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Installation of Mauro Staccioli in Volterra
Photo © Bernd Thaller
Photo © Bernd Thaller

Journey to the places of contemporary art in Tuscany

A fascinating and unexpected itinerary

Tuscany is not only the home of masterpieces such as Michelangelo's David or the Cathedral of Siena: it is a land that also hosts important works of contemporary art, with museums and avant-garde centers to be discovered.

In this guide, we will give you some tips on where to admire the creations of the greatest internationally renowned artists up close, but also on where you can learn about the places of training and production related to contemporary art.

Contents
  • 1.
    Museums
  • 2.
    Contemporary art parks
  • 3.
    The places of street art
  • 4.
    Events
  • 5.
    The production centers linked to contemporary art
  • 6.
    Educational centers
  • 7.
    For more information

Museums

Pecci Center in Prato
Pecci Center in Prato

The itinerary dedicated to contemporary art can only start from the Pecci Center in Prato which, opened in 1988, was the first in Italy built specifically to host and promote the international artistic avant-garde.
The complex, designed by rationalist architect Italo Gamberini and expanded in 2016 by Maurice Nio, covers 3,000 square meters with exhibition rooms, an archive, the 60,000 volumes of the specialized CID/Visual Arts library, the auditorium-cinema and an outdoor theater.

In Florence, you can't miss the Strozzina Contemporary Culture Center (in the historic cellars of Palazzo Strozzi), which is an international exhibition and research center and over the years has hosted exhibitions by artists, such as Damien Hirst, Francis Bacon, Ai Weiwei, Carsten Höller and Marina Abramović.

Always at Florence, the Museo del Novecento in Piazza Santa Maria Novella is dedicated to 20th century Italian art and offers around 300 works. The Marini Museum, set up in the charming space of the former church of San Pancrazio, houses the creations of one of the greatest sculptors of the Italian twentieth century.

Finally, on the Piano Nobile of Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni in Florence, there is the Roberto Casamonti collection which houses a rich selection of Italian and international works that testify to the artistic evolution of the whole twentieth century.

Original and interesting contemporary art exhibitions are often organized by LU.C.C.A. - Contemporary art center of Lucca, inside Palazzo Boccella, a few steps from the famous Piazza dell'Anfiteatro.

In Pistoia, the centuries-old tower-house Palazzo Fabroni is not only a museum but a space for meeting and reflection on contemporary art.

In Viareggio we find the Municipal Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, which houses three thousand works by 750 artists and has the most important collection by Lorenzo Viani, original exponent of European Expressionism.

The Venturino Venturi Museum in Loro Ciufenna is dedicated to the great artist who lived in this village of Aretino for a good part of his life.

Tuscany also hosts countless art galleries and the most important internationally is Galleria Continua, in San Gimignano.

Contemporary art parks

The Rose Garden
The Rose Garden

There are also many contemporary art parks in Tuscany. Take, for example, Fattoria di Celle in Santomato situated on the hills around Pistoia where the splendid Baroque villa with its Italian garden and nineteenth-century park host a large collection of works (Daniel Buren, Dennis Oppenheim, Claudio Parmeggiani, Mauro Staccioli, Jean-Michel Folon and many more).

Continuing to Pievasciata, among the hills of the Terre di Siena, there is the Chianti Sculpture Park, where the charming artistic installations are distributed along a circular path that crosses an undisturbed oak and holm oak forest.

The Daniel Spoerri Garden is a large and enchanting sculpture park created by the Swiss artist in Seggiano, Maremma, on the slopes of Mount Amiata.

In the municipality of Capalbio there is the Tarot Garden, one of the most fascinating artistic parks in Tuscany and also one of the most original and fun attractions of the Maremma. The artist who created it, Niki de Saint-Phalle, was inspired by Gaudi's Parc Guell in Barcelona.

The Rose Garden is located on a hill overlooking Florence, a few steps from Piazzale Michelangelo; in addition to hosting numerous types of plants and roses, the park is known for the permanent exhibition of sculptures by the Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon.

Also in Florence, particularly in summer, you can find one of the most fascinating places that combines ancient and modern art, Forte Belvedere: the terraces and inside rooms of this splendid Renaissance fortress, built at the end of the sixteenth century by Grand Duke Ferdinando I de' Medici and designed by Bernardo Buontalenti, is the perfect place for contemporary sculpture exhibitions.

