Contemporary Art Graces the Crypt of the Museo Marino Marini

By Andreas Petrossiants, NYU student

Florence’s famous “museum mile,” following the path from the Galleria dell’Accademia to the Duomo, continuing to Piazza Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio, and culminating on the Ponte Vecchio, has long been a traditional route to travel as a cultural pilgrim in Florence. In the recent La Pietra Dialogue on contemporary art in Florence, Ricardo Lami from the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi pointed out the alternative mile extending in almost perpendicular contrast: from the Stazione Santa Maria Novella to the Museo del Novecento, continuing to the Museo Marino Marini and the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, and onwards, potentially, to the Forte Belvedere on the other side of the river. This alternative mile, is a very clear elucidation of a modern and contemporary pathway within the city’s walls, saturated with heavy and enlightening history.

The Museo Marino Marini, a sometimes-overlooked institution by the influx and quick recession of foreign students, is one that should instead be a cultural institution to savor as a craftily reused space that displays a large collection of work by the brilliant Italian Novecento artist Marino Marini – originally from Pistoia. The museum is located in the renovated church of San Pancrazio, halfway between the Novecento and the Strozzi, beautifully renovated by two designers after the collection was donated to the city of Florence in 1980. The architects create an interesting dialogue between the different architectural elements of the church that remain and the contemporary architectural additions. A large window at the repurposed apse of the museum lets in natural light that shines on the many floors of the museum which create a maze to follow and explore, each floor teeming with both painting and sculpture by the artist. In the former crypt downstairs one will find a continuous array of interesting contemporary art exhibitions, that inhabit the labyrinth of rooms downstairs. Once again, visitors will be amazed to see how the setting of a renovated crypt interacts with the contemporary art and the curatorial architecture of each exhibit.

At the moment the museum is exhibiting a solo show of artist Pablo Bronstein (b. 1977). The site-specific project, curated by Alberto Salvadori and Leonardo Bigazzi, titled Studies in Mannerist Decomposition, is in interesting array of works by the artist in a number of different mediums including installation, refined drawing as well as videos. In his first solo-show in an Italian institution Bronstein “has focused on the re-elaboration of the stylistic and decorative elements of European architecture and theatre from the renaissance onwards,” according to the Museo, in which the artist creates a meta-history of architecture. The works of the exhibit articulate quite wonderfully various eras of architecture, both in reality and in jest, by stipulating hypothetical arrangements of motifs and histories that culminate in Bronstein’s field drawings that grow less embellished and more conceptual as the exhibition moves on.

The groin vaults of the repurposed crypt, as well as the heavy stone that comprise them, create a interesting environment in which one can experience various levels of artistic and architectural history displayed in the conceptual installations and often ornamented drawings. The work of the exhibition are in reference to the Rucellai Chapel by Leon Battista Alberti, which stands adjacent to the museum; it was completed in 1497 and is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, which references the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The hypothetical posthumous history that Bronstein creates for the church intersects with the various levels of history addressed by the Museo Marino Marini and the site itself. The exhibition closes on February 20th and is definitely worth the trip before the works come down, if not just for the artist’s distinct work itself, but also for the conversation that the works engage in with their surroundings.

Be on the lookout for more contemporary exhibitions at the Museo Marino Marini as they appear.