Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze

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Arte torna Arte

Art Returns to art

05-08-2012 | 11-04-2012 - extended until 12-09-2012

Arte torna arte is an exhibition presenting over forty works by thirty-two contemporary artists in the historic rooms of the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. The show is being held not just in the spaces of the museum specifically devoted to temporary exhibitions, but also in the ones that house the permanent collection, the Tribuna of the David, the Galleria of the Prisoners, the Gipsoteca and the Sala del Colosso, where the insertion of contemporary works clearly underlines the relationship between past and present.

The exhibition, curated by Bruno Corà, Franca Falletti and Daria Filardo, will see the installation in the rooms of the Galleria dell’Accademia of works by: Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, Alberto Burri, Antonio Catelani, Martin Creed, Gino de Dominicis, Rineke Dijkstra, Marcel Duchamp, Luciano Fabro, Hans Peter Feldmann, Luigi Ghirri, Antony Gormley, Yves Klein, Jannis Kounellis, Ketty La Rocca, Leoncillo, Sol LeWitt, Eliseo Mattiacci, Olaf Nicolai, Luigi Ontani, Giulio Paolini, Claudio Parmiggiani, Giuseppe Penone, Pablo Picasso, Alfredo Pirri, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Renato Ranaldi, Alberto Savinio, Thomas Struth, Fiona Tan, Bill Viola, Andy Warhol.

The title Arte torna arte is the same as the one Luciano Fabro - one of the best-known artists on the Italian scene who died in 2007 - chose for a collection of his writings and of lectures and talks given between 1981 and 1997 at universities, academies and museums in various parts of the world. Adopting this expression as the title of the exhibition is a mark of agreement with his idea of art as a continuum that renews and regenerates itself, drawing strength from itself and from its own history. Arte torna arte proposes examples of artists who in their works have looked to history, to the masterpieces of the past, making use of their iconography, reworking their ideas and assuming a responsibility that has not yet been exhausted and a sense of belonging that has no bounds, but that finds expression in languages rich in interpretative possibilities.

The location of the exhibition is doubly emblematic. As everyone knows it is the home of Michelangelo’s David and his Prisoners, as well as important collections that include masterpieces of various periods, and in particular of 14th-century Florentine painting: thus it is an ideal setting for a concrete dialogue between the works of the past and those of artists of our own day, offering the public the experience of a continual counterpoint. The gallery is also an exhibition place linked to the history of the Florentine Accademia di Belle Arti, the first institution set up in Italy to mark a continuity between past and present, where the collection of plaster casts and works, before and after the creation of the city’s museums, has provided models of Renaissance thinking and supplied lifeblood to artists from all over the world, who have come to Florence and the academy to study.

The languages presented side by side in this museological space are many and cover the whole range of visual production, including the more traditional techniques like painting, sculpture and drawing as well as photography, video, performance and installation art. All kinds of images are admitted and included in this process. The works have been carefully chosen for their resonances, their “echoes,” and for their visual assonances with the past, with the paintings, sculptures and architecture of the museum, that spark off and develop a critical line of reasoning on the role and function of the creative act. The artists who are still alive have been involved in the choice and some of them have created works specially for the occasion.