The permanent collection of contemporary art at Villa La Magia in Quarrata, in the province of Pistoia, winds through a sensorial journey within a beautiful and unique museum park where the works of the artists blend into the landscape, integrating into the spirit of the place and its story until it becomes an intrinsic part of it.

Unique and creative installations are also found in Seano, near Carmignano (Prato) at the Quinto Martini park museum.

Painters, sculptors, graphic artists and ceramists have made Cantagallo an intriguing destination for contemporary art thanks to the open-air museum of Luicciana.

Finally, we advise you to visit the village of Volterra and its surroundings, where you can admire the works of Mario Staccioli, some of which seem to frame the landscape.

In the surroundings of Asciano, in Crete Senesi, you'll find the Site Transitoire, a monumental artwork by Jean-Paul Philippe, with "a chair to accommodate the passerby, a bench, a window, and for a roof the vault of heaven".

The places of street art

David di Kobra on the Apuan Alps
David di Kobra on the Apuan Alps - Credit: Comune di Carrara

Not everyone knows it but in Pisa, near the station, there is a gigantic mural by Keith Haring, the colorful "Tuttomondo" (All the World), one of the few works by the American artist that can be admired in Italy. It was painted in 1989 on the external wall of the rectory of the Church of Sant'Antonio Abate to send a message of universal peace and love.

Pisa also pays homage to the figure of Galileo Galilei with one of the largest mural in Italy, signed by Brazilian artist David di Kobra. In the work, an imposing and colorful Galilei scans the sky with a telescope in the shape of the Tower of Pisa; above him, the 4 moons of Jupiter. Kobra is already known in Tuscany for having painted Michelangelo's David on the wall of a marble quarry, in Colonnata, surrounded by the Apuan Alps.

Moving on to Pontedera, there is the wall of Enrico Baj, founder of the Nuclear Movement who sought to study and analyze the relationships between science, art and technology. The wall, 100 meters long and three meters high, is probably the largest contemporary mosaic in Italy.

A much-loved street artist in Tuscany is Clet (Abraham), a French artist who has lived in Italy for over 25 years. We find his stickers on the road signs that can be easily identified around Florence (as well as in Livorno and other Tuscan cities).

Events

Florence Biennale, sculpture by Marco Olivier
Florence Biennale, sculpture by Marco Olivier

Festivals, shows, exhibitions and much more. Throughout the year, many events on contemporary art are organized in Tuscany. Lo Schermo dell'Arte, for example, is a unique project in Italy, which kicked off in Florence in 2008 and is dedicated to exploring, analyzing and promoting the relationship between contemporary art and cinema.

The International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Florence, also known as Florence Biennale, is a multidisciplinary event established in 1997 which is held every two years in the exhibition spaces of Fortezza da Basso.

The production centers linked to contemporary art

Marble quarries in Carrara
Marble quarries in Carrara - Credit: Emma Ivarsson

Tuscany has a high number of productive districts linked to contemporary art. The best known internationally include marble in Carrara, the foundries in Pietrasanta and the ceramics in Montelupo Fiorentino.

All the greatest internationally renowned artists have passed through and regularly visit these areas. Lovers of Tuscan marble are Maurizio Cattelan, Damien Hirst, Jan Fabre, Jeff Koons and Vanessa Beacroft. For the bronze district we mention Giuseppe Penone, Igor Mitorai, Francesco Botero; and for ceramics Hidetoshi Nagasawa, Bertozzi and Casoni.

Educational centers

Academy of Fine Arts - Carrara
Academy of Fine Arts - Carrara - Credit: Davide Papalini - Eigenes Werk

Tuscany, besides being a place of inspiration, is also a training center for artists. In the region there are two Academies of Fine Arts, among the most prestigious and oldest in the country. The Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, founded in 1784, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara which dates back to 1769.

In this context, it is interesting to note that a high percentage of students from the two institutes are foreigners. This means that Tuscan academic courses are "attractive" all over the world.

For more information

Continue the journey: download the free publication Contemporary Tuscany with places, destinations and events of contemporary art in Tuscany.

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