Florence Biennale 2011

December 3rd – 11th

Hundreds of artists from over 70 countries gathered together at the historic Fortezza da Basso for the Biennale’s eighth edition.

The Award “Lorenzo il Magnifico” for Lifetime Achievement was presented to the painter, sculptor, writer, and politician, José Luis Cuevas, who is considered one of the most important contemporary Mexican artists, and to Agatha Ruiz de La Prada, one of the greatest stylists and designers of all time, whose work has made fashion into one of the highest forms of art.

The Fortezza da Basso housed an exhibit dedicated to the career of José Luis Cuevas, who met with visitors, as well as one that celebrated stylist Ruiz de La Prada’s decades long career by exhibiting 40 of her designs, which were chosen for the occasion. She was also honoured with a contemporary dance performance by MaggioDanza, for which the company’s prima ballerina Sabrina Vitangeli wore an outfit the stylists had designed for the performance.

During this edition of the event, the Biennale engaged with the entire city and its works of art. The Fortezza da

Basso served as the starting point for the project Sit-In Florence: five-hundred young participants each created a contemporary ‘re-interpretation’ of chairs donated by Ikea, and then exhibited these in the streets of Florence during the event. Wishing to include younger children as well, the Biennale and the local Education Council also promoted the project “Learning to read Contemporary Art”.

Art, Fashion, and Design combine perfectly with research and the contemporary world. The resulting synthesis is a “gaze that looks to the future”.

Artistic Director: Stefano Francolini

This year, in addition to the main exhibit of contemporary art, the Biennale also organized an interesting program featuring many secondary events.

On December 6th a contemporary dance performance took place in honour of the stylist Agatha Ruiz de La Prada. The show was performed by MaggioDanza, the resident dance company of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and one of the main dance companies active in Italy. It featured Adonis Foniadakis’ Selon Desir and a solo piece choreographed by Francesco Ventirglia and performed by the prima ballerina Sabrina Vitangeli, who wore an outfit especially designed by the stylist for this occasion.

The company Youth Opus Ballet, directed by Rosanna Brocanello, presented the new dance piece Adamant, which was choreographed by Peter Mika and inspired by Nicholas Roerich, the great artist and intellectual. This original piece was performed on December 4th. On this occasion the dance company, which is one of the most important European revelations, also presented some of its own new choreographies.

This edition also reaffirmed the event’s long lasting support for research projects through art and culture.

The Biennale housed a special space that exhibited works of art that had been donated by artists to the Association FiorGen Onlus, which conducts research into pharmacogenomics. On December 10th FiorGen received the proceeds obtained from the auction of these works of art.

During October and November 2011 Stefano Francolini, the Biennale’s Artistic Director, oversaw a series of lectures in various Florentine schools. These events were organized with the intent of explaining how contemporary art is made and how it should be read. Students from participating schools were then given a special tour of the Biennale’s exhibits. However, the Biennale’s commitment to the education of younger generation was actualized as a project that was created especially for the event.

SIT-in Florence flooded the city’s magnificent historic centre with hundreds of ‘artist’s chairs’. In this case the participating artists were students from the city’s schools: each one was given a chair (all of which were provided by IKEA) and was supposed to alter it according to both his or her personal taste as well as the guidelines provided by the faculty that collaborated with SIT-in Florence. In this way students had the opportunity to creatively engage with one of the most archetypical objects in contemporary design.

The project as a whole sought to provide students with a new kind of art education, emphasizing art’s various forms and compositions. This initiative illustrated the ways in which art can take on an emotional aspect and play an important part in interpreting society, events, everyday occurrences, and contemporary ways of life while also enabling a sharp break with established images and formal and behavioural frameworks.

The aim of the guidelines established by the Faculty of SIT-in Florence was not to limit students’ creativity, but rather to suggest artistic channels that could create new meaning through the alteration of the chairs. In line with an emphasis on Florence as the capital of ‘Made in Italy’ and of the Italian life style, the themes ranged from the history of Italian unification to Italian language, cuisine, art, fashion, and science. In this way the city of Florence sought to promote the value of “creative capital” and to present itself as a place where one has the opportunity to present a product, idea, or dream.

International Award “Lorenzo il Magnifico”

For Lifetime Achievement 2011