eARTh – Creativity & Sustainability

The Florence Biennale in the "ecosystem" of art and culture

The XI Florence Biennale aimed at contributing to envision a future in which creativity and sustainability are inspiring principles of an artistic and cultural “ecosystem” within a world that is respectful of nature and life forms on Earth. In this perspective cultural diversity and biodiversity do not exist in separate and parallel realms, but are part of a kind of co-evolutionary process that needs to be preserved and nurtured.


Artists as well as creative and cultural industries, including therein museums, art galleries, artist-run societies, schools, publishers, and other organisations, can play a key role in the realisation of such a process, which entails many aspects – from education and talent and skills development to equality issues, from cross-disciplinarity and cross-culturalism to the value of all cultural identities and local traditions and, not least, the preservation of world heritage, whether cultural or natural, through programs of conservation and sustainable development.


Also in this edition the Florence Biennale has gathered artists from around the world in the “cradle of the Renaissance” to participate to a contemporary art event that every two years has been attended not only by those who make art, but also by hundreds of people who teach, learn, promote, market, collect or otherwise “consume”, and enjoy art. The sponsors that have allowed many artists to participate to this international contemporary art exhibition shows that the work of an artist can harness with that of organisations from different countries engaged in a wide range of activities – from the production of eco-friendly materials to land reclaiming and recycling projects, from the sustainable growth of organic produces to fair trade and manufacturing processes respectful of human rights. 


Such a synergy ultimately means integrating creative, societal, environmental, and economic needs within a conceptual framework envisioning art and culture as resources for innovative approaches aimed at pursuing sustainable development goals in harmony with nature.


During this edition of the event, the Florence Biennale has obtained the patronage of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, granted only to those initiatives that have a high scientific, educational and cultural value.

Reflections on the theme

Art played an active role in the mainstream sustainable growth debate fostered by the UNESCO, particularly during the International Congress “Culture: Key to Sustainable Development” held in Hangzhou (China) in 2013. Also to mention are some contributions provided by foremost institutions, for instance the sustainable innovation projects from the “Cradle to Cradle” programme developed at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam in recent years, which has been welcomed in various sectors, from architecture and design to construction and industry. Besides, the 2015 Report “Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth” from the University of Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value has drawn attention, amongst other aspects, to digital media since they have “increased levels of participation in informal cultural and creative activities, created new networks and forms of interaction, transformed the production and distribution of established art forms and allowed new art forms to emerge”.

Lorenzo Zazzeri, "Bon Appétit", 2017
Lorenzo Zazzeri,

The winners of the Lifetime Achievement Awards of the 11th edition

Special events were also set up to present the guest artists who received the “Lorenzo il Magnifico” Lifetime Achievement Award for having entwined creativity and sustainability as principles inspiring their work. 
The President’s Special Award was awarded in memoriam to Sauro Cavallini, for having masterly given breath so of life to bronze through sculpture by conferring lightness and rhythm to original and harmonious figures with extremely natural, yet stylised anatomies.


The “Lorenzo il Magnifico” Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Arata Isozaki as a tribute in recognition of his outstanding endeavours as an architect and cultural actor. By designing architectural complexes that bring in the heritage from Eastern and Western cultures, reinforce the harmonious connections with Nature, and perfectly suit the needs of visual and performing artists and their audiences, he has shaped a wonderful vision for a sustainable future in harmony with nature.


The Florence Biennale conferred to El Anatsui the “Lorenzo il Magnifico” Lifetime Achievement Award as a recognition to his fifty-year outstanding contribution to art and the relationship between Humanity and Nature so as to inspire a global audience. Through the use of recycled materials such as metal and wood, his works have been able to tell memories and meanings of African history. 


The Florence Biennale has also conferred the President Special Award to Tim Bengel, for having fused with originality a reminiscence of the Tibetan mandala with western figuration and new technologies sharing his work with a large international audience, which has excited and inspired.

"Lorenzo il Magnifico" Lifetime Achievement Award (in memoriam) to Sauro Cavallini

Curator: Melanie Zefferino



United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Italian National Commission for UNESCO
Parlamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean
Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities and Tourism
Tuscany Region
Metropolitan City of Florence
City of Florence
University of Siena
Italian National Committee ICOMOS
Federturismo Confindustria
Foundation for Sustainable Development
Order of Architects Landscape Planners and Conservators of the Province of Florence
Florence Confindustria 
Touring Club Italiano

International Jury

Elza Ajzenberg – Coordinator of the Mario Schenberg Centre at the University of São Paulo (BRAZIL)
Dominique E. Baechler – Professor of Aesthetics and Art history (BRAZIL)
R.B. Bhaskaran – Director of the Government College of Arts di Chennai (INDIA)
Francesco Buranelli – Secretary General of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, Director of the Restoration Laboratories of the Vatican Museums (ITALY)
Pasquale Celona – Painter, President of the Florence Biennale and of the International Jury (ITALY)
Maria Teresa Constantin – Art Historian, Art Curator and Contemporary Art Critic (ARGENTINA)
Naoki Dan – Professor of Medieval Art History at the Gunma University (JAPAN)
Huang Du – Art Critic and Art Curator, curated the China Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale and the 26th São Paulo Biennale (CHINA)
Karen Lang – Associate Professor at the University of Warwick and member of the Centre of Research in Philosophy, Literature and The Arts, Editorial Director of “The Art Bulletin” (UNITED KINGDOM)
Gregorio Luke – Art Critic, Art Curator and Latin American art expert, Director of the Latin American Art Museum of Long Beach California (USA)
Matty Roca – Art Historian, Art Critic, Museographer and Cultural promoter (MEXICO)
Gerfried Stocker – Artistic Director of the Ars Electronica Center of Linz (AUSTRIA)
Enrico Vergnano – Director of the Textile Design Center of Aunde Italia, Professor of Textile Design at the Design European Institute of Turin (ITALY)