Ars et ingenium

Leonardo’s theme in the artworks exhibited at the XII Florence Biennale

In its XII edition, the Florence Biennale has reconfirmed itself as a reference point in the contemporary art scene as a precious resource, bearer of values such as intercultural dialogue and the promotion of tolerance between peoples through art and culture.


With over 500 artists from more than 70 countries, this edition has been characterized by the enrichment of new initiatives. Among these, the introduction of the design section was particularly important, giving the opportunity to exhibit to more than 280 designers from over 30 countries. Of great interest were the numerous side events and important workshops by the main and qualified centers and institutes of art and design in Florence.


In what has now taken the form of a multidisciplinary event, to be celebrated was the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci, to whom was dedicated the theme of this edition: "Ars et Ingenium - Toward Leonardo da Vinci’s Legacy of Similitude and Invention ". Many artists have been involved in creating works inspired by his example, using traditional techniques but also new technologies, rediscovering the power of imagination, intuition and experimentation that he employed in his projects.

The introduction of the Design pavilion

With the 2019 edition, the Florence Biennale introduced a new exhibition section dedicated to the world of design. This innovation took on a particularly significant value in the year in which the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo Da Vinci was celebrated. His genius has always been associated with technical-scientific design, as well as artistic. The great heterogeneity of his thought and work have united the values of culture, and is the ideal reference model around which the organization of the Design pavilion is structured. 
The connection between creative and production processes plays a very important role among the topics covered within this section.


This introduction of a further exhibition section within the event wants to represent a tribute to the local tradition. Tuscany is a basin of knowledge and case studies of absolute importance in the production of high-end design, as a result of technical knowledge and social and cultural values spread in the territories. Historical manufacturing knowledge today as in the past, develop high-end artifacts for national and international brands.


In the industrial production of the Tuscan districts, we can fully rediscover that ingenuity and explorative spirit of Leonardo’s work. The awards of the design section are entitled to this great personality: the “Leonardo Da Vinci” International Award is awarded by an International Jury composed of eminent personalities of the sector to the best exhibitor designers in the following categories: Architecture & Town Design, Industrial & Product Design, Interior Design, Fashion & Jewellery Design, Communication & Graphic Design, Technology & Game Design
At the end of the 2019 edition, the Lifetime Achievement Awards for the Design section were conferred to Salvatore and Wanda Ferragamo, Elsa Peretti (Tiffany & Co.) and Paula Scher.

ADI Design Museum preview
ADI Design Museum preview

Collateral Events

In this 12th edition of the event, numerous and interesting were the collateral events and special projects. Rossano B. Maniscalchi, author of the iconic image of this edition, Light of Humanity, presented his photographic works and the film that earned him the Best Director Award at La Jolla International Film Festival 2019: Denying Beauty.


Adoratorio renewed the appointment with One World One Face, the project presented at Palazzo Medici Riccardi to involve the public in creating an ideal image of Florence by superimposing photographic portraits with different degree of opacity to the effigy of Mona Lisa.


Ten young talents from the Libera Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze (LABA) were selected for the exhibition "Slightly modified looking glasses", curated by Veronica Citi.


The artist and scholar Joanna Hoffmann presented EpiMimesis – EpiZone V: Shifting Identities.
Developed together with the Epilab team, the project has been able to combine scientific research, art and technology to offer a multisensory experience in a virtual reality environment.


The internationally renowned artist Shan Shan Sheng brought to Florence Universal Elements, a multimedia sculptural installation designed to offer the public the perception of a constantly changing creation.


During the event was held the workshop “Maris National Flag Project”, open to artists and the public, held by Japanese artist Liku Maria Takahashi. The Maris method, which she invented, allows blind people to appreciate painting through touch.


The Florence Biennale has also renewed its collaboration with Street Levels Gallery, a unique art gallery in Florence because it focuses on street art in its various forms. A significant cross-section was offered through the exhibition of the street artists Ache77, Nemo’s and Mr. Wany.


To these initiatives has been added the educational offer for schools by Giovanni Cordoni and other proposals such as the Study Day on Leonardo Da Vinci.

