Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

Pontormo in Empoli and why nobody bothers going to this kind of exhibition

There’s an exhibition on now called “Pontormo e il suo seguito nelle terre d’Empoli” – no English translation of the title, since no English information is available. I thought it looked very appealing, and decided to dedicate my Sunday afternoon to visiting it. Organized by the Città degli Uffizi, which loans works from the important museum to minor centers, I had received excellent press information with photos of works by Pontormo, Bronzino, Jacopo da Empoli and a few derivative Mannerist artists. It’d be easy just to publish the press photos and say something neutral, but I can’t do it. Pontormo in Empoli is one of the worst exhibits I have seen in recent years. Shows like this are the reason that nobody bothers going to see art exhibitions in Italy, and the crappy turn-out then spirals into a lack of funding for future, potentially decent, shows.

This is not a painting by Pontormo. (Pittore fiorentino (da Pontormo), Madonna con il Bambino detta Madonna del libro, in deposito dagli Uffizi.)

“Pontormo in Empoli,” as we shall call it in English, had the potential to be pretty good. First of all, because it is organized by the Città degli Uffizi and includes the important name of Pontormo, it managed to get both large and small sponsors. The Ente Cassa di Risparmio is the main sponsor, as well as some local utilities, a four star hotel, the Coop, Sammontana gelato, and some other small companies. The pamphlet has so many logos on it, it takes up one of eight pages. With this money, they were able to create a nice display and graphic material, and there’s even a dedicated Facebook page.

Pontormo, San Giovanni evangelista e san Michele arcangelo

It’s a small exhibition, with only thirteen works, of which 2 are drawings, and four are in their permanent location. But volume is not necessary for an exhibit that intends to communicate the influence of an artist of this import on the territory in which he was born. For Jacopo Carucci was born in Pontorme, a little “frazione” or hamlet now engulfed by the larger town of Empoli, in 1494. An orphan, he was sent to train in a Florentine bottega at age 13, so he didn’t train or work here in Pontorme or in Empoli. He did paint an altarpiece for his hometown, of which remains two standing saints around an empty lunette, still conserved in the church of San Michele. So, it would be fascinating to know the context within which this painting was produced: its patrons, how they lured him back to the town from the big city, the importance of the saints here, and more.

I snuck a photo to show you the work in situ.

The works that accompany this altarpiece and two drawings by Pontormo are intended to, in the words of curator Cristina Gelli, “dar conto dell’eredità del magistero di Jacopo Carucci su alcuni artisti la cui attività trova espressione nel territorio empolese” (sum up the influence of the greatness* of Jacopo Carucci on some artists whose body of work finds its expression in the Empolese [magistero may also mean “teaching”, this is unclear]). Basing the whole exhibit on a totally vague and not entirely unequivocal statement may be the problem. I don’t know what contact Pontormo had with these artists, how much time he spent on Empolese territory, and specifically in what way he influenced these specific artists. No wall text in the exhibit explains this, nor does the attractive pamphlet or the information published online. I also have access to a biography and press release that are not available elsewhere online, and these essential points are simply not addressed.

Ottavio Vannini, “Apparizione di san Michele arcangelo sul Gargano”. I have no idea how this relates to Pontormo.

Pontormo in Empoli thus follows in the tracks of numerous exhibitions in Italy that trace the “fortuna” or “eredità” of an artist, attempting to sell entrance tickets with a big name, and putting one work by that artists amongst a few dozen others, where there may be at best a whiff of the named artists’s style (and that style should be interpreted by the viewer, who should be knowledgeable enough to recognize it.)

The Italian public, however, is no longer fooled. Antonio Natali, director of the Polo Museale Fiorentino, reports to the Empoli edition of La Nazione newspaper (source) his disappointment with the entrance numbers: 1600 visitors in the first 6 weeks of the show’s life. The area around Empoli counts about 150,000 people, and shows like this are designed to engage the locals, but the Empolesi themselves are not going to see it. (There are even a few potentially interesting conferences around the show, which ought to draw visitors.) Of the few visitors that were present on this balmy Sunday afternoon that I sacrificed in the name of art, we were the only ones able to walk without the assistance of a cane or walker. A show like this costs from 140,000 to 200,000 euros, and to be anything other than a total failure, Natali says they need to see at least 10,000 visitors. Or else? Or else the sponsors will go running away with their tail between their legs and never donate another euro to the arts.

