Spotlights on the 20th century
Galleria d’arte moderna (Firenze)
Piazza de Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze, Italy
To celebrate the centenary of its foundation, the Gallery of Modern Art of Palazzo Pitti has decided to devote an exhibition to the twentieth-century collections belonging to the museum. Indeed, although the Gallery of Modern Art is known above all as the museum that boasts the largest and most important collection of Macchiaioli paintings in the world in terms of history and quality, perhaps not everyone is aware of the fascinating collection of twentieth-century works that have up to now been relegated to the depositories, which entered the museum over the course of the century in the form of both donations and acquisitions. The idea of this exhibition is therefore to attract attention to this museum within the museum, which has remained out of sight up to now due to lack of sufficient display areas.
This exhibition, with its historical slant, is conceived to narrate the times and manner in which these works were acquired by the Gallery, illustrating the cultural ferments of Florence at the time through the choices made over the decades of the last century.
However, as the subtitle suggests, even more than an exhibition this is a rehearsal for a museum itinerary of masterpieces which at the end of the show we hope may finally find a permanent display location in the last rooms along the facade of the Gallery of Modern Art of Palazzo Pitti.
It was the important legacy to the museum made in 1896 by the critic Diego Martelli, an adherent and supporter of the Macchiaioli movement, which underscored the need in Florence too for a gallery that offered the public works of modern art, such as already existed in Venice and Rome. The collection of works by the leading exponents of Tuscan nineteenth-century art, especially the Macchiaioli, deserved to have a fitting display within an itinerary that also comprised the novelties emerging from contemporary currents.
In March 1913, in the seven rooms of the Accademia Gallery in Florence, the Director General of the Ministry, Arduino Colasanti, opened an initial modest section of the museum spaces devoted to modern art, which ten years later in 1924 arrived at its current premises in Palazzo Pitti. The sundry origins of the works making up this initial collection consisted above all of the Academy award-winners and the Lorraine and Savoy collections, were already able to critically illustrate the long and complex historical process leading to the foundation of the museum. The phases in this process paved the way to the following season which culminated in the Convention between the State and the Florence City Council signed in June 1914; however, a display space appropriate for a collection in continual growth had yet to be found.
The donations of works, in addition to the purchases made at the time to create the itinerary of the future museum, allow us to understand the criteria of choice employed by the Commission, still in existence, which had been established and legally scheduled in the Convention, and the task of which was precisely to enhance the heritage of the museum in accordance with specific critical guidelines.
The selection of the works on display fell upon those of the leading interpreters of Italian twentieth-century figurative culture: Felice Carena, Felice Casorati, Giorgio De Chirico, Filippo De Pisis, Gino Severini, Giuseppe Capogrossi, Guido Peyron and Ottone Rosai, counterpoising those – greater in number – of the exponents of the “Novecento toscano” group of Baccio Maria Bacci, Giovanni Colacicchi and the other adherents who gravitated within the climate of the Solaria journal and frequented the hallowed haunt of Florentine culture, the “Giubbe Rosse” café, making Florence a fertile meeting-point in the 1920s for the cream of Italian artists and intellectuals.
On show are the works acquired at the various editions of the Venice Biennale between 1925 and 1945, at the Quadriennale in Rome in 1935, and at the much more numerous shows organised at local level by the Società di Belle Arti di Firenze, and above all by the Sindacali Toscane devoted to regional figurative culture, where works by Giovanni Colacicchi, Ottone Rosai, Alberto Magnelli, Oscar Ghiglia, Achille Lega, Ardengo Soffici, Lorenzo Viani, Libero Andreotti, Italo Griselli and many others were purchased.
In addition to these acquisitions, a similarly conspicuous number of works arrived through donations, the increasing frequency of which testified to a progressively closer relationship between the Gallery of Modern Art and the city.
In the post-war years there was a lull in the acquisition activities of the Commission; nevertheless, from 1950, and for the following twenty years, the Gallery succeeded in updating its twentieth-century collections through the winning works in the various editions of the Premio del Fiorino award, which were destined to the museum in the statute of the event.
These works are, moreover, the only authentic evidence of the Italian figurative culture of those years, and represent a significant increase in paintings by Felice Casorati, Filippo De Pisis, Primo Conti, Fausto Pirandello, Vinicio Berti, Fernando Farulli, Sergio Scatizzi and Corrado Cagli.
The acquisitions of an extraordinary nature made at the second edition of the “Fiorino” International Graphics Exhibition of 1970 are of particular significance, in that they document a deliberate interest in contemporary art on the part of the Commission: works by Burri and Jasper Jones.
The exhibition itinerary ends with the presentation of the latest acquisitions made by the Commission over the last thirty years of its activity from 1985 up to the present. These include Confidenze by Armando Spadini, Mascherata by Mario Cavaglieri, formerly in the Longhi collection, and a beautiful Veduta di Grizzana by Giorgio Morandi, dedicated to his friend Ragghianti.