‘Digital’ & Donatello – Two July Strozzi Shows


A work by Refik Anadol in ‘Let’s Go Digital’ is hosted by the Palazzo Strozzi courtyard

The past and the future of art intertwine until the end of the month in the Palazzo Strozzi’s two exhibitions: Let’s Get Digital! and Donatello, the Renaissance.

Until July 31, 2022: LET’S GET DIGITAL! Palazzo Strozzi. Open daily 10 am – 8 pm, 11 pm on Thursdays. Admission: €11 for adults and €5 for children under 18, and €15 for entry to both Palazzo Strozzi exhibitions: Let’s Get Digital! and Donatello, the Renaissance.  For more information, visit the Palazzo Strozzi website at https://www.palazzostrozzi.org/archivio/mostre/lets-get-digital/.

In a city renowned for its link to the past, the Palazzo Strozzi connects Florence to the future through Let’s Get Digital!, an exhibition of NFT digital installations and multimedia experiences.

A relatively new phenomenon in the art world, an NFT (non-fungible token) is a form of digital content certified to its owner. The exhibit explores the NFT art revolution by walking visitors through a journey that forges the physical and digital, stimulating senses through the visual and audio artistry of international creators and allowing viewers to perceive art in a completely new way.

A giant LED wall installation in the Palazzo Strozzi courtyard grabs viewers’ attention before they even enter the exhibition. Titled Machine Hallucination – Renaissance Dreams, it is the first work of digital art to ever be produced for the courtyard and is specifically designed to interact with its location. Using artificial intelligence, artist Refik Anadol uses a vast set of data of Italian Renaissance art to visualize how the paintings may look collectively from the mind of a machine.

Entering the exhibition through a staircase, attendees are immediately immersed in the world of digital and technological art.

The first room is illuminated only by the light of Beeple’s works, all of which contain a soft movement so the eye is drawn to various subjects. Arrows direct attendees to the various other rooms hidden behind curtains, which hold the work of artists including Anyma, Daniel Arsham, Krista Kim and Andrés Reisinger.

In another room, visitors are met with the work of Anyma, in which computer-generated images that resemble robots encircle the dark space. Audio stimulation further contributes to the futuristic aesthetic. The installation thus uses music and visual art to create an experience for visitors where nature and technology are intertwined.

Contrasting the other spaces, Daniel Arsham’s NFT video plays in a white room, depicting a marble sculpture subject, its shape shifting with the changing months of the year and encapsulating a natural progression over time. The sculpture in Eroding and Reforming Bust of Rome (One Year) was inspired by a bust from the Borghese Collection in the Musée du Louvre. Three different videos will be shown consecutively at the exhibit, each one dedicated to the month in which it takes place.

Krista Kim’s Mars House draws visitors in with the saturated colors, which are enhanced further by a mirror on the ground of the room. The work shows a futuristic house in an extraterrestrial landscape, designed with the potential to be implemented in both the real world and the metaverse, an interactive virtual space shared over the Internet.

The largest room holds three screens, which play Arcadia, a short film by Andrés Reisinger. The language in the voiceover discusses existentialist themes that reflect the solitude of humans in the modern world. Through poetry, sound and images, the artist creates a thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating encounter in which viewers are encouraged to reflect on the human experience as it exists in a consumer-driven and endlessly evolving society.

The nature of the Palazzo Strozzi as a venue in which the old, modern and contemporary intersect inspired the Let’s Get Digital program, ultimately in an effort to reaffirm the venue’s role as a model for experimentation and examination of art and cultural trends.

The exhibition is promoted and organized by the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation and the Hillary Merkus Recordati Foundation, and curated by Arturo Galansino, director general of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation and Serena Tabacchi, director of the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art.  (natasha sokoloff)

Until July 31, 2022: DONATELLO, THE RENAISSANCE. Palazzo Strozzi and Museo del Bargello. Open daily 10 am – 8 pm. Admission: €16. Combined tickets for the exhibition in both museums. For more information, visit Palazzo Strozzi website at https://www.palazzostrozzi.org/en/archivio/exhibitions/donatello .

A work by Donatello at the Palazzo Strozzi show on loan from Berlin

The historic exhibition reconstructs the career of one of the most influential masters of Italian art. The work of Donatello will be displayed alongside masterpieces by other Renaissance artists such as Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Raphael and Michelangelo.

Curated by Francesco Caglioti, professor of Medieval Art History at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, Donatello displays 130 works including sculptures, paintings and drawings. Pieces have been loaned from the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among others.

Born in 1386 in Florence, Donatello received early training from a goldsmith before working in the studio of famous sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti. The sculptor’s works mark the transition of art from the idealized human figure to a more realistic one, that occurred in the early Renaissance period. . Many of the masterpieces, which have a religious theme, were originally sculpted for the facades of churches or altars. Viewers of the exhibition can learn about the inventive artistic presence of Donatello through his use of different materials and techniques. The collection comprises marble, stone, bronze, terracotta, wood, stucco, embossed copper, paper-mache, and ceramic pieces.

A work of particular note at Palazzo Strozzi is Donatello’s Madonna dei Pazzi, a marble sculpture in which the Virgin holds infant Jesus in her arms. The two sacred figures are contained in the frame of a window. Sculpted around 1430, the piece was found in Florence’s Palazzo Pazzi but is now loaned from the Bode Museum in Berlin. The Madonna and Child do not have the traditional halo around their heads, rather with faces drawn close to each other. This choice by the artist represents the intense emotional connection between mother and child. The exhibition surrounds the sculpture with sketches and other works modeled after Donatello’s example, illustrating the influence of the artist.

Other notable pieces in Palazzo Strozzi include the original doors of the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo Church. Usually, doors that are still in use like these are not able to be removed to go on display, but these doors were by chance on their way into the restoration workshop when the Donatello exhibition was being put together. Thus, by good fortune, these bronze doors by Donatello are able to be enjoyed by visitors of Palazzo Strozzi. They are uncommon and unique because of their material and the way their subjects were depicted. Bronze was not a material used for doors unless the doors belonged to a duomo or baptistry, so it was a surprising choice for the sacristy doors. Furthermore, the way Donatello depicted the martyrs in the scenes on the doors was criticized for how much movement he incorporated into their bodies as if they were dancers. Though this was controversial in his day, later artists would come to love and replicate Donatello’s expressive figures, which we appreciate today for their grace and how they transformed the course of art history.

Donatello, nicknamed “Master of Masters,” is often credited with the spread of the realistic human form throughout Western art at the beginning of the Renaissance. His modern spirit pushed him to challenge popular artistic styles, which is evident in the exhibition’s chronological presentation of his work. His influence spread throughout Italy and beyond, in a way comparable only to Giotto or Michelangelo. Florence is home to an impressive collection of Donatello’s artwork for a limited time. (sarah moats with additional reporting by maddie aub)