The problem is that nobody wants to support the arts because Italian exhibitions seem to be made by Italian art historians, for other Italian art historians. For there seems to be an assumption that a visitor should already be familiar with the artist’s biography, the subject matter represented, and especially with visual analysis in order to draw his or her own conclusions about relationships of style, based on historical information stored in his or her own head. God forbid there should be an introductory video, an audioguide (I hate audioguides, but maybe this would be useful), a 5 minute guided visit by a student, a biography of the artist printed on a panel, an app, a diagram of relationships between people, or any other information beyond a 50 word label in order to communicate the basic information necessary to understand the point of the exhibition.

This is a beautiful drawing by Pontormo in the GDSU of the Uffizi. I have seen it half a dozen times though.

Pontormo is one of the most interesting characters of the late Italian Renaissance. He survived almost entirely on boiled eggs [correction – an expert friend says they were omlettes], after all, and painted scenes with such elongated figures that you wonder what hallucinatory drugs he was on. Today I was in the house in which he was born, I visited his natal town, I saw a work of his in situ, and it left me feeling BLEH. This is a shame that could have been avoided by the use of simple and inexpensive communication methods that should come naturally to any didactic-minded curator. The failure of this exhibit will cause the few sponsors who still have a lira to spare to reconsider giving money next time, causing the crisis of the arts in Italy to fall further down into its own, deep hole.

Update: a response from Antonio Natali

The local online news website read this review and deemed it worthy of sharing by writing an article entitled “Una esperta d’arte canadese stronca la mostra del Pontormo” (Canadian art expert kills the Pontormo exhibit). As this generated much discussion, the newspaper’s director, Giacomo Cioni, then took the trouble to phone Antonio Natali and ask him what he thought, resulting in the article “Antonio Natali sul Pontormo: “Una mostra per la gente di Empoli, con un catalogo snello e accessibile. Venite a vedere””. A full translation of his refutation is as follows:

“Natali confirms (the data cited about visitor numbers) and takes the trouble of also commenting and answering the points made by the art critic Alexandra Korey, although he does not know who she is. One can say and do anything ‘on the net’. To the opinion of the signorina [young unmarried woman without academic qualifications] I wish to contrast that of Mina Gregori, who has been to the exhibition in December and was enthusiastic. Let me add that from a didactic point of view we tried to keep the price of the catalogue low.

Beside every work is a label and a brief explanation. I seem to have understood that the spirit of the exhibit was to do a census of those who derived certain influences from Pontormo and that this goal has been fully reached. Concrete relations with Pontormo? What is the signorina talking about? Well, with regards to il Cigoli his contemporaries talked about him, Naldini is an artist who departs from Pontormo, Macchietti and (Jacopo di) Empoli idem. They are all connected to this area. The exhibit organized by the Comunune di Empoli is an exhibit, as many other local ones, that tries to improve the historical awareness of its citizens. And I am speaking to them when I say that this may be the occasion to go and see it in person and see if what this young lady says is the truth of the matter.”

I would also say that the City of Empoli’s effort in [organizing this] exhibit is appreciable. So it seems to me that the wall text is exhaustive and that the catalogue is intentionally inexpensive, and the young art historians of Empoli have done a good job going through all the local churches for their research. It is not fair to criticize this exhibit.”

With thanks to GoNews for raising the question, it is clear that Dr. Natali and I are unlikely to see eye to eye on the matter, and I am pleased that he took the time to read and refute my points. Putting the derogatory references to signorina aside, if I were just a signorina and not dottoressa (the title used for people with a university degree) it would be even more important to listen to my opinion. For the signorina would represent the general public to whom the exhibit is targeted, who may not have had the advantage of 13 years of university art history study as I have. The fact is that the audience is changing, everywhere in Italy and in particular in Empoli. Empoli is a vibrant and young city that has attracted many young couples and new families due to its attractive property prices. Busy, young people who are used to modern communications, who have limited time for the arts and treat the arts as a fun activity to experience with family and friends. We can no longer depend on the contextual knowledge gained by growing up in a place and receiving the rigorous education once provided by the Italian school system, nor can we expect that people will be reading the catalogue (although making it available for consultation inside the exhibition space would be a wonderful help for those wishing to dig deeper). Even when viewers are highly educated, viewers now expect certain things to be spelled out for them, and there is nothing debasing or unscholarly about doing this. Dr. Natali has kindly backed up my point by mentioning the appreciation that Dr. Gregori has of the show: made by Italian art historians, for Italian art historians. I have heard Dr. Natali speak many times, and am always impressed by the fascinating information he imparts and at his depth of knowlege; I also have the maximum respect for Dr. Gregori, a groundbreaking professor. I wish that many more people could benefit from this knowledge.

