Dove Vai? – Florence is alive this week with Florens 2012

It seems like just yesterday that Florens 2010 brought a lawn to Piazza del Duomo and a full-sized David moved from place to place around Florence. For the second edition of this global cultural event, the city is graced with seventy olive trees forming a grove around the Baptistry and three historic crucifixes inside. Across town, the piazza in front of Santa Croce, as if by magic, has grown a cross of its own, made of tons of marble.

The grassy lawn, know as the Prato, was the hit of Florens 2010

The grassy lawn, know as the prato, was the hit of Florens 2010

The olive grove is best seen early in the morning or late at night when the fewest people are around. The trees are only a small part of Florens 2012. Every day this week there are lectures, bloggers, food and wine, all of which are described on the Florens 2012 website.

Dwarfed by the Baptistry and Duomo the forest of olive trees are obscure the people

Dwarfed by the Baptistry and the Duomo is a grove of olive trees (photo by F. Boni)

Many of the olive tree are over 100 years old. Those made up of three or four twisted trunks are really branches of a tree that survived the 1985 deep freeze that turned the Arno to ice.

Olive trees older than any of those who enjoy getting lost in the grove

Olive trees older than any of those who are lost in the grove (Photo by F. Boni)

Florens 2012 tries to mix the references to the Garden of Gethsemane with environmental concerns of today. Neither symbol comes to mind as you wander through the trees.

No olive hang from these carefully pruned trees (Photo by F. Boni)

No olives hang from these carefully pruned trees (Photo by F. Boni)

In 2010, the Prato was in honor of Saint Zanobi, but most people just enjoyed the rare feel of grass in this city of stone. These ancient pruned olive trees may only make you think of the drought-caused blight on the 2012 olive harvest and wonder about the high price a liter of extra virgin cold pressed oil will cost in January 2013.

As you move inside the Baptistry, the Garden of Gethsemane gives way to the crucifixion with never-before gathering of three wooden sculptures by Florence’s favorite sons – Donatello, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo.

The Mystery of the Cross inside the Bapistry

The Mystery of the Cross inside the Bapistry

The exposition is know as Mysterium Crucis or Mystery of the Cross. Florens 2012 casts its eyes back 1,700 years (only in Italy can you get away with that) to Emperor Constantine, who in October 312 (they are precise about the month and year) at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, saw a cross accompanied by the words in hoc signo vinces (in this sign you win). The curators ask you to bring your thoughts forward to the meaning of the cross today.

Brunellschi's Crucifix from the Gondi Chapel of Santa maria Novella (1415)

Brunelleschi's Crucifix from Santa Maria Novella (1415)

But you may just want to stop and think about the artists who, each in different decades of the 1400s, carved such masterworks out of wood. Each artist had a very different vision and style, but each was influenced by the iconography and customs of their time.

Michelangelo’s sculpture is the most shrouded in mystery. Supposedly carved for the prior of Santo Spirito, this 1492 crucifix, was rediscovered in 1962, but not attributed to the artist until 2001.

Michelangelo's Crucifix from Santo Spirito (1492)

Michelangelo's Crucifix from Santo Spirito (1492)

If art historians have it right, Michelangelo was still a teenager when her carved the crucifix hanging today in the Baptistry. The delicate carving is interesting in comparison to Donatello’s (1413), which was not appreciated by his contemporary, Brunlleschi, who thought the life-like face of Donatello’s Christ looked more like a peasant.

Crucifixes from 1412, 1415, and 1492 are together for the first time

Crucifixes from 1412, 1415, and 1492 are together for the first time

Moving on to the modern, you must walk across town to Piazza Santa Croce where Mimmo Paladino has hauled in tons of marble to create a cross of his own. This is a very interactive piece with people actually encouraged to write on the gorgeous marble’s creamy white face. Art in public spaces is a theme of this piece, although you might wonder how the gold leaf fluttering off one of the blocks is going to last out 24 hours.

Mimmo Paladino and his design for Piazza Santa Croce (Photo P. Avallone)

Paladino's design for Piazza Santa Croce (Photo by P. Avallone)

Paladino’s cross includes bronze pieces – body parts, large geometric shapes – as well as monumental carved pieces of stone that are attached to rough-hewn block of marble, seemingly just cut out of the hill-side in Carrara.

Kids are loving the artistry of climbing on Paladino's Cross (photo La Repubblica)

Kids are loving the artistry of climbing on Paladino's Cross (photo in LaRepubblicaFirenze.it )

Part of the public interaction is to scale the heights of these blocks. Only in Italy, it seems. In the U.S. there would be at least warning signs or signed releases-of-liability or, most probably, a high fence.

It is hard to see the design from ground level , but that is part of the fun (photo at Artour.com)

It is hard to see the design from ground level , but that is part of the fun (photo at Artribune.com)

Another aspect of the planned interactiveness involves a a stone cutter who goes around carving out the graffiti left by passers-by. The “I luv Mario” and “Forza Viola!” are now carved into the stone for perpetuity or at least until it is sanded down after the exhibit is removed from the piazza.

The final design by Mimmo Paladino in situ (photo by LaReppublicaFirenze.it)

The final design by Mimmo Paladino in situ (photo at LaRepubblicaFirenze.it)

The Santa Croce installation provides the most Kodak moments. It is also the event you will have wished you had seen from the moment the first stone arrived until the last one is removed on November 11, 2012.

4 thoughts on “Dove Vai? – Florence is alive this week with Florens 2012

  1. Thank you so very much for the photos. They are excellent and I was very glad to see the various prospectives since being up closer, they are somewhat elusive. The Paladino bird’s eye view was just what I had hoped to be able to see since viewing it on the ground, one fails to get the entire picture. I think allowing people to write on that beautiful marble, however, is a terrible idea and completely uneducational. It is the last thing, in my opinion, that people should be encouraged to do.

  2. Ann, you should stop by at the palazzo vecchio to hear some of the talks. Today the theme is the heritage of landscape. Tomorrow (Sat Nov10) is cultural production.

  3. I’m sorry to miss it, what a festival. For years I spent the holidays near Santa Croce and it’s too bad Donatello’s wooden crucifix didn’t pass muster for an indivudual photo. Peasant, perhaps, but wasn’t that what this carpenter would have been?

    Florence is my most favorite city, but often my eye catches a loggia or roof with greenery and I feel more at peace among the stone streets and walls.

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