FLORENCE, ITALY – Starting 19 March through 24 July 2016, Palazzo Strozzi hosts a major exhibition bringing to Florence over one hundred works of European and American art from the 1920s to the 1960s, in a narrative that reconstructs relationships and ties across the Atlantic through the museums of two American collectors, Peggy Guggenheim and Solomon R. Guggenheim.
Curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, associate curator of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, the exhibition – a joint venture of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York – offers visitors an exceptional opportunity to view together parts of the collections of the museums of both Solomon and his niece Peggy through the work of some of the greatest figures in 20th century art.
Opening with masterpieces by such major artists as Kandinsky, Duchamp and Max Ernst, the exhibition goes on to explore postwar developments on both sides of the Atlantic, with the Art informel of such European masters as Alberto Burri, Emilio Vedova, Jean Dubuffet and Lucio Fontana, and with work by leading figures on the American art scene from the 1940s to the 1960s: Jackson Pollock, with no fewer than eighteen works, Mark Rothko with six, and Alexander Calder with five sculptures, the so-called ‘mobiles’, alongside work by Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Roy Lichtenstein, Cy Twombly and others.
The opening of this exceptional exhibition in Florence evokes a tie that goes back many years. Palazzo Strozzi was the venue that Peggy Guggenheim (who had only recently arrived in Europe) chose in February 1949 to show the collection that was later to find a permanent home in Venice. The exhibition includes twenty-five of the same works of art that were displayed in that exhibition, the first to be held in Palazzo Strozzi’s then newly-restored Strozzina cellars.
The paintings, sculptures, engravings and photographs from the Guggenheim Collections in New York and Venice, as well as from a small number of other museums and private collections, offer the visitor a unique opportunity to admire and compare some of the great masterpieces which played a crucial role in defining the very concept of modern art, from Surrealism and Action Painting to Art informel and Pop Art.
The works of art on display include Vasily Kandinsky’s monumental Dominant Curve (1936), which Peggy was to sell during the war (one of the “seven tragedies in her life as a collector”); Max Ernst’s The Kiss (1927), a manifesto of Surrealist Art and the painting used to advertise the Strozzina exhibition in 1949; Francis Bacon’s Study for Chimpanzee (1957), rarely shown outside Venice, of which Peggy Guggenheim was so fond that she hung it in her bedroom; works of American Abstract Expressionism such as Sam Francis’s Shining Back (1958), of Color-Field and Post-Painterly Abstraction such as Frank Stella’s Gray Scramble (1968–9), and of Pop Art, such as Roy Lichtenstein’s grandiose Preparedness (1968), in which the artist turned his characteristic cartoon-like style to protest the war in Vietnam.