I wish to point out that I also visited the MuVe, a museum dedicated to glass, and found that it does an impressive job communicating the close relation of production and the Empolese territory in a contemporary manner (I plan to publish a review soon). This review has also resulted in an invitation from a local historian to get to know the city and its art better, which I will take up. I hope that the discussion stirred up can be taken as more than just polemical but a frank raising of a real problem that would not take much to resolve.


Exhibition information (for self-flagellants)

Pontormo e il suo seguito nelle Terre D’Empoli
Pontorme (Empoli)
November 29 2013 to March 2, 2014

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • Edward Goldberg

    “Italian exhibitions seem to be made by Italian art historians, for other Italian art historians.” You hit the proverbial nail right on the proverbial head! Have you seen the beautiful and intriguing but utterly impenetrable “Da Donatello a Lippi” show at the Palazzo Pretorio in Prato? The hell of it is that Italians expend a lot of money, scholarly intelligence and professional experience on shows of this kind–doing 95% of the work while blowing off the remaining 5% that would allow them to connect with their publics. I use the plural advisedly, since this country runs on a false dichotomy between “scholarly initiatives” and “popular initiatives”–which means that both are likely to fail. As experienced exhibition planners realize, it is not that difficult to pitch your show to several different–or more usually, overlapping–publics at once, with parallel itineraries through the show and various levels of signage. At the Lippi show at the Palazzo Pretorio, there was basically a missing first gallery, “Art and Society in Prato at the time of Filippo Lippi”, with the kind of contextual material that you describe. Strange that the Palazzo Pretorio people overlooked the lesson of the Museo del Tessuto, right on their doorstep in Prato, which hosted a section of supporting material from their own collection. The Museo del Tessuto is a text-book model of how to do things right–offering engaging multi-layered displays with clear vision and focus.

  • arttrav

    Thank you Ed!
    I did go to the Lippi show in Prato, and wrote a positive review here: I agree, though, that it’s not an easy show to take in, and it lacked some contextual information, but at least they made an effort.
    I am glad you bring up the Museo del Tessuto, for whom you know I work as social media consultant. I found it frustrating that the Lippi exhibit drew big crowds and attracted international press, but their website and press office did not promote the satellite exhibit of textiles in the era of Lippi that is just 4 minutes’ walk away. I think the textiles presented a locally-relevant supplement to the main show.
    Just FYI the textile display has been extended through March, and will run at the Textile Museum during most of their upcoming exhibition on the white shirts of Gianfranco Ferré.
    I guess that Italian art history, and also the way of communicating more generally, often lacks the kind of contextualization that we find natural and necessary. Perhaps 30 years ago, this was okay for their own public. Nowadays, they eliminate a tourist public this way, and I think the Italian public won’t accept it any more either. We’re probably all dulled down by social networks ;) .

  • Edward Goldberg

    We didn’t even know that there was a satellite exhibition until we arrived at the Museo del Tessuto on our own! We visited on 6 January and there was a large crowd of parents and children for a Befana-related event but far fewer people in the ground floor galleries (with the corollary Lippi show) than at the Palazzo Pretorio. The newly restructured Palazzo Pretorio is a wonderful facility and I look forward eagerly to its full re-opening this spring. I hope that they succeed in finding their voice and focusing on their mission–in the context of Prato and farther afield. The Museo del Tessuto is certainly a crucial part of the Palazzo Pretorio’s context. It sets a very high standard for Prato and its staff has a lot of relevant experience to share.

  • Anonymous

    Obviously I have no expertise to share, but I enjoyed this article (and discussion). Makes one wonder perhaps why the sponsors don’t expect more (I know they are not subject-area experts, but…)? Tragically for me I did not make it to Prato this time. Argh.

