Sun. 10am to 8pm. Located at Piazza Strozzi, Florence. Ticket Price: €5, €4 reduced admission. Free admission Thursday 6pm-11pm.

For more info: http://www.strozzina.org or call +39.055391711

Museo del Novecento 

Hours and location: Mon. 2:30 to 7:30pm. Tues., Wed., Fri., and Sun. 9:30 am to 7:30 pm. Thurs. and Sat. 9:30 am – 10:30 pm. Piazza Santa Maria Novella, 10, Firenze.

Ticket Price: Full price €5, concession €3, free for youths up to 25 years of age.

For more info: http://www.museodelnovecento.org or call +39.0288444061

Museo Marino Marini

Hours and location: Mon., Wed. to Sat. 10 am to 5 pm. Piazza S. Pancrazio, Firenze.

Ticket Price: €6, €4 per person for groups of more than 10 people, €3 students

For more info: http://www.museomarinomarini.it +39 055 219432

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