A couple of cobble-stoned steps away from the arch overlooking Piazza della Republica and you’re faced with Palazzo Strozzi: a magnificent stone edifice nestled between the polished glass of designer shops and the art deco Cinema Odeon.
Constructed in the late 1400s by the Strozzi family to rival the prominence of the Medici, Palazzo Strozzi is currently used for international art exhibitions and events, such as the large installations by Ai Wei Wei for his Libero exhibition that just finished this past January.
As a student of Art History, I was curious to see the juxtaposition between contemporary exhibitions set against the backdrop of a renaissance palace; a subject that was the focus of Bill Viola’s Electronic Renaissance currently on display in Palazzo Strozzi.
The master of cinematic art, Bill Viola invites his audience to explore spirituality, perception, life, and death through his films of human bodies and faces. Walking around the exhibition is an audio-visual experience that stimulates the perception of sound, space, and images. Spanning his career from the 1970s to the present day, the exhibition features some of his most famous artworks such as Emergence, commissioned in 2003 by the Getty Museum.
The setting in Palazzo Strozzi is integral to the exhibition as original Renaissance artworks, which originally served as Viola’s inspiration, are placed side by side with his installations.
But more importantly, the renaissance setting of Palazzo Strozzi fuels the mesmerizing interaction between the classics and the contemporary by fostering innovative dialogue between Viola’s work and the masterpieces of great masters of the past, which not only inspired his artworks, but they also influenced the development of his artistic vocabulary and style.
The exhibition is further enriched by its collaboration with other museums in the city, such as the Grande Museo del Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Museo di Santa Maria Novella.
As a student double majoring in Art History and Conservation Studies, the exhibition is a ‘must-see’ due to its superb curation and blend of past and present. For someone who is committed to preserving and learning about the past, Bill Viola’s exhibition demonstrates the importance of the past and its importance for the present and the future.
Nina Hsu has always been passionate about all things art and history. She is currently double majoring in Conservation Studies and History of Art at LdM. In her free time, you can find her running around the streets of Florence looking for her next new lunch or coffee spot.