  • arttrav

    Caterina, I love this long comment!
    You’re right that an integrated tourism offering is a very important element especially in these smaller art centers. The ticket also includes the MuVe, museum of glass in Empoli, which we visited and quite liked. I am glad to hear that the Collegiata is worth seeing, I shall save my ticket for a future entry, because it was too late to go there by the time we were done, plus my husband had seen enough bad art for the day. An itinerary to nearby locations of Pontormo’s work would have been nice too. I mean, Poggio a Caiano isn’t far. How much do you want to bet that Palazzo Strozzi will include an itinerary that reaches all the way to Empoli with their show on this artist later this spring?!
    What you say more specifically about how places like the Collegiata would contribute to viewers’ understanding is also very relevant. Probably most Empolesi should know something about the Renaissance and their territory in this period, but I think it never helps to underestimate the viewer and give this information in an accessible way. Even those of us who specialize in this material need reminders.
    I agree that this is a show for connoisseurs. I consider myself a pretty informed viewer, but even I don’t know much about Mannerism. I know the basics about the movement, Pontormo, Rosso and Bronzino, but I don’t know much about the “less pure” manifestations of the style in their wake. Is your article available online? I would love to read it!

  • Bonnie Marie

    Thank you Alexandra for helping me feel less guilty about missing yet another exhibit in our area. I will move quickly past the true reasons behind the absence of quality in this and a good number of cultural events branded with a zillion public and private sector logos – those reasons being tax breaks and a need to spend what’s left for the logos and pocket money for their buddy organizers (I worked with a large and historic concert organization in Rome that was 80% funded by the government, I have seen how it works first hand) – and express my sincere anguish at the fact that even a die-hard italophile such as myself is finding it hard to wave the red, white and green any more. I sell the Italian wedding dream to our co-nationals who come here for those things that Italy is admired and envied for around the world: food, fine arts and fashion. August is one of the months that I fear the most, not for the heat but for the lack of anything going on except medieval torture device displays (I mean REALLY?!). But on the bright side, I’m going to the Lippi show so that I can see the newly restored Palazzo Pretorio which should be hosting civil ceremonies pretty soon ( I have done 3 weddings in Prato’s gorgeous Municipal hall which is plastered with artwork) and I will take Ed Goldberg’s and your advice and hop over to the Textile Museum.

  • arttrav

    Thank you for you insight, Bonnie!
    I thought that one of the problems was that in Italy, there are NOT tax breaks for supporting cultural endeavours?!
    Both shows in Prato are worth seeing, though I thought Lippi was closing yesterday, no?…
    It is sad that the cultural offering is not better organized and promoted. We could go on for a while about creating events for tourists vs for the locals (arguably, everything should be for both!)

  • Gloria

    This is a reflection of the idea of what constitute “Culture” in Italy. It is a deeply entrenched cultural attitude which would (and actually does) require a serious revolution or at least some honest rethinking. In Italy, if something is not heavy, boring and auto-referential, it is not to be considered as a serious cultural endevour.

    This is true in museums, in the academia, in publishing.

    In the English speaking world, academic discourse is dialogic. The author of any article, book or essay, as well as the curators of any exhibit work and publish with a specific audience in mind. They guide their readers/visitors through a path which is suitable for most people, experts or non-experts alike. Nothing, or almost nothing, is left unsaid, or is considered too obvious to be explicitly explained.

    Sites of interest, attractions and exhibits become “activities”, something people can “do” and “enjoy” in their spare time. Re-enactments, animations, etc. are most common. You learn while you enjoy a sort of show.

    In Italy, cultural/academic communication is monologic. It is an emanation of knowledge from an expert (often a “super-expert”, a University professor, or another eminent personality) to a non-expert who should already know enough to be able to follow. If he doesn’t know enough to understand, then it’s because he’s too ignorant.

    Sites, and museums are places to see for the cultured. You only go there if you already have a certain level of culture. Considering re-enactments, or creating a scene with wax statues in an ancient palazzo would be considered diminishing.

    The example of Pompeii is emblematic. Three stones and a few pictures were enough to generate millions in the UK and to attract hordes of visitors (Italians included). We have the real thing and it is crumbling down.

