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Two international artists for two monumental installations, at Palazzo Strozzi and on Piazza della Signoria

Florence goes back to being an all-round art city: not only it boasts an immense sixteenth-century artistic heritage, but it also engages in an open dialogue with international contemporary art, in particular, with two monumental works which are causing a sensation in Florence and bringing us closer to art at a time when museums are closed. It all began on March 19 with JR, the world’s most acclaimed French street artist with over one million Instagram followers. His artwork is spectacular and deals with commitment, identity and rights. In 2016, he made the Louvre Museum’s famous glass pyramid disappear through a surprising anamorphosis, an extraordinary 3D optical illusion, and he became a worldwide star.

Palazzo Strozzi has unveiled La Ferita (The Wound), a work meant to trigger a debate on the accessibility of culture in the age of Covid-19. JR’s installation is, in fact,  a deep gash in the façade of the Renaissance palazzo, a site-specific and time-specific work, 28 meters tall and 33 meters wide. A black-and-white photographic collage which reveals a vision of the interior at once real and imaginary, an anamorphosis again, another visual illusion in which, by observing from a specific point of view, several areas of Palazzo Strozzi- the courtyard’s colonnade, an imaginary exhibition hall and a library- as well as other iconic Florentine masterworks- Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Spring  and The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna- open up like a wound.

One week later, on March 25, the Uffizi Gallery celebrated Dante in the year of the 700th anniversary of his death, with the maxi fir tree by artist Giuseppe Penone. The installation- which is a preview of the  artist’s Alberi Inversi (Inverse Trees) contemporary art exhibition to be held at the Uffizi from June 1 to September 12, 2021– is about 22 meters high and is the largest work of art ever exhibited in a public space downtown Florence.

With a color scheme that echoes the Piazza, this stainless steel sculpture is a celebration of Nature which has been so supportive of us throughout this long pandemic year. As Giuseppe Penone explains: “The fir tree on Piazza della Signoria represents the development of human thought which is similar to the tree’s spiral growth pattern.  But it is also: “A symbol of the transformation of earth into air, of matter into thought”, says Mario Cristianifrom the Arte Continua Association which supported the  event.

JR’s work will be on view until August 22, Penone’s until September 2021.