PRESENTING FLORENCE 2015 - Un anno ad arte [Art for a Year]
Director General for the Historical, Artistic, Ethnic and Anthropological Heritage and for the Museum Cluster of the City of Florence
To mark the 10th anniversary of the programme of exhibitions grouped once again this year under the title "Florence - Un anno ad arte [Art for a Year]", we have put together a marvellous, multi-faceted schedule of exhibitions primarily devoted to topics of art historical interest, taking our cue from the museums themselves and their outstanding collections to develop our themes, which are beautifully complemented by the informative and memorable catalogues produced by Giunti and Sillabe.
Our now traditional partners, the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze and Firenze Musei with Opera Laboratori Fiorentini (a member of the Civita Group), have once again responded generously and favourably to this demanding programme which, in view of the Ministry's imminent reform of its central and peripheral organs, may well be the last one to involve the Florentine Museum Cluster as a unified, independent institution.
The pattern of cooperation may well change to a considerable degree in the coming years as a result of the new autonomous directorates into which the current Directorate General is due to be broken down (the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries; the National Museum of the Bargello; a Regional Museum Cluster; and responsibility for territorial oversight).
The product of different paths in terms of origin, topic and method, but in each case marked by original scholarship and careful research, the exhibitions that the Museum Cluster's most important museums will be presenting in 2015 - the year of the World EXPO in Milan, an event for which Italy as a whole has a duty to show its attractions, thus also its artistic heritage, in the most favourable light - are truly stimulating in the varied nature of the approaches they adopt in their determination to appeal to as broad a number of visitors as possible.
To mark the 150th anniversary of its foundation, the Museo del Bargello, forged primarily around medieval and Renaissance collections as a "national" museum, will be joining with several other European museums to present some of the loftiest aspects of medieval civilisation, taking its cue from the notion of travel as reality and as imagination to display a fascinating array of everyday items and works of art of the period.
The Galleria dell'Accademia's first exhibition addresses the medieval era too, exploring the origin of one of the greatest religious and cultural phenomena in Western (and indeed world) history: the Franciscan movement, with the immense contribution that it made to art and religion as it spread like wildfire to the East and as far afield as China itself.
Fully four monographic exhibitions will be addressing the Renaissance and Baroque eras, combining work from our collections with a number of outstanding loans. Each one of these exhibitions explores the work of a painter perhaps less well-known to the general public, as part of a policy designed to boost appreciation of their work on the basis of the most advanced scholarship available today. Only such major museums as the Uffizi or as the Accademia can afford to promote artists who are less well-known and less immediately popular, thus highlighting their mission to promote often pioneering critical rediscovery and education to art. Over the year we will be able to admire the work of Piero di Cosimo, Carlo Portelli, Gherardo delle Notti and Carlo Dolci.
The exhibition devoted to Piero di Cosimo, a brilliant if eccentric Florentine painter who lived in the 15th and 16th centuries, will reveal the full extent of his inexhaustible creativity which was responsible for producing rare (even extremely rare) subject matter painted with visionary singularity. One has but to think of his "History of Primitive Man", a subject never addressed either before or after by any other Renaissance painter
The exhibition devoted to Carlo Portelli, another eccentric Florentine painter - albeit far more advanced in his mastery of the "modern manner" at the height of the 16th century - will reveal his tireless search for an elegance as refined as it was complex. His painting, rich in bold foreshortening, is often crowded with figures, as we can see in his Immaculate Conception in the Accademia itself and, to an even greater extent, in his tortured Martyrdom of St. Romulus in Fiesole.
In its exhibition of the work of Gerrit Honthorst, known as Gherardo delle Notti, from Utrecht, the Uffizi will be exploring the painter's presence in Italy in the early 17th century and, above all, the enthusiastic reception he was given in Florence, the Medici purchasing fully four of his large canvases for their collections. The work of Gerrit, who owes his nickname to his talent for depicting nocturnes lit by oil lamps and candles, will be set alongside that of other painters from the Low Countries who also devoted their careers to exploring the rendering of light.
