Eike Schmidt and contemporary art in the Uffizi

Before Eike Schmidt took over the direction of the Uffizi in 2015, he had gained seven years of experience in the United States, as curator and head of the Department of Sculpture, Applied and Textile Arts and Design at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, also in Minnesota as previous relevant international experiences , between America and London. In his first role as museum director, the German art historian announced his wish right from the start modernize The Uffizi is rethinking its identity as a complex museum system and is developing new communication strategies with the public in order to achieve the widest possible awareness among a heterogeneous audience (the case of Ferragni with the photos of the influencer in the museum, who in 2020 they traveled around the world, this is the most striking example, but the work promoted on digital and social networks has been more profound and effective.
This operation is not trivial and will be carried out effectively during the eight years of the dual mandate, which expires next November, when, by law, Schmidt must pass the baton to his designated successor.

Kiki Smith. What I saw on the street. Installation view at Palazzo Pitti, Florence 2019. Courtesy of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Eike Schmidt and contemporary art

In order to strengthen the dialogue between ancient and contemporary art, under his leadership the Uffizi has intensified the exhibition program of illustrations by artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. And these are exactly Schmidt’s most recent statements that he made in the budget interview Corriere Fiorentino, about the inadequacy of the Florentine cultural offer in relation to contemporary art, have led us to restore the Uffizi’s activities in this direction over the last eight years. Florence, says Schmidt today: “pays no attention to the production of contemporary artists“if not to bring”established artists”; and when questioned about the Museo Novecento, he launches an even more targeted attack (directly stabbing its director). Sergio Risalitiand implicitly who manages the museum: the mayor’s administration Dario Nardella), in relation to “a criterion for selecting artists that seems random to me“.
But where did Schmidt’s Uffizi programming go in terms of contemporary?

Cai Guo-Qiang's fireworks in Florence, photo Valentina Grandini
Cai Guo-Qiang’s fireworks in Florence, photo Valentina Grandini

Contemporary art at the Uffizi from 2015 to today

It is clear that the clever (and legitimate) marketing strategy adopted in the round has not been able to do without in recent years, Blockbuster dates. And much maligned Mainstream exhibitions, associated with internationally known names, were often used as promotional tools for the Uffizi system. In a year as productive as 2019, this is demonstrated by the projects dedicated to this topic Tony Cragg (in Boboli Garden), Kiki Smith, Antony Gormley, Cai Guo Qiang. And before that, in 2018, the retrospective of Fritz König, with the German artist’s monumental sculptures welcomed into the Italian Gardens of Boboli. In 2017 it was the turn of the Albanian sculptor Helidon Xhixha, who also received great recognition from the audience for the scenographic staging of his installations.
However, when we decided to deviate from the blockbuster, the results were not always immediately understandable. At least for the difficulty level Light What scientific reflection has inspired projects such as those focused on the work of in terms of integrated planning of the exhibition events Neo smoke (2020) or Marya Kazoun (2023). Decisions that relate to the curatorial vision of a qualified professional (and his collaborators), whose work we do not want to question here. However, even the expert in question could (should) have refrained from making harsh judgments about the actions of others – if only in order not to stir up the climate of political tension for which the Italian cultural system is also paying the price (see question Greco, in Turin) – in view of an approach to contemporary art that appears to be similar to the “allegations” made in the accused interview. Which in turn has already been largely refuted by the director of the Museo Novecento, Sergio Risaliti.
For the sake of completeness, we report below on the complete list of exhibitions on 20th and 21st century art from the Uffizi under the direction of Eike Schmidt.

Livia Montagnoli

The light of loneliness. Gianfranco Ferroni (edited by Vincenzo Farinella)

Views on the 20th century. Drawings by Italian artists between the two wars (edited by Marzia Faietti and Giorgio Marini)

Helidon Xhixha. Randomlyin the Boboli Garden (curated by Eike Schmidt)
Ytalia (as a venue for the project designed by Sergio Risaliti)
Maria Lassnig women’s power (edited by Wolfgang Drechsler)
Discoveries and massacres. Ardengo Soffici and the avant-gardes in Florence (edited by Vincenzo Farinella)

Fritz König. The retrospective (edited by Alexander Rudigier, Eike Schmidt, Stefanje Weinmayr)
Maria Lai. The thread and the infinite (edited by Elena Pontiggia)
Eisenstein. The revolution of images

Tony Cragg, in the Boboli Garden (curated by Eike Schmidt, Jon Wood and Chiara Toti)
Kiki Smith, What I Saw on the Street (edited by Eike Schmidt and Renata Pintus)
Antony Gormley. To be (edited by Eike Schmidt and Max Seidel)
Flora comedySolo exhibition by Cai Guo-Qiang (edited by Eike Schmidt, Laura Donati, Simon Schama and Renata Pintus
Tesfaye Urgessa. Over and beyond (edited by Eike Schmidt and Chiara Toti)

Neo smoke. Works from 2008 to 2019 (edited by Max Seidel and Serena Calamai)

Lost. Franco Ionda
Trees in verse. Giuseppe Penone

K(C)ongo, fragments of nested dialogues. Subversive classificationsSammy Baloji’s first solo exhibition in Italy (curated by Lucrezia Cippitelli, Chiara Toti)
Seduction. Koen Vanmechelen (edited by Eike Schmidt and Francesca Sborgi)

Guido Ferroni, 1888-1979. The old feeling of painting (edited by Simonella Condemi, Emanuele Greco)
Rudolf Levy (1875 -1944) – opera and exile (based on an idea by Klaus Voigt)
Marya Kazoun. first act
Hidden existence. Wang Guangyithe Chinese artist’s first solo exhibition in Italy, is ongoing (curated by Eike Schmidt and Demetrio Paparoni)

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