Louise Bourgeois’s Arch of Hysteria, hung with all its charge of “life’s emotional frenzy” in front of Pontormo’s Venus and not far from Michelangelo’s David, will offer definitive proof of how the naked form of the human body can be used to express concepts and stir sensations that are vastly different. And the effort to bring form out of brute matter, something which obsessed Michelangelo all his life, seems to still weigh heavily today on the shoulders of Giuseppe Penone in his arduous hollowing out of massive tree trunks, just as it is echoed in the forms carved out of concrete by Antony Gormley. Giulio Paolini’s L’altra Figura will be located almost opposite Bill Viola’s video Surrender: two contemporary ways of reappraising and interpreting the theme of mirroring and reproducibility that lead, in the left arm of the Tribuna, to the 19th-century Salone dei Gessi, filled with plaster casts that were created solely to be reproduced. The theme of reflection is also explored in Alfredo Pirri’s floor of fractured mirrors, in Olaf Nicolai’s work Portrait of the Artist as a Weeping Narcissus, whose tears ripple the surface and alter the reflected image, and in Michelangelo Pistoletto’s mirror picture Sacra conversazione, which includes us in a conversation of the present day. Metaphorically, mirroring becomes a merging with the gaze of the visitor, who is conceptually made part of the creative process in Rineke Dijkstra’s video installation that tells of a slow observation and reproduction of one of Picasso’s pictures, in Thomas Struth’s photo in front of Dürer’s self-portrait and in Martin Creed’s performance with athletes running swiftly through the spaces of the gallery. The reproduction, repetition and circulation of images in the history of art is tackled from a critical perspective in the works of Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Luigi Ghirri, Hans Peter Feldmann and Ketty La Rocca, which refer directly to icons familiar to everyone. In his Untitled, Jannis Kounellis will recall the iconography and sense of tragedy of the Crucifixion, a theme tackled in a different way in Alberto Burri’s work and in Renato Ranaldi’s Triumphans, while the gold or ultramarine monochromes of Yves Klein can be related to the gold grounds of the 14th-century altarpieces. The casts of the David’s eyes in Claudio Parmiggiani’s work pose the problem of the fragment, while Leoncillo and Luigi Ontani’s images of Saint Sebastian present different visions of that sacred iconography. The gaze at the past will appear emblematic and mysterious in Alberto Savinio’s Nettuno Pescatore as well as in Gino de Dominicis’s Urvasi e Gilgamesh. Interesting reflections on the work of the past will also be provided by Francis Bacon’s Figure sitting (the Cardinal), Pablo Picasso’s Arlequín con espejo and Sol LeWitt’s drawings of Piero della Francesca’s frescoes, as well as by the ovoid volumes of Luciano Fabro’s Il giudizio di Paride or Eliseo Mattiacci’s large iron sculpture Carro solare del Montefeltro. Memory as recognition of origins will be the focus of Fiona Tan’s film Provenance, and the classical elements of museum architecture are the form out of which Antonio Catelani develops his Klettersteig.

The recognition of origins, the persistence of models and forms, the need to begin again, to go back to and modify earlier speculations, are elements of a way of thinking and acting that is part of the essence of what we call the discourse on the history of art, on its languages and its visual and plastic modes. The relationship with memory has always prompted a continual artistic reflection that evokes complex connections and concepts, constructs new and intricate archives, constellations and systems that allow us to think about the figures, the processes of composition and the founding archetypes of art. In the work of the artists of every age it is possible to recognize derivations, rediscoveries and resumptions in a recurrence that is different on each occasion. The contemporary era is not immune from this attitude of uninterrupted analysis and reworking of the sources, which does not lead to empty, nostalgic evocations but is capable of generating profoundly up-to-date and innovative creations. Memory, as it is understood in this project, is not sequential recording of the time that passes. Rather it is a subterranean memory that surfaces in the juxtaposition of heterogeneous fragments (of the past and present) that arouse the buried, grasp the unsaid, make visible a “frenetic” dialectic. The continual meditation on and revision of the sources in the works of the great artists of the present is an open and vital resource for the generation of deeply innovative creations because, to quote, the Italian art historian and writer Cesare de Seta “[...] among contemporary artists there are those who continue to hold a dialogue with history and the past, and for this reason are the art of the future.”

A program of collateral events will accompany the exhibition with the aim of expanding on or examining more closely the themes proposed. The subject of the relations that the art of the present has with its own past is at the center of a selection of six films to be shown at the Odeon in Florence from Wednesday 23 to Friday 25, 2012. Organized by Lo schermo dell’arte Film Festival, the program will be made up of full-length auteur films by great directors, from the sixties to the present day. In addition to a number of meetings with artists, a series of three concerts (Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Luciano Berio) organized by Daniele Lombardi, has been scheduled for the autumn.


  • Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali
  • Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Toscana
  • Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico
  • e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze
  • Galleria dell'Accademia
  • Firenze Musei

  • Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze


Bruno Corà, Franca Falletti, Daria Filardo

Curated by

Bruno Corà
Franca Falletti
Daria Filardo

Exhibition Management

Franca Falletti


Giunti Editore


Giorgio Angioloni
Francesca Ciaravino
Marzia Marigo
Cristina Panconi

Press office

Ilaria Gianoli, mob. 333 6317344,
Marta Colombo, mob. 340 3442805,

Ticket prices

Full price: € 11.00;
reduced price: € 5.50

The ticket is also valid for the Department of Musical Instruments


Tuesday-Sunday 8:15 am-6:50 pm; the ticket office closes at 6:20 pm

In the months of July, August and September opening hours will be extended on Tuesdays until 10 pm and there will be a special opening on Thursdays with entrance free of charge from 7 to 10 pm

Closed on Mondays


Workshops and guided tours for schools and groups of children, young people and adults by reservation
Info and bookings: Firenze Musei tel. 055 294883

An audio guide to the exhibition is available free of charge at the website or through smartphones with a tag-reading program, by scanning the QR codes on display in the exhibition with your cellphone