    We would have enough to live of culture and art. We let our treasures disintegrate because we cannot see their value as tourist attractions for the masses.

    Until this attitude changes, and we manage to do what the UK and North America do, that is create an attraction around every standing stone which might be older than 100 years, there is no hope for Italy and its immense heritage.

  • Pal

    You know, reading your article, it simply confirms to me “everything” that I thought was wrong with Italy and how things are approached there. And unfortunately, I’m not surprised at all. Recently I was researching Italian art and the current art scene and it was really hard to feel much positiveness about the current scene. Among others your article about the tax breaks (the one you refer to here) confirmed this to me: is the lack of innovative thinking really this obvious?

    Just like Bonnie here puts it, even if you’re an Italophile it’s hard not to feel discouraged about everything that’s happening, and I believe this exhibition and Italian art in general reflects this quite well. Of course, I might be wrong, I’m not much in Italy these days, but I’m curious enough to try to understand what the society is going through.

    Living in the past – and in a world detached from the common people – is never good if you want to create a dynamic society. Well, I think I have some more thinking to do here and have no intention politicizing it too much. Simply, I don’t want to jump to conclusions too soon, but thanks to your article Alexandra, i feel extra motivated now to look a bit more into it, at least to start asking some questions. Great article, by the way, glad you didn’t go for the neutral approach :-).

  • Bonnie Marie

    There are some rare exceptions. I went to the kid friendly tour of Santa Croce through Opera Santa Croce and despite having an unusually hard time getting information and tickets, the tour itself was captivating and the guide who led our small group of children around the basilica to discover how many of the works are linked to tales of Christmas was an excellent storyteller.

  • arttrav

    Hi Pal
    Where are you living now? Your wording is revealing: “Living in the past – and in a world detached from the common people – is never good if you want to create a dynamic society.” You have just summed up Italian politics, which relates to Italian economics and to the arts, with the stagnant results that you now plainly see. There is a huge distance between the ruling class and “the people” (I sound like a marxist). The same distance between curators and “the people”. The reasons for this remain partially mysterious to me. Gloria’s comment, above, starts to explain some of it. Thanks for weighing in on this discussion – I hope to see you around on arttrav blog and social media in the future, as you seem to be new here :) best regards

  • arttrav

    Hi Bonnie
    I am glad you enjoyed the tour at Santa Croce, my friend Paola who organizes and promotes them will be thrilled! I remember sharing news of it on The Florentine’s fan page…
    I think we need to distinguish between three types of cultural sharing: tours and guided visits, permanent museums, and temporary exhibitions. My primary beef is with the exhibitions, though you know if you get me started on everything that is wrong with museums today, I could go on for hours. That’s why I wrote an app for the Uffizi, to try to solve one bit of that problem. Guided visits are meant to be accessible, and thankfully a lot of museums, cultural associations and private guides offer good ones. Often, this experience is necessary to make up for the lack of engaging information attached to the actual art. Right?

  • arttrav

    Gloria, first of all, thank you. This contribution could be a blog post in itself, or could be developed into one. Maybe we should co-author a treatise on the matter.

    There are SO many fine elements that you bring up here, the discussion could get very long. I recently interviewed Philippe Daverio and asked him why Italians don’t visit museums, and you’ll be glad to hear that he and you would see totally eye to eye. He talked about how, for the English, visiting a museum is something one does for fun, but in Italy, it’s a chore, and one not taken up by more than 5% of the population that can be considered the intelligenzia (article and video forthcoming in The Florentine :) ).

    If the established creators of cultural products remain in control, they will destroy or change anyone who attempts to diverge from the norm until they continue on the same path. So we need, somehow, to get modern thinkers in the university system. Which is why it is a good thing that people like you manage to get jobs as professors. Save us all, Gloria. Too bad you are a linguist and not an art historian :).

  • arttrav

    Hi Jenna
    The comparison could not be more night and day! Palazzo Strozzi really wants to communicate art. The fact is that it is a rare, international-minded exhibition space in Italy, since the director is Canadian, and the curators are often partners – one Italian, and at least one foreigner. I am quite sure that Strozzi’s show on Pontormo will be everything that this show isn’t: engaging, interesting, and with some good art.

