Offices Diffusi: Florence’s most famous art gallery launches “scattered” exhibitions

Florence, Italy (CNN) – Its founder calls it “the biggest reshuffle in Italy” in the last decade, it has been hailed as “an essential means of combating overtourism”, and now it is ready: the region of Tuscany has made the first step towards becoming a giant gallery.

The Uffizi Galleries in Florence – Italy’s most visited museum and perhaps home to the largest collection of Renaissance art in the world – has launched its Uffizi Diffusi, or “Scattered Uffizi” project, which will see works of art taken from the gallery and exhibited around the wider region of Tuscany.

Up to 100 regional galleries will be created over the next five years, with the aim of putting an end to the overtourism that has nearly overwhelmed Florence in recent years.

The works of art will be relocated to small towns and villages, with the aim of distributing tourists – and their spending, as well as their impact on the environment – across the region, instead of centering them around the honey pot. Florence.

The future will see old palaces, convents and crumbling spas from the turn of the century converted into permanent exhibition spaces, but the project kicks off this summer with five temporary exhibitions to be held around Florence.

An Italian “magic mystery tour”

Castiglion Fiorentino does an art exchange with the Uffizi.

Uffizi Galleries

Dubbed “Terre degli Uffizi” (“Uffizi Land”), it will mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, forging links between the region and the poet, exiled from Florence for political reasons.

San Godenzo, a village in the mountains near the border with Emilia Romagna, was the birthplace of Renaissance painter Andrea del Castagno – and also the place where Dante stayed when he was sentenced to death in absentia from Florence in 1302. He left San Godenzo, never to return home, and died in Emilia Romagna. The exhibition will connect the two men with a fresco of Dante painted by Andrea del Castagno, which has been restored and will be returned to his hometown from July 26 to September 5.

Anghiari – famous for a Renaissance battle that featured in a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci – will host an exhibit on the culture of combat and the self-taught soldiers who went from being mercenaries to establishing their own courtyards filled with art, such as Federico da Montefeltro, whose portrait of Piero della Francesca is one of the most famous works of the Uffizi.

Poppi, a pretty village perched at the foot of the Apennine mountains east of Florence, where Dante wrote part of the “Divine Comedy”, will have a Dante exhibition centered around a painting by Paolo and Francesca, the story the most famous of forbidden love in the poem (in which they were confined to the second circle of hell). By Nicola Monti, this is a recent acquisition of the Uffizi. The exhibition will be held in the hilltop castle of the Counts Guidi, political allies of Dante himself.

There will be an exhibition of “giottesque” paintings in the Valdelsa area in Montespertoli, a small hilltop village 40 minutes southwest of Florence. The painter Giotto – one of the most famous of the early Renaissance – influenced local artists, whose work will be exhibited in the presbytery of the local church.

And the town of Castiglion Fiorentino will do an art exchange with the Uffizi on the theme of Saint Francis. Officials will send their flagship painting of Bartolomeo della Gatta to the Uffizi, where it will take pride of place in 15th century rooms. In return, the Uffizi Gallery will send the city its painting “Saint Francis receives the stigmata”, by the early Baroque painter Cigoli.

The landscape that launched a thousand paintings

The Uffizi Diffusi project will send artwork from the gallery across Tuscany

Anghiari has already hosted an exhibition of a work by Leonardo da Vinci.

Uffizi Galleries

While there are no superstar artwork in the exhibits – previously the gallery had loaned works by Leonardo da Vinci to nearby towns – Uffizi Galleries director Eike Schmidt said to CNN that the project will deliver something equally valuable: an all-enveloping art experience.

“You don’t look at a work of art in isolation, you see it on a screen, in a book or in a museum,” he said.

“The bodily context and the landscape context matter a lot, and this will give the opportunity to perceive these works in a very different way.

“To see a work by Andrea del Castagno in the landscape where Andrea del Castagno is from – I think it’s worth the trip from California, Warsaw, Australia or Barcelona.”

Schmidt has bigger plans for the larger project, however. Among other things, he reserved the villa of Montelupo Fiorentino, half an hour west of Florence, which once belonged to the reigning Medici family, as a space to exhibit works by Botticelli. The villa will be renovated and will serve as the heart of the project.

For now, he calls the launch plans a “magical mystery tour” in northern Tuscany. The municipalities draw between them cycle and road routes to create artistic mini-paths.

Schmidt told CNN that the urgency of the project – which was largely anticipated during the lockdown – was an attempt to avoid a return to the overtourism that has plagued Florence in recent years.

“At the height of the season it was not fun for a visitor, let alone for a citizen, so now when it comes time to reopen the city and the country, we have to give a signal for a new kind of tourism”, a he declared. mentionned.

“This means promoting the unity of landscape tourism, family tourism, gastronomic tourism, sports tourism and cultural and artistic tourism.

“The reason for doing it now is that we need to transform tourism into something that is more ecologically and socially sustainable – and which will also be more fun. And that means decongesting hot spots like Florence, by distributing visitors.

“Bringing the works of art back to the hills where they were painted will help strike a balance.”

An “essential means of combating overtourism”

The Uffizi Diffusi project will send artwork from the gallery across Tuscany

Poppi will link the works to Dante, who died 700 years ago.

Uffizi Galleries

Stakeholders in the sustainable tourism industry applauded Schmidt’s idea. Justin Francis, co-founder and CEO of Responsible Travel, called it a “beautifully simple idea.”

“In essence, everyone wins. Tourists and residents alike will have the opportunity to view remarkable works of art away from the crowds, businesses across the region will see their revenues increase, and residents of Florence will be able to benefit from it. a little respite from the pressures of honey tourism, ”he said. mentionned.

He suggested the concept could go global, calling it “an essential means of tackling overtourism on a global scale – it will be exciting to see how far the ‘scattered’ concept can be taken.”

The mayor of Castiglion Fiorentino, Mario Agnelli, told CNN that the Uffizi project will put cities on the world map.

“I wanted to organize exhibitions before, but to do that you need insurance and transport – the costs were impossible for us as a small town,” he said. “Even if he [Schmidt] had given me a Botticelli, I would never have made it. The Uffizi umbrella has secured the necessary funding to help the various cities, he said.

For his part, Schmidt said: “The numbers predict that it will be the biggest [cultural] reshuffle in Italy over the past 10 to 12 years ”, and says he“ strongly believes ”that the model could be extended to other regions and countries, including Lombardy and parts of Spain.

He added that now, after the pandemic’s forced break, it is time to do it.

“Airbnb numbers show us that beautiful little hill towns have sold out long before cities, and in fact, many hotels in big cities like Florence, Rome, Milan and Venice have yet to reopen.”

When asked if it was a race against time before mass tourism returned to its previous levels, he replied: “That’s why I put so much energy into it. from now and not in 2022.

“It’s important to have a new offering – a more convincing and better offering before going back to the old mechanisms.

“I’ve been saying for a year and a half that if we don’t change our offers, there is a risk that people will go back to their old ways.”

The Uffizi Diffusi project is also behind a Napoleon-themed exhibition on the island of Elba, where the French emperor had once gone into exile this summer.

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