A Crossroads of Antiques and Modern Art
The Biennale Internazionale dell’Antiquariato is expanding its repertoire. This edition, inaugurated on September 21, celebrates 60 years of the event, the first of its kind in Europe. For the special occasion, antiques dealers from across the world will be putting never-before-seen pieces on display in the grand setting of Palazzo Corsini, via del Parione 11. In the spirit of the inextricable link between antiquity and the arts, the Antiques Fair is simultaneously orchestrating Florence Art Week to provide awareness of and access to contemporary exhibition spaces around the city.
Expats in Florence are invited to visit the Antiques Fair with its museum-level exhibits with a 30% discount on admission by presenting the Magenta Smart Card at the entrance; click the link to be able download it.
At the Biennale dell’Antiquariato, new exhibitors include representatives from New York, London, and Paris, contributing to a grand total of 77 participants. Most will be dealers presenting antiques and artworks, in addition to a few art galleries displaying paintings and sculptures. Noteworthy offerings cover a range that comprises furniture, paintings, and textiles to rare books and jewelry.
Antiques fairs usually imply the presence of museum-worthy pieces, but the latest edition of the Florence event defies expectations. A newly discovered marble tondo by Florentine early Renaissance master sculptor Benedetto da Maiano (1442-1497), currently owned by the Longari Arte of Milan, will be making a star appearance. The relief depicts the Madonna bent over the Christ Child holding an open book, praying as St. John the Baptist props up his cousin. Representing a slightly later era, an oil painting by the Sienese Mannerist artist known as Domenico Beccafumi (1486-1551) can be found at the Galleria Orsi stand. Orsi is also hosting a bust of Pope Urban VIII Barberini by famed Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Barberini (1598-1680), best known for his Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome’s Piazza Navona.
A later period is represented by neoclassical sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini (1777-1850) with marble busts of Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi Levoy, Napoleon’s sister and the duchess of Lucca, and her husband, Felice Pasquale Baciocchi Levoy, which can be admired at the Lullo Pampoulides stand. Works by famous Italian artists will be featured at the Biennale as well. A painting by Giovanni Boldini can be found at the Antonacci-Lapiccirella Fine Arts booth: on the front, a woman peers out at the viewer from under a pink hat, her arms covering her chest and her legs crossed modestly. On the reverse, there is a side profile of the subject, who is wearing an elaborate black, feathered hat, a pink-red rose on her jacket. Light blond hair curling around her ears, she gazes into the distance.
Fascinating exhibits include a Venetian cityscape by Giovanni Antonio Canal (1695-1768), known as il Canaletto, from the antique dealer Dickinson in London. The uniquely named Self-Portrait of Clouds (1948) by Giorgio de Chirico, an abstract work made primarily of blues and whites, with small swipes of soft colors, will be for sale courtesy of Tornabuoni Arte. A unique piece is a repeating flintlock pistol inscribed with the personalized monogram of Ferdinando III de’ Medici himself. The pistol is owned by possibly the most singular dealer present at the fair: Peter Finer of London, a purveyor of antique weaponry, from medieval swords to some of the earliest models of European guns.
In the alcove on the first floor of Palazzo Corsini, the “Bardini Universe” (Universo Bardini) will celebrate the anniversary of the Bienniale dell’Antiquariato, as well as some of the most notable collectors. It is said that Florence has always been the true home of antiquing, considered where the habit of collecting received its start thanks to several important figures: Herbert Percy Horne of the Horne Museum, Elia Volpi of Palazzo Davanzati, and Stefano Bardini of the Bardini Museum. The exhibition is dedicated to Bardini’s life and legacy, as a collector, historian, and artist.
During Florence Art Week, the Palazzo Antinori will open its doors for viewings of paintings by Tuscan Impressionist (Macchiaoli) artists Giovanni and Telemaco Signorini, and the Collezione Roberto Casamonti will welcome the public to see its contemporary art show. At Palazzo Corsini, Florence’s Bacarelli Antiques, together with the Botticelli Antichità and San Gimignano’s Galleria Continua, will combine Renaissance and Neoclassical works with those of contemporary artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto and Daniel Buren. To bring the antique-art relationship full circle, the top management and trustees of the Frick Collection in New York, one of the world’s most important private collections, will be collaborating with the Biennale on some of the inaugural Art Week events.
Frascione Arte (via Maggio 5), is hosting a retrospective dedicated to Florentine artist Ruggero Alfredo Michahelles (1898–1976), known as RAM. The sculptures, drawings, collages, and prints on display were created by the brother of Thayaht, Ernesto Michahelles (1893–1959), a notable designer who invented the jumpsuit.
The festivities will continue at the Teatro del Maggio with help from the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino foundation. A photography series called “The Biennial in Black and White” is dedicated to pictures of the fair throughout its 60-year run, including iconic moments such as when Sophia Loren and Greta Garbo attended the event. “The Biennial in Black and White” can be visited as a prelude to a Maggio Musicale opera or concert (Antiques Fair ticket holders will receive a discount to performances), or explored on its own.
Parallel to the events of Florence Art Week, the Antiques Fair is open daily Sept. 21 through 29 from 10:30 am – 8 pm, except for Sept. 26, when it will close at 7 pm. Residents of Florence will be granted free entrance on the last day from 1 – 8 pm. Standard tickets are €15. Children under six, Biennial VIP cardholders, and the disabled enter for free. Included in the admission are various exhibitions, presentations, and talks taking place around the fair. (katy rose sparks)