notes on artistic-cultural innovations from post war years to the present day - art and history of florence

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  17. Notes on Artistic-Cultural Innovations from Post War Years to the Present Day  

In the feverish climate of renovation and progress which effected the whole of Europe at the beginning of the 20th Century, also in Florence industrial development becomes the main aspect of social life, replacing the age-old tradition of handcrafts. Urbanistic development was greater in the western part of the town where the Nuovo Pignone and Galileo factories had grown up. It is in this atmosphere that futurism finds in artists such as Rosai, Soffici and Conti and a few others the link with European culture. Meanwhile in the field of literature, an extraordinary number of reviews began publication (the "Leonardo", "La Voce" and "Frontespizio,"), which are characteristic of the particular time the town is going through as one of the liviest international towns.
With the arrival of Fascism, Florence both architecturally and urbanistically, as well as artistically, is dominated by the inspiration of Roman-style grandeur which borders on the anonymous, with a few exceptions anticipating the style of architecture which will become popular after the War; the Santa Maria Novella station by the Michelucci group, the Stadium by Pier Luigi Nervi and other rational buildings.
During this period, the same as Maccari's "Selvaggio" (1928), Rosai rediscovered, with his authentic sensitivity and clarity, the values of a wonderland full of moods and cultural stratifications.
The poetic and literary world, on the wake of the avangarde magazines, whose protagonists used to meet at the "Giubbe Rosse" Coffee House, tends towards a line of defense, of cold war against the pseudo-cultural impositions of the Fascist regime. These magazines also attract foreign contribution to Florentine culture and an attempt at "alternate culture" is made during the years between the two World Wars.
The destruction incurred during the Second World War and the sad episode of the bridges over the Arno which disappeared, along with the portions of the riverside and streets around the Old Bridge, broke up the town's centre even more. During the period of re-construction, building speculation was to play a major part in the new urbanistic structure of the town.
In the artistic field, along with a renewal of naturalism and the remnants of post-macchiaolic degeneration, the post-War years mark the birth of new literary reviews: "Inventario", and "Società" by Bilenchi, "II Ponte" by Calamandrei, up to "Belfagor" and "Paragone", in the fifties, by Roberto Longhi and Anna Banti. Not to be forgotten either, the cultural policy that the "Nuovo Corriere" (which ceased publication in 1957) offered daily (under the Direction of Bilenchi) and the "Studio di Storia dell'Arte" (under the Direction of Ragghianti), with its articles that are openly-declared to be de-provincialising, devoted to antique and contemporary art (such as the Guggenheim exhibition and the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition in 1951, which brought to Italy, for the first time, the breath of international architectonic innovation) that will pave the way for the revolutionary movements, somewhat behind in respect to international culture, or even Italian culture, the first abstractists in Milan and Como began work around 1930, which take place around several well- known cultural personalities.The "Arte d'Oggi" group was formed in 1946-47 on neocubic lines; from this group each artist developed his own form of definition which through a series of national and international exhibitions characterized the group of "classical abstractism" with its programmatic Manifesto of 1950, whereas the more neo-realistic line joins up in the mid- 50's with the "Nuova Corrente" group.
During the difficult years of re-construction, the renewing and moralizing incentive of the new architectural entreaties are in heavy contrast with the feverish speculation that is being made in the building industry: any new ideas are only carried out on a private level, whereas development in the social community is made, for the main part, disordinately.
Edoardo Detti's new town planning regulations are the first.authorative attempt to restrain and co-ordinate building projects. Experiments in the architectural field are limited to isolated examples (the Motorway Church by Michelucci, a few apartment buildings and the Verrazzano Bridge by Savioli and the Vespucci Bridge by the Gori group, re-building of the Minerva Hotel and the "Nuova Italia" building by Detti, the RAI Centre by the Gamberini team and a few of new architects' experiments).
In this respect the importance of the Faculty of Architecture should be mentioned. It was here that the first disputes were made. The new generation of the sixties moved the cultural interest from literature to visual arts. The operation of "de-provincialisation" which began in the 40's, (the thrust given by Ragghianti's review), gain consistency in the sixties, when more violent contradictions are expressed.
Although informality as the expression of the