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Casamonti Collection
Photo © Courtesy Collezione Roberto Casamonti
Photo © Courtesy Collezione Roberto Casamonti

Places of the contemporary in and around Florence

Ideas for a different visit to the Florence Area

The contemporary soul of Florence and its area is not obvious at a first exploration, it must be sought by following clues, fashions, movements. It seems like a centrifugal force, starting powerfully from the historic center of the Renaissance city, moving away towards the outside, that is, the surroundings: interesting research, which gifts exciting experiences. Follow us in this proposal that, starting from the heart of Florence, will lead us to new destinations.

  • 1.
    Museums and exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art
  • 2.
    Places reborn for the contemporary
  • 3.
    Contemporary languages
  • 4.
    Design in Calenzano
  • 5.
    Traces of the contemporary in Fiesole

Museums and exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art

Museo Novecento
Museo Novecento - Credit: Comune di Firenze

There are basically three places to find contemporary art on a permanent basis, in the form of a museum or exhibition, in Florence:

The Museo Novecento in Piazza Santa Maria Novella is a collection of works by Italian artists of the 20th century, organized in a temporal itinerary on the most renowned names of the 20th century, flanked by temporary exhibitions, always focused on today’s artists. It is part of the Florentine Civic Museums.

The Casamonti Collection is a private museum, created out of entrepreneur Roberto Casamonti's love of art. The many works range from the early 20th century to the early 21st century, organized in two different exhibitions that alternate in rotation. Including Bill Viola, Marina Abramovic, Mimmo Paladino, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Anselm Kiefer, Anish Kapoor and many more.

Finally, how can we not point out the splendid container of Palazzo Strozzi, which alternates artists of the past with names of today, making Florence a destination for contemporary art lovers. Anselm Kiefer is now on display in the Renaissance rooms, but over the years we have also admired Anish Kapoor, Yan Pei-Ming, Olafur Eliasson, Marina Abramovic and many others.

Places reborn for the contemporary

Sant'Orsola - Credit: Comune di Firenze

These are not museums but places that have changed their destination and become new cultural spaces in the city, completely permeated with contemporaneity.

The first place is undoubtedly Le Murate, a former convent as well as a former prison in Florence in the Santa Croce area that, thanks to a successful urban intervention, has been reconverted into a neighborhood with two new squares, housing, stores, co-working, clubs and an interesting art center, MAD (Murate Art District) where exhibitions, permanent installations and artist residencies create a lively movement.

The other space is Manifattura Tabacchi (tobacco factory), in the Cascine area where the immense spaces once dedicated to the production of cigars, blocks of buildings built in the late 1930s, are (still) being renovated and transformed into one of the most interesting places in Florence, popular for young people from all over the world thanks also to the presence of the prestigious Polimoda. Manifattura Tabacchi is an ideal setting for various art projects and site-specific productions, thanks to the NAM (not a museum) project.

The third place to keep an eye on is Sant'Orsola. It is a work in progress because after so many years of neglecting the huge building in San Lorenzo neighborhood, first a convent and then, what a curious coincidence, a tobacco factory (before everything was moved to the Cascine) as well as barracks, is being totally renovated by a French investor. It will become a multipurpose center, also dedicated to contemporary art. For the moment, it has given us two temporary openings, with works by Sophia Kisielewska-Dunbar and Alberto Ruce, which conveyed great emotions to visitors.

Contemporary languages

Street art in Florence
Street art in Florence - Credit: Comune di Firenze

Among contemporary languages, a very powerful and immediate one is that of street artists. In just a few years, Florence has become a city where you can encounter numerous works created on walls by very prolific artists. From the small portraits of Lediesis to the figurines of Exit Enter, from the large murals of Jorit to the painted newsstands, from the shutters of Via Palazzuolo to the poetry of the Last Judgment, the work created on public houses of the Galluzzo neighborhood by Argentinean Francisco Bosoletti.

Free art, for all and within everyone's reach.

Design in Calenzano

A strong element of our contemporaneity is also design, which accompanies us in our everyday life, making it not only easier but also more beautiful.
A real journey into design is what you can experience by going to Calenzano, where the Anna Querci Foundation - Museum of Industrial Design is located. With a permanent exhibition of objects made for the most important furniture and interior design companies as a base, which is flanked by temporary exhibitions.
The Foundation works in collaboration with the degree programs in Design at the University of Florence to offer, students, scholars and visitors a place to experience and explore the culture of Italian industrial design, in a space made available by the Municipality of Calenzano.

Traces of the contemporary in Fiesole

Michelucci Foundation
Michelucci Foundation - Credit: Comune di Firenze

And we come to the beautiful hill of Fiesole, where, perhaps unknown to most, are two centers of artistic and architectural interest. The first is the Giovanni Michelucci Foundation, dedicated to the work of the great architect who died in Florence in 1980 and a creative mind who strongly marked the city. The Foundation is based in his home, Villa Il Roseto, set in a panoramic position overlooking the city he loved. It is worth a visit just for the rooms, which are completely furnished by the furniture designed by the architect. The Foundation opens the house on certain days for free tours, as well as pursuing projects and proposals that aim to innovate intervention strategies with respect to the most burning urban problems.

The second place is the Sauro Cavallini house museum. We are on the other side of the hill of Fiesole, in Pian di Mugnone where the sculptor's Study Center is located. Here you can wander around the garden and the rooms and see the works placed there. Sauro Cavallini, who died in 2016, created works that embellish squares and palaces in many European countries, as well as in Italy.

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