Monthly Archives: March 2012

Dove Vai? – To Savor ‘Cake Thinking’ at Palazzo Coveri

For a sugar high on a beautiful Spring day in Florence, walk on by Cake Thinking, a new free exhibit on display at the Gallery of Palazzo Coveri. The show, featuring the indulgent works of Tuscan artist Marina Calamai, is entirely dedicated to the theme of the dessert, interpreted in multiple manners and variations.

Cake Thinking at Palazzo Coveri
Cake Thinking at Palazzo Coveri

Arezzo-born Calamai’s creations depict a simple world that joyously combines the antique with the modern. These works are inspired by the art of Renaissance pastry-cooks, rediscovering and reconstructing the forms and colors of the sweetmeats that graced the table of Eleonora and Cosimo I de’ Medici. The artist has created an original style of painting, sculpture, and jewelry, with the theme of sumptuous cakes and pastries of all sorts, able to appeal to the eyes and the appetite at the same time.

A tart topped with a cherry makes a ring good enough to eat.
A tart topped with a cherry makes a ring good enough to eat.

Be sure to see the art-à-porter sculpture of “sweet” hats (meringues to profiteroles) that transform the ordinary into the unconventional – they can be worn as an ironic headdress or displayed as sculpture.

There are original audio “sound” paintings of the artist, including a diver taking the plunge into whipped cream.

A great fantasy - diving into whipped cream
A great fantasy - diving into whipped cream

The unique polyurethane foam sculpture entitled Corredo Cromosomico (Chromosome Complement), and the three-dimensional painting representing Cromosoma 4 (Chromosome 4), which is thought to be the gene responsible for the “sweet-tooth,” are the only two pieces that don’t look good enough to eat.

Don’t miss the celebrated installation Muffin, a huge cake that you can walk inside with a cherry on top, and, my favorite, the Kiwi table made with resin. There are also sweet silk scarves and jewelry in the form of cream puffs and cakes.

Kiwi table is a refreshing take on the fruit
Kiwi table is a refreshing take on the fruit

The Gallery of Palazzo Coveri is located on Lungarno Guicciardini, 19 in Florence.

Entrance to the exhibit is free and is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 11 am to 1 pm and 3:30 pm to 7 pm.

The show ends April 16, 2011.

For further information, visit galleriadelpalazzo.com and marinacalamai.it .

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Men in Tights Never Go Out of Fashion

For years I’ve been telling my touring clients at FriendinFlorence.com to listen for the sound of drums and trumpets in the alleys of Florence. “You are sure to see men in tights if you find the corteo,” I say.

Corteo for the three kings on Epiphany in January
Corteo for the three kings on Epiphany in January

Throughout the year, there are at least thirty parades, processions, or other celebrations with historical costumes, including men in tights. The drummers are in tights, the trumpeters are in tights, the flag wavers are in tights, even the noblemen on horses are in tights as they ride in the corteo.

The Flag Wavers need the flexibility of calzemaglia
The Flag Wavers need the flexibility of calzamaglia

What brings this to mind today – a day without a corteo – is the wonderful column by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times. Mantyhose are apparently all the rage. In fact, yesterday I was in the Paperback Exchange Bookstore in Florence and there were two trendy men wearing mantyyhose. They looked something like this gentleman, but they incorpoated more layers and more color:

All over Europe Mantyhose are a La Moda
All over Europe Mantyhose are alla Moda

The U.S. has it’s own men in tights but they are usually super heros.

Batman & Robin flaunted their tights
Batman & Robin flaunted their tights

Britain had Robin Hood. Ms. Dowd rightly observed that in the 1993 film Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Robin, Little John and the Merry Men sang, “We’re men, we’re men in tights; we roam around the forest looking for fights.”

Men wore tights for over 300 years in Italy
Men wore tights for over 300 years in Italy

Florence, however, has the longest and most colorful history of men who showed a lot of leg. Frescos celebrate the fashionable men who roamed the streets generation after generation for almost 300 years (14th – 16th centuries). Lorenzo the Magnificent was … yes … magnificent … in tights (something had to distract the focus away from that nose). Michelangelo probably didn’t change his calzamaglia more than once a month, if that often. Even Savonarola, the monk of the Bonfire of the Vanities, didn’t disparage the well-turn calf sheathed in skin-tight stockings.

The historic soccer game Calcio in Costume take place in June in Florence
The historic soccer game Calcio in Costume takes place in June in Florence

The Calcio Storico in Florence has for centuries shown how manly men in tights can be. Or perhaps it’s because they are wearing stockings and bloomers that makes this annual game so bloody and violent. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

Emilio Cavallini His & Hers
Emilio Cavallini His & Hers

It was, of course, a Tuscan, Emilio Cavallini (born 1945 in San Miniato near Pisa), who introduced unisex hosiery to modern times. In 2009, his high-end stocking company designed products for a more male sensibility and now it sells about 30,000 pairs a year to men. The new billionaire owner of Spanx didn’t skyrocket to success by ignoring the growing male market – look for Spanx this year for men who want to smooth those unsightly thigh-topping saddlebags.