Paula Scher, "Lorenzo il Magnifico" Lifetime Achievement Award
Paula Scher,

The winners of the Lifetime Achievement Awards of the 12th edition

In the spring of 2019, the "Lorenzo il Magnifico" Lifetime Achievement Award for Visual and Performative Arts was awarded to Franco Zeffirelli for having achieved with his work the perfect synthesis between the arts. Following his death, the Florence Biennale recalled the Maestro with a ceremony in his honour during the XII edition. Some archive photographs were also exhibited in a space dedicated to him.


The Mexican artist Gustavo Aceves received the "Lorenzo il Magnifico" Lifetime Achievement Award for Sculpture, for having evoked with his works fragments of human history and values of civilization. As part of the XII Florence Biennale he exhibited his Horses of the project LAPIDARIUM in the courtyard of the Fortezza da Basso, and other sculptures in the pavilion dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary art.


The young Turkish artist Refik Anadol was awarded the "Lorenzo il Magnifico" Lifetime Achievement Award for Installation and New Media Art. His work, innovative and visionary, originates from a creative process marked by artistic experimentation combining new media, science and architecture. During the event he exhibited one of his most famous and evocative works: Melting Memories.


Finally, the "Lorenzo il Magnifico" Award of the President of the Florence Biennale went to three personalities who boast a very successful artistic career: Anthony Howe (american artist who creates sculptures that come to life in a spiral movement), Mice Jankulowski (macedonian artist and architect performing large monochrome abstract paintings) and Han Yuchen (painter and poet who expresses himself through calligraphy and ink painting on rice paper).


In the Design section, the 2019 edition of the "Leonardo da Vinci" Lifetime Achievement Award went to Wanda and Salvatore Ferragamo (in memoriam) for design in fashion, to Tiffany & Co. jewellery designer Elsa Peretti and to communication and graphic designer Paula Scher of Pentagram studio in New York.

Refik Anadol, "Lorenzo il Magnifico" Lifetime Achievement Award
Refik Anadol,

Curator of the Art exhibition: Melanie Zefferino
Curator of the Design exhibition: Gabriele Goretti


Italian National Commission for UNESCO
European Parliament
Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities and Tourism
Tuscany Region
City of Florence
Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean Assemblee Parlamentaire de la Mediterranee
Tuscany Confindustria
Italian National Committee ICOMOS
University of Florence

International Jury


Elza Ajzenberg – Coordinator of the Mario Schenberg Center at the University of São Paulo (BRAZIL)
Dominique E. Baechler – Professor of Aesthetics and Art history (BRAZIL)
Francesco Buranelli – President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Historical and Artistic Monuments of the Vatican (ITALY)
Pasquale Celona – Painter and President of the Florence Biennale (ITALY)
Maria Teresa Constantin – National Art Coordinator of the OSDE Foundation in Buenos Aires (ARGENTINA)
Huang Du – Art Critic and Art Curator (CHINA)
Yuko Hasegawa – Artistic Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Tokyo (JAPAN)
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. Member of the International Association of Art Critics (MEXICO)
Gerfried Stocker – Artistic Director of the Ars Electronica Centre of Linz (AUSTRIA)


Perla Gianni Falvo - Founding partner of Studi Uniti-Firenze and Art Perception International (ITALY)
Francesco Fumelli – Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence (ITALY)
Angelika Nollert – Director of the Die Neue Sammlung – the Design Museum of Monaco (GERMANY)
Deniz Ova – Director of the Istanbul Design Biennial at the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (TURKEY)
Alexandra Sankova – Director and Founder of the Moscow Design Museum (RUSSIA)
Regina Schrecker - Fashion designer and world-famous costume designer (ITALY)
Hunter Tura – President and CEO of Bruce Mau Design (BMD) in London, New York and Toronto (CANADA)
Enrico Vergnano – Professor at the Design European Institute (ITALY)
Wu Haiyan - Vice president of the China Fashion Association, President of the Zhejiang Association of Creative Design and vice president of the Zhejiang Association of Science and Technology Workers (CHINA)