A new exhibition of photographs by Massimo Sestini at Florence’s Forte Belvedere is called “Beauty Beyond Limits” (Bellezza oltre il limite), referring to the unlimited beauty of Tuscany. Twenty photos printed on gigantic supports dot the fort’s property overlooking the city. They’re views from above, but not your average drone photos: Massimo Sestini is a top photojournalist whose preferred trick is to photograph using extreme zoom lenses, held perpendicular to the earth, from 2000 meters above in a helicopter. This won him the World Press Photo award in 2015 with an image of rescued migrants in a boat off the coast of Libya. Here, his skills are put to use to promote the Tuscan territory; the native of Prato represents cities and countryside, sports, nature and art from a never-before-seen point of view.
To the tune of the song “Another day in paradise” blasting from the bar above, I couldn’t help but tear up a bit visiting this exhibit on the day it opened. The extreme beauty of the view of the city just before sunset from what may be one of the world’s top outdoor exhibition spaces combined with the absolute normalcy of visiting a new art exhibition for the first time in half a year to make me feel particularly emozionata – one of those Italian words that can’t be translated. I’m not easily swayed by romanticism, but I really feel like this exhibit is just what we need right now.
While Forte Belvedere has been home to big international artists on an almost annual basis (I’ve reviewed Antony Gormely here, for example) in shows curated by Sergio Risaliti, this one feels like a homecoming. There’s a good dose of Tuscan pride shining through these images, and there’s sense in having a Tuscan represent his own region and remind other Tuscans of why we are so lucky to live here. It reminds us that we don’t have to go far to experience beauty; we have it all here.
The white beaches of Vada, near Piombino; the tomato pickers of the Maremma in perfect geometry; Piazza Duomo in Florence or its counterpart in Pisa…
The sharp shadows of a bike race on Tuscany’s famous strade bianche are some of the natural and man-made scenes captured by Sestini. His eye for rhythm and geometry applies also to things that should not be beautiful: a supermarket line-up in Prato during lockdown.
The exhibit has been created and promoted by a number of government entities that have interests in promoting Tuscany – Fondazione Sistema Toscana, Toscana Promozione Turistica, Mus.e., the Tuscan region and the City of Florence. It’s part of “Toscana, Rinascimento senza fine”, a new regional tourism marketing campaign. A turn of phrase in the project description refers to the exhibit as being “in anteprima a Firenze” – indicating, perhaps, the intention to make this into a traveling exhibition. The 3×5 meter canvases would in fact travel well off their structures and would bring an immersive and truly beautiful vision of Tuscany to potential visitors in countries who currently can’t come to us, but who surely are dreaming of doing so again soon.
Bellezza oltre il limite
Fotografie di Massimo Sestini
September 16 to October 31
Forte Belvedere, Florence
Free entry, open 3pm to 8pm daily, closed Monday.