In the Modern Manner

Years ago a story was going around that questioned the presence of contemporary artists in Florence. The genre was considered science fiction and was in line with the feeling that people had always had about contemporary art in this city: it was an alien invading a tourist space that apparently was only in harmony with its past. It was imagined that the painter Paolo Uccello – someone who abandoned certainty for uncertainty in art — had come back to life, and since he was no longer able to speak to his contemporaries, including his friend Donatello, he asked about who was experimenting today and who was at his level. This impossible story referred to the many statements – made, however, by only a few – which paradoxically attempted to posit a contemporary art scene in a city which had long ago lost any sight of it. For me the reply has always been clear, and if I had actually been able to meet Paolo Uccello I would have suggested without hesitation that he go to Base / Progetti per l’arte at Via San Niccolò 18r. There, in a small space facing the street, he would not only find people who continue to perform linguistic research in his former home, but would also be brought up-to-date on the international situation with the work of the artists who are periodically invited. Base / Progetti per l’arte is a collective of artists established in 1998 and currently made up of the artists present in this exhibition: Mario Airò, Marco Bagnoli, Massimo Bartolini, Paolo Masi, Massimo Nannucci, Maurizio Nannucci, Paolo Parisi and Remo Salvadori. They are all internationally successful artists who live in Tuscany and have come together in Florence for the first time as representatives of the art of today. In these twelve years of operation, the organization established by the artists and made available to other artists has been a real bastion of contemporary art. An international arena for learning about new practices and thus a meeting place, for those of us who have come as visitors, and for those who consider the space a necessary way to document their time, and to fuel an experience of linguistic renewal with a new essence, which centuries ago had its base in Florence. The artists involved in this project belong to different generations, starting from those who began in the 1970s (Maurizio Nannucci and Paolo Masi) up to those from the 1990s (Mario Airò, Massimo Bartolini and Paolo Parisi) and the period in between (Marco Bagnoli, Massimo Nannucci and Remo Salvadori). These different periods reveal different poetics, which appear not only in the way each artist works and in the heterogeneity of the works proposed, but also as a mirror of the different proposals that the space on Via San Niccolò has offered. While Maurizio Nannucci has tried to focus his attention on the communicative nature of the work, Bagnoli has tried to safeguard the ontological and spiritual side. Both Masi and Parisi, a generation apart, investigate the evolution of painting, which for both of them should pervade space, but Masi considers it from an analytical viewpoint whereas Parisi considers it from the angle of perception, which involves the spectator. The work of Massimo Nannucci finds its strength in the object proposed and in its doubling for a dialectic between true and false, whereas for Salvadori the work involves performing an energetic, symbolic and temporal process as a meeting place. Mario Airò and Massimo Bartolini go into art in depth, re-emerging with performance-like proposals or blends of various disciplines.This is just a brief description of their work which relates mainly to the works they have exhibited in the prestigious and historically recognized spaces that only Florence can offer. The artists are present in their autonomy as representatives of that “modern manner,” a term Giorgio Vasari used in his “Lives of the Artists” to refer to the innovations introduced in the artistic language by the painters of Renaissance Florence. With this unique heritage, Florence is the place that can unite these different takes on the contemporary in a single space, and it shouldn’t be considered science fiction or an alien invasion. Returning to the little story at the beginning, the meeting has taken place and it was undoubtedly a meeting of equals, as any great artist who knows how to consciously live his contemporary nature would wish. Almost ten years have passed since “In the Modern Manner” was presented. It was a great adventure, especially since they managed to take over spaces that were nearly unimaginable in a context that was quite antagonistic towards contemporary art.

Today Florence is (finally) throwing a counter-weight, and is showing increasingly more interest in today’s artists. The places intended for them have suddenly multiplied; the doors of museums and palazzi have opened up to contemporary art. On closer inspection, however, in this new Florentine “renaissance,” Base still remains an outpost; not just as the “workshop” where art is made by artists for artists, and then for the public, but also as a lateral step that immeasurably brings the “modern manner” forward. Long live Base, because once again it is being followed closely by the rest of the city!

© Marco Bazzini, 2019. In BASE BOOK, with texts by Lorenzo Bruni, Gabriele Detterer, Sergio Risaliti, Marco Scotini, Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Alberto Salvadori, Hou Hanru, Giancarlo Politi, Cornelia Lauf, Massimiliano Gioni, Robert Storr, Pier Luigi Tazzi, Achille Bonito Oliva, Ilaria Bernardi, Pontedera, October 2019.