In the sixth part of our Italy art focus series, curated by Umberta Beretta, LUX speaks to Arturo Galansino, director of the public-private Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, which opened an art space in Florence in 2006, and maintains a bold programme of exhibitions from Old Masters to contemporary art, creating a dynamic dialogue
LUX: Did you ever think you would make such an impact in Florence?
Arturo Galansino: It is beyond our expectations. I have been here for eight years and Palazzo Strozzi is the most successful exhibition space in Italy with the shift in 2016 to introduce contemporary art, bring important artists to create work here and create a public to see it. We are happy to have helped change the identity of this city, which is no longer a city of the past, but a protagonist of the present.
LUX: Would Florence locals Michelangelo and Leonardo approve of Koons and Abramović?
AG: I hope they would be happy to see Florence generating a contemporary art discussion from their legacy. And I believe Bernini would love what Jeff Koons is doing.
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LUX: How was it working with Jeff Koons?
AG: He comes to all the exhibitions, especially the Old Masters – we spent a lot of time at our Donatello, which was the exhibition of 2022 worldwide. Jeff loves so much what he sees, he wants to understand how it works. He told me he’s using a new idea inspired by how Donatello used bronze so economically – leaving the hidden parts without bronze. These discoveries are so exciting for artists who work with matter, and for me it was an unbelievable experience.
LUX: Are you bringing a new crowd to Florence?
AG: In Florence, we have mass tourism. Tourists race to the Uffizi and maybe the Accademia, visit Botticelli and David and don’t even sleep here. We have fewer visitors than the Uffizi, but they come for longer and often return. They explore Florence – a special perfume shop, a little church they don’t know. So we create a tourism that doesn’t occupy only two spots. It also helps to make a more sustainable economy.
LUX: Can you speak about “Let’s Get Digital!”.
AG: We saw the digital phenomenon in 2020, and wanted to be the first institution to make a significant show with it. We had such a success. Every day we had thousands of people mesmerised by images from the six most successful digital artists of this moment. And we could explain this new art, too.
Read more: Italy Art Focus: Beatrice Trussardi
When we opened, in 2022, there was the collapse of cryptocurrency, which was so associated with NFTs, so it was a critical moment and were part of it.
LUX: Finally, do Italians still think this is a country of history, not contemporary art?
AG: Artistic history is part of our identity and I am very proud of it. What we should do is try to reinterpret its value towards new directions. We have to conserve, but also be progressive and open. I think if we find a balance, Italy could be the country of the future, because we have everything the world is looking for.
Find out more: palazzostrozzi.org
This article comes from a section of a wider feature originally published in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX