Palazzo Strozzi, located in Florence, the city of the Renaissance and of the poet Dante Alighieri, is currently hosting a major exhibition showcasing over one hundred works of European and American art from the 1920s to the 1960s. These works of art serve as a narrative that reconstructs relationships and ties between the museums of two American collectors, Solomon R. Guggenheim and his niece Peggy Guggenheim, which are located in New York City and Venice, respectively.
The exhibition, which started on 19 March and runs until 24 July 2016, is entitled “From Kandisky to Pollock” and is curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, associate curator of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
This joint venture between the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York offers visitors an exceptional opportunity to view together parts of the collections from both museums through the works of some of the greatest figures in 20th century art.
Opening with masterpieces by major artists the likes of Kandinsky, Duchamp, and Max Ernst, the exhibition goes on to explore post-war developments on both sides of the Atlantic. These include the Art informel of such European masters as Alberto Burri, Emilio Vedova, Jean Dubuffet, and Lucio Fontana, as well as works by leading figures on the American art scene from the 1940s to the 1960s such as Jackson Pollock (at least eighteen paintings), Mark Rothko (six paintings), and Alexander Calder (five sculptures, the so-called ‘mobiles’), alongside work by Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Roy Lichtenstein, Cy Twombly, and others.
The inauguration of this exceptional exhibition in Florence evokes a relationship that goes back many years. Palazzo Strozzi was the venue chosen by Peggy Guggenheim (who had only recently arrived in Europe) in February 1949 to showcase the collection that was later to find a permanent home in Venice. The exhibition includes twenty-five of the same works of art that were displayed in that previous exhibition, which was the first to be held in Palazzo Strozzi’s then newly restored Strozzina cellars.
The paintings, sculptures, engravings, and photographs from the Guggenheim Collections in both New York and Venice, as well as from a small number of other museums and private collections, offer visitors a unique opportunity to admire and compare some of the great masterpieces that have played a crucial role in defining the very concept of modern art. These range from Surrealism and Action Painting to Art informel and Pop Art.
The works of art on display include Vasily Kandinsky’s monumental Dominant Curve (1936), which Peggy was to sell during the war (one of the “seven tragedies in her life as a collector”); Max Ernst’s The Kiss (1927), a manifesto of Surrealist Art and the painting used to advertise the Strozzina exhibition in 1949; Francis Bacon’s Study for Chimpanzee (1957), rarely shown outside Venice, and of which Peggy Guggenheim was so fond that she hung it in her bedroom; works of American Abstract Expressionism such as Sam Francis’s Shining Back (1958), of Color-Field and Post-Painterly Abstraction the likes of Frank Stella’s Gray Scramble (1968–9), and of Pop Art, such as Roy Lichtenstein’s grandiose Preparedness (1968), in which the artist turned his characteristic cartoon-like style to protest the war in Vietnam.
This exhibition, devoted to the Guggenheim collections, tells the story of the birth of the “neoavanguardia” movement after World War II through its tight correlation between European and American artists. Realizing such an extraordinary exhibition in Florence means celebrating a special relationship, one which takes us back into the past.