    Of course, the show in Empoli was not meant to compete in the same playing field as Palazzo Strozzi, but serves a different function, that of bringing the Uffizi masterpieces to outlying territories, to share the collection with people who might not go all the way to the mothership, and also help relate the art back to where it came from. This is an honourable mission. Too bad about the execution…


  • Jenna Francisco

    I think I was confused about the show…the one I had heard about was the one that will be at Palazzo Strozzi. And now that you mention the mission again and I focus on that, I can say that it is indeed honorable, but even the lack of wall text about an artist of Pontormo’s importance is a shame.

  • Pal

    Hi again,

    Well, yes, I happened to be a student in Florence exactly 20 years ago, when the Forza Italia days started, so it somehow turned into a passion to see how things go there. I gave up on them many times, but deep inside I want to be optimistic and believe in a better future… For instance, what you and Jenna mention above about Strozzi gives hope, I think the situation can be turned around, but it won’t go automatically. I have Italian friends too so I know the insiders’ perspective a bit as well, not just observing from a distance, but it’s never an easy topic. So I’m glad you brought it up, it’s refreshing with some real thinking :-). In any case, I live in Amsterdam now, a different kind of society all together.

    And yes, Art Trav (first time commenting here, yes) and beyond, we’ll see more of each other soon, I’m sure.

    Cheers, Pal

  • Bonnie Marie

    Exactly. And it’s such a shame, the three types of sharing should work as a spiral to draw people into the wonderful world of art and culture. It is so exciting when someone helps you get closer to understanding art and history, it makes you want more.

  • arttrav

    Aha, Jenna has just told me who you are, and I recommend readers check out your blog :)

  • Crystal King

    The first painting shown here (the one not by Pontormo) was at the MFA in Boston in the big Italian painting gallery for several years in the past, possibly on loan? It is so unusual that it’s not one easily forgotten–the painter had a hard time painting the breasts and Jesus is looking a little elongated and creepy. So strange to see it here–it’s not been at the MFA for a few years and I wondered where it went. I wish I could see this exhibit. It looks fantastic.

  • Anonymous

    Somewhat tangential but relevant I think, I just posted on FB a summary article of an OECD study I happened to be looking at today (highlighting low adult literacy and numeracy levels in Italy relative to other OECD countries, i.e. pointing to an enormous gulf between elites and the general population to whom one might want to sell a ticket to an exhibition).

  • Lesley Peterson

    To be honest, Alexandra, I believe the subject matter of these paintings is a huge challenge in the new millennium, too. The general public is not as versed in understanding religious or mythological scenes as past generations were. They need much more information these days. As you say, explaining more about the artist as a person, tying a personality to a specific place, would go a long way towards engaging the public. Museums must appeal to people’s emotions, not just their intellect, if they want them to spend precious leisure time and cash there.

  • arttrav

    Hi Crystal,
    The painting is a copy after a lost Pontormo, that was in the Uffizi storage and has been loaned for the past few years to the Casa del Pontormo in Pontorme (Empoli), probably a permanent loan since there is nothing else in the Casa. It seems quite possible that it was previously loaned to the MFA though I did not know this – good eye!
    I agree that through a simple reproduction of these paintings, the exhibition looked good enough to trek out to Empoli to go see. And maybe someone will like it, too!

  • arttrav

    Hi Katja
    I was writing you a marathon answer and then the power went out and lost it :(

    The jist of what I was saying is: again, we need to distinguish between museum and temporary exhibition. A museum may have a very good collection, as well as guided tours, though here I would say that often Italian museums rely on this fact in order to not do anything further, like particularly informative labels, reconstructions, good display, etc, compared to American museums, which might have not much great art, but boy do they do a lot with it.

    The temporary exhibition, on the other hand, has to make a point (or at least, it has the opportunity to do so). It may not contain any, or just one piece of, great art, but it cannot survive on labels alone. There is a close balance between too much wall text and not enough information, and curatorship is not easy, nor is it my job or area of expertise, but I maintain that people need more contextual information!

