After the summer of “revenge travel” saw a surge in tourism here and everywhere, the number of events, sculptural installations and temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art in Florence this fall is enough for this blogger to declare the season of “revenge art” and everything is opening up in the week of September 19. It’s as if all the fun we hoped to have in the past two years has been scheduled for September. Journalists’ diaries are packed with press openings, though personally I haven’t had time to preside over anything official because I’ve been quite taken by a move from the suburbs of Florence to the center of the town of Fiesole, which is a lovely change of viewpoint. That said, I’ve been ensuring regular jaunts downtown to see all the surprising things popping up. Of note, private galleries, not just major museums, are getting out there more than usual this season. Let’s take a look.

Henry Moore sculptures at Forte Belvedere, 1972. Visitor photo.

Sculptural installations

If it’s pushing limits, it’s in San Lorenzo. If it’s pushing hotdogs, it’s in Santa Maria Novella. Here’s the latest sculptural installations (of the temporary type) to look out for this fall in Florence.

Mr Arbitrium

A sculpture titled Mr Arbitrium showed up on the last day of August at the side of the Basilica of San Lorenzo. The sculpture, making the rounds of locations including Seravezza, Pietrasanta (where the Roman artist lives), Lucca and Milan, appears to be either holding up or pushing away the building against which it is placed. It’s metaphoric of our decisions and actions related to what forms of progress, what emotions, what culture or philosophy we decide to either support or push away.

Hours after the installation, a sign ironizes on the work with a rhyming poem in Tuscan dialect:
“O Giannelli speriamo un cureggi sennò ci ritroano a Careggi… Ma un era meglio che invece di San Lorenzo a regge’ la porta, tu la portavi a Pisa a raddrizza’ la torre torta…” which translates to “Hey Gianelli, let’s hope you don’t fart or we’ll end up at Careggi (hospital). Wasn’t it better if rather than holding up San Lorenzo, you brought it [the sculpture] to Pisa to straighten the crooked tower?”

Salsiccia Fat Bus

Salsiccia fat bus in action, ph. Alexandra Korey

Getting giggles in Piazza Santa Maria Novella is Austrian artist Erwin Wurm’s “Salsiccia Fat Bus”, a sinuous fat pink car out of which passersby can be served hotdogs upon request and a donation to an unnamed Florentine charity. The transformative stunt is intended to attract visitors to the main exhibition of the artist’s work at Galleria Poggiali. TRANS FORMAM comprises 22 works in two premises, via della Scala and via Benedetta, until March 18, 2021. Read more about it in The Florentine.

Henry Moore

Two monumental works by Henry Moore are on display in iconic areas in the city – piazza della Signoria and the piazza in front of the church of San Miniato al Monte until March 31, 2023. The outdoor display marks the 50th anniversary of the exhibition of his works held at Forte Belvedere in 1972, about which there is a photography show that is free to visit in the Sala d’Arme of the Palazzo Vecchio. Last year I reviewed a show of Moore’s work at the Museo Novecento and at that time, curator Sergio Risaliti put out a public call to share their photos and memories of the 1972 display. The public’s contributions are now on display (Back to Moore, Sala d’Arme, Palazzo Vecchio, September 22 to October 3, 2022).

Digital Emotions

A light show on via Tornabuoni near the church of Santa Trinità is part of the exhibition Plessi. Emozioni Digitali by the gallery Tornabuoni Arte. The façade of Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni, which houses the Collezione Roberto Casamonti, is a canvas for a luminous site-specific installation that will be visible through March 31, 2023. The private Casamonti collection is, incidentally, open regularly to the public and I recommend it if you’re looking for something modern and contemporary on a permanent basis in Florence.

Modern and contemporary art exhibitions this Fall 2022 in Florence

Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson exhibition display at Palazzo Strozzi, press photo.

Palazzo Strozzi’s courtyard installation, basically a suspended UFO that filters the sky from the viewers below, draws visitors in with slightly more discretion than a bulbous pink hot dog truck. Olafur Eliasson’s site specific show works with the palazzo’s Renaissance architecture to create plays of light and space that are intended to encourage interactions between viewer and space, viewer and art. In this, Palazzo Strozzi continues along the lines of “it’s all about you” that popped up in the poppy Jeff Koons show full of reflective materials that were primed for selfies. I want to disdain this, but I also kinda appreciate it. The artist explains that “these works create a choreography in which everyone plays an active part, a spectacle of flow and spatial transformation, of explorative motion and contemplative moments.” He expresses the hope that visitors will take the time to reflect upon the effect of physical transformations of space on our experience and to become conscious of our own bodies, minds and emotions. I purposefully avoided rushing through a press preview for this one, and will need to seek out a less-crowded, more contemplative moment to properly experience Eliasson’s Florentine show. Nel tuo tempo is at Palazzo Strozzi until January 22, 2023.

Tony Cragg

Tony Cragg, exhibition view at Museo Novecento

The theme of transformation seems to be a fil rouge here in Florence, maybe it’s a hint… The British contemporary artist Tony Cragg gets a retrospective at Museo Novecento (with some works also at the Istituto degli Innocenti) and the title is Transfer: Thoughts to Things. As a sculptor, Cragg is known for pushing the limits of materials and transforming them; the exhibit is intended as a reflection on the artistic process. Visitors are invited to “contemplate and interpret a world of original forms that amplify perceptions and imaginings between the natural world and artificial invention, between the organic and the technological.” Until January 15, 2023.

Ossie Clark

Ossie Clark at Museo del Tessuto, ph. Marco Badiani

If reading about British artists like Cragg active in the 70s gets you playing Beatles soundtracks in your head, hop on a train to Prato to see “Mr & Mrs Clark | Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, Fashion and Prints 1965-74”. This glimpse into the swinging London of the mid 60s and early 70s through the stylist that dressed Brigitte Bardot and Elton John is just groovy, baby. The power-couple was actually painted by David Hockney; her textile designs made it into his flowy dresses for a style that captured a moment. His fame was short-lived – Clark proved unable to adapt, lost all his money, and was eventually killed by his young lover in his council flat, not that the exhibition talks about that. It’s at the Museo del Tessuto di Prato until January 8, 2023.

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