With Carlo Dolci we enter the artistic (and religious) life of the Florentine court at the height of the 17th century, which was dominated by Grand Duchess Vittoria Della Rovere. The polished beauty of Dolci's painting, immersed in a translucent light reminiscent of the mineral splendour of semi-precious stone inlay work, served to produce delicate religious images from which critics in later centuries may have marked their distance, but which earned him admiration and popularity in his own day. By the same token, his exquisitely painted floral still-life now in the Uffizi Gallery was equally well received and acclaimed.
The exhibition at the Museo degli Argenti will be devoted to lapis lazuli, a topic which proved to be of interest to artists throughout Europe and even further afield. A stone frequently imported from the heart of Asia, lapis lazuli not only played a role in the creation of splendid and valuable objets d'art but also served, after being ground to a powder, to provide painters with what, together with gold, was unquestionably the most regal and costly of pigments. Known as natural ultramarine blue, it was used to evoke the loftiest spheres of heaven and to clothe the divine. The Galleria d'arte moderna, for its part, will continue to delve into the depths of the collections that it has been putting together since it was founded in 1914, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Florence's designation as the capital of a newly united Italy, by staging an exhibition devoted principally to the works of art and furnishings acquired by King Victor Emmanuel II for his sumptuous and labyrinthine Florentine residence in Palazzo Pitti during the years that he spent in the city.
This weighty exhibition programme forms the backbone of the initiatives for 2015 designed to enhance the state-owned art museums. The result of research conducted over the years by our own functionaries and by guest curators, at a time when the Florentine Museum Cluster is still a single peripheral institute under the Minister for Cultural Assets and Activities and for Tourism, in other words a Special Directorate General with its own administrative and accounting autonomy, the programme's feasibility is based on a pattern of investment and revenue whose primary condition is the osmosis between one museum and another within a single system in order to guarantee a financially viable balance among the various different exhibitions. If the planned reform breaks up this concentration of museums into different, independent units (as I mentioned earlier, the plan is to make the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries, the National Bargello Musum, and a totally new Regional Cluster independent of one another), then I trust that my successors will endeavour to ensure the development and conclusion of their individual projects with adequate resources and continuity of intent.
The same hope may be formulated for the exhibitions planned outside of the "Florence - Un anno ad arte [Art for a Year]" initiative proper: exhibitions and events designed to shine the spotlight on museums, Medici villas and convent refectories, devoted to the themes of the Milan EXPO, thus inspired by the food chain which "feeds the planet". These events will involve a broad range of iconographical topics and items ranging from the agrarian landscape to the table in manor and hovel alike. Further initiatives, either inside museums or designed to present the artistic assets of the city of Florence, restored and studied by local functionaries, will complete the cultural offer of an extraordinarily intense and artistically rich year which I hope will prove of interest and enjoyment both to the people of Florence and to the city's visitors, on every occasion allowing close and fruitful contact with works of art and with the message that those works of art continue to bear to this day.
E X H I B I T I O N P R O G R A M M E
Florence 2015 - Un anno ad arte [Art for a Year]
Gherardo delle Notti
Most bizarre paintings and merry suppers
10 February - 24 May
Galleria degli Uffizi
The Middle Ages on the Road
Marking the 150th anniversary of Florence as the capital of Italy and of the Bargello's inauguration as a museum
20 March - 21 June
Museo Nazionale del Bargello
Masterpieces of art and Asian lands from the 13th to the 15th centuries
30 March - 11 October
Lapis Lazuli. Blue Magic
9 June - 11 October
Museo degli Argenti
Piero di Cosimo (1462-1522)
An eccentric "Florentine" painter, from the Renaissance to the Modern Manner
22 June - 27 September
Galleria degli Uffizi
30 June - 15 November
Florence, Capital City 1865-2015
The king's gifts and collections
19 November - 3 April 2016
Galleria d'arte moderna
A painter of some worth
14 December - 17 April 2016