    Yes, there are some museums, some in the Senese, that are doing a good job – though I would not agree with you that these are 50%. (The Biccherne is a really cool collection, but undoubtedly niche, and the solution of an hourly guided visit works for them because few people go there, right?). Although based on these comments, I was thinking of writing an analysis: 5 small museums in Tuscany that are doing it right. Forthcoming on this blog :)

  • arttrav

    I guess that sponsors cannot set expectations for outcome, though wouldn’t it be nice if the sponsors could say “I give you 2000 euros for social media” or “here are 4000 euros if you print a timeline of the artist’s works”…

  • arttrav

    Hey Cat, here’s Strozzi’s itinerary… predictable, and useful

  • Pal

    Thanks Alexandra, and thanks for mentioning us – although we have still a long way to go, but one thing at the time… Most importantly: we are both really looking forward to the opportunity of getting to know each other in the group :)

  • Crystal King

    It would have been in the late 90s early 200s, so quite awhile ago! It is true in all the exhibits and museums I’ve seen in Italy. There is often so little information that sometimes I’ve walked away wondering what/who on earth I’ve just viewed. It’s something I’ve never quite understood. If you don’t latch onto the curiosity of the viewer, it will be hard for them to want to invest in the future of art.

  • arttrav

    Thank you Crystal, I think it is important that more of us admit to this problem, and that Italian curators and museum management open an ear to this!

  • lonelytraveller

    The link to my article is
    It’s just a short informative article, as the magazine readers probably know Mannerism and Pontormo very well, so a real “review” wasn’t necessary.
    But after reading your post I started writing one myself, not only about Pontormo, but about similar problems in Florence.

  • arttrav

    Thanks for sharing the link, I shall now go check it out, and look forward to reading your musings on these problems too. The more we speak up, the more likely it is that someone out there will listen.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. Or at least contractually require that the exhibition include a variety of materials to appeal to people of different levels of education, children, etc.

  • Rachele

    Be careful with your translation, because in Italian the term “Signorina” doesn’t mean “young unmarried woman without academic qualifications”.

  • arttrav

    Dear Rachele,
    Thank you, could you tell me what would be a better translation?
    As far as I know, signorina is an unmarried woman. If that unmarried woman has a laurea, she becomes dottoressa. So, the correct term to refer to me, a married woman with a PhD, is certainly not signorina. Is this not true? Many thanks

  • lonelytraveller

    As I promised I wrote a post (in Italian) about the exhibition:
    All comments are welcome!

  • alysb

    A really valuable post. It chimes with my campaign to get my fellow – citizens of the Marche region to understand that we ordinary tourists cost time and money and are not just the geese who lay golden eggs.

  • arttrav

    Thank you!
    Out of curiosity: How did you find this blog post at this “late date”? It hasn’t been circulating much, after the initial controversy :) !

  • Denis Taylor

    An interesting post with the critic firmly aimed on those who put on this exhibition. I’m guessing that the lack of technology infuriates the writer, as if the information cannot be absorded by an audience that carries the defacto iphone and ipad. For me, living in Northern climes (Sweden) it would be a priviledge to view ‘live’ a painting by this incredible Artist. We never, or rather rarely should I say, get the chance to view work of this quality, unless of course we invest in an Easijet flight to Italy. More often than not we have to contend with post-modernist copies of art from the late 1980’s. Of course we are given the ‘repetitive’ exhibitions of the impressionist’s – but as a painter myself, I’m sorta of tired of them and seek greater depth, much more passion and certainly more emotion in Art-works to inspire me. Greco and Pontormo are top of my list at the moment (and have been for many years). How lucky you are to be able to get on a bus, tram or train, and walk into the light that this ‘original’ Mannerist painter can cast on you – It matters not how its presented, its the Art that should give you delight in what it holds. All the best, Denis.

  • arttrav

    Dear Denis,
    Yes, you’re right. Art speaks for itself – or at least it can and should to people who have it in their veins, like you do, as an artist. A Pontormo in a church, viewed on its own, is a delight. There are many amazing works of art in Italy and many more that are just average, but I appreciate having it near me very much (I moved here from Canada in part for this reason.)
    But the case of an exhibition is different. Money is spent to move artworks, to show them in a space and to create opportunities for discourse. In this case, art needs people to help it communicate. I don’t want ipads in shows, just proper labeling, a booklet, wall text, a guide person, whatever, to tell us what the point of the exhibition is.

    My point in this case was a larger one about a type of show that is typical in Italy, when it is ostensibly for the general public but is at a level that only the specialized can understand. The general public needs explanation.

    Thanks for reading,