The Conservative Man's Brosiery
The Conservative Man's Brosiery

Runners have been sporting spandex for years never knowing how fashionable they were (perhaps only worrying about that chaffing problem), but now they can toss away the all black look and add a little creativity with stripes, skulls, plaids and polka dots.

Colorful Mantyhose for Spring 2012?
Colorful Mantyhose for Spring 2012?

And maybe rainbow colors will show up in the designers’ lines for men next season and we will have come full circle from the trend setter of the Renaissance to the fashion forward man of today.

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Clet Abraham’s Street Art

I hate graffiti. I especially hate graffiti on the ancient Florentine walls. I want to hang the idiot, who keeps painting YOGURT on the walls in my neighborhood, up by some painful part of his anatomy. I especially want to throw away the key when the paint is on stonework or frescos created over 500 hundred years ago and can’t be cleaned off or painted over. I’ve written about this twice, here and here. So I was perfectly willing to condemn all street “artists” in Florence.

The Common Man carried away the Do Not Enter bar
The Common Man carried away the Do Not Enter bar

Until now. Well not exactly now. I giggled at this artist’s whimsical street sign work a year or so ago. And then he graced Ponte alle Grazie with the most imaginative sculpture (subject of another post). It was only when I got up close with his art on the walls of the innovative café/gallery La Buchetta that I was willing to say “he may be a street artist, but …”

His name? Clet. Where did he come from? France. Underlying philosophy? “As long as there are roads, there will be street art.”

Do Not Park gets unbuckled by Clet
Do Not Park gets unbuckled by Clet

Cletus Abraham is not exactly your everyday street artist. He was born in 1966 in Brittany. His father is the French writer Jean-Pierre Abraham. Clet attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Rennes. His art was exhibited at various galleries of Brittany, after which he moved to Rome where he worked as a restorer of antique furniture. He exhibited in numerous galleries in Rome and Paris. In 2005, he moved to Florence. Did his arte nella strada begin here? I don’t know.

In 2010, the blogs started to twitter about Clet’s nighttime raids on Florence street signs. Clet said that he suddenly saw the overwhelming banality and primitiveness of the ubiquitous municipal signs that rule our lives. He wanted to give them another meaning — a political, religious and philosophic interpretation — without obscuring the readability of the underlying sign.

One of the first street sign silhoulettes created by Clet
One of the first street sign silhouettes created by Clet

It began with a crucified Christ hanging from a “dead-end” sign. Then Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man graced a “no-entry” sign. But the favorite has to be the Common Man who is carrying away the “no entry” bar.

Unlike the taggers and the spray painted ugliness on Florence’s ancient walls, Clet’s street sign art is a removable adhesive silhouette. His work can be found in Rome, Florence, Paris, Turin, London and Valencia. It may be coming to a city near you.

Frenchman Clet Abraham leaves his mark in Paris
Frenchman Clet Abraham leaves his mark in Paris

Alexandra Korey, of ArtTrav.com fame has already asked the question that most interested me: “What is the difference between your work and graffiti?” Clet answered:

I’m not sure exactly what the fundamental difference is between a graffiti artist and my work. I can say for sure that my stickers are easily removable. It’s essential to me to create works that are thematically in keeping with the support upon which I am working, to adapt myself thus to any situation with complete respect for the work of others; I try to offer a service with my talent and knowledge. It’s possible that some graffiti artists have a similar work ethic. We do have in common a taste for the mysteries of the night and of surprise; a healthy attitude [or preference] for liberty of expression and breaking of rules – but these are the bases of being an artist!

I may be persuaded that street art, when done well is a gift to the city and its residents, especially that which is not permanent or destructive, like the Clet street signs.

Near Arezzo, Clet painted the town of Popi for the Castello di Popi
Near Arezzo, Clet painted the town of Poppi for the Castello di Poppi

For Clet, street art is more of a hobby than a vocation. His works are experiencing a notable success with private collectors in Paris, Monte Carlo, and New York. Many private entities, such as Banca Popolare dell’Etruria e del Lazio, the Istituto Tommaso Crudeli of Udine and the Castello di Poppi, have commissioned works from him. He participated in three exhibitions organized by the FuoriLuogo (“Out of Place”) between 2008 and 2010.

You can visit his studio in Via dell’Olmo, 8r in the San Niccoló neighborhood where he sells small items (stickers, t-shirts, and pins) based on his work, as well as his enhanced city street signs, both new and weatherworn, discarded by the Florence road works department.

Check out the videos of Clet and his work.