25 luglio 2023
by Antonio Boni

Record-breaking art

YPM_Exécution, après Goya YPM_Exécution, après Goya  
YPM_Exécution, après Goya YPM_Exécution, après Goya  

When it was established in 2006, it was the first public-private cultural foundation in Italy. The Palazzo Strozzi Foundation has more than 60 exhibitions to its credit, ranging from ancient to modern and contemporary art. These have included important collaborations with international artists and famous award-winning and critically acclaimed exhibitions such as Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. ‘Diverging Paths of Mannerism’ (Florence, Palazzo Strozzi March 8-July 20, 2014 with 150,000 visitors), ‘Verrocchio, Master of Leonardo ‘(Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, March 9-July 14, 2019 with a special section at the National Museum of Bargello, with 140,000 visitors) or ‘Donatello, the Renaissance’ (Florence, Palazzo Strozzi and National Museum of Bargello March 19-July 31, 2022 with 150,000 visitors).

Since 2015, this magical place in which Renaissance history cohabits with art has been led by director Arturo Galansino, who has made it a point of reference in the Italian cultural landscape for contemporary art through major exhibitions and site-specific projects with the biggest names on the international scene.

Just think of the record by ‘Ai Weiwei. Libero’, which between 2016 and 2017 attracted 150,000 visitors; ‘Marina Abramović. The Cleaner’ with 180,000 visitors, but also ‘Bill Viola. Electronic Renaissance' (over 100,000 visitors), or 'Jeff Koons. Shine’ (over 170,000 visitors). Numbers that just keep on rising, as also revealed in the annual report by the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation 2022 presented last June. 

“2022 marked the confirmation and the revival of our approach to creating a real and effective dialog between tradition and innovation,” says Arturo Galansino, Director General of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi. "Each project is the result of the encounter between our Palazzo and the artists, or of research and studies that we give back through an exhibition, which is never limited to a mere display but is instead a platform for the creation and dissemination of culture.

Indeed, the golden year saw 340,000 visitors who were thrilled to have seen exhibitions that made their mark on the international cultural debate. Three exhibition projects took place over the course of the year: the major exhibition devoted to Donatello, one of the fathers of the Renaissance; the project ‘Let's Get Digital!’ dedicated to the NFT art revolution; and the exhibition ‘Nel tuo tempo’ (In Your Time), which offered a unique vision of the Palace by renowned contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson.

These successes have reaffirmed the Palazzo Strozzi’s vocation as a laboratory for art and culture under the banner of scientific research and accessibility. The challenge is renewed again in 2023, and in the beautiful Renaissance mansion where ‘Reaching for the Stars. From Maurizio Cattelan to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye' has just ended, which was promoted and organized by Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, and where Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is getting ready to host ‘Yan Pei-Ming. Pittore di stories’ (Painter of History and Stories).

July 7 through September 3 will be the largest Italian exhibition ever dedicated to the artist famous for his monumental canvases that unite history and the contemporary world. Part of the Palazzo Strozzi Future Art project developed with the Hillary Merkus Recordati Foundation, the exhibition pays tribute to Yan Pei-Ming, who explores genres such as portraits, landscapes, still life and painting history. Combining Western and Eastern traditions, his paintings come to life from memories or photographs that weave personal references or universal themes of visual culture: famous works of art, public figures and intimate subjects dialog in his work that reflects on the human condition through conventional forms and current events, reality and imagination.

The exhibition thus proposes a journey through monumental installations, intimate environments and disturbing forms, creating an original and engaging dialog with the architecture and the public at Palazzo Strozzi. Through historical works and recent productions, Palazzo Strozzi becomes a place that is simultaneously whole and broken into pieces, iwhere visitors are called to question their senses and explore the limits and potentialities of our relationship with reality. Exploring different genres, his paintings come to life, inspired by photographs extrapolated from both personal images and newspaper covers, but also film stills or famous works of art history.

The halls display alternating monumental self-portraits and portraits of his mother and father or historical figures such as Mao Zedong and Adolf Hitler along with original reinterpretations of works such as Leonardo's Mona Lisa or Velázquez's Portrait of Innocent X, or two Time magazine covers dedicated in 2008 to Russian President Vladimir Putin and in 2022 to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In a direct connection with Italy, the exhibition also hosts a sequence of paintings linked to famous photographic images that have documented dramatic moments in twentieth-century Italian history, in a sort of trilogy of secular depositions: the bodies of Benito Mussolini and Claretta Petacci hanging upside-down in Piazzale Loreto in Milan in 1945; the discovery of Aldo Moro in the trunk of a car in Rome in 1975; and the body of Pier Paolo Pasolini face-down at the Idroscalo di Ostia in 1978. Born in Shanghai in 1960, Yan Pei-Ming moved to France in 1980, where he now lives and works. As he himself states: “I presume I am a Chinese and European artist, but I am first and foremost an artist.” And in October, it will be the turn of another great:  Anish Kapoor (October 7, 2023 - January 28, 2024), the celebrated master who revolutionized the idea of sculpture in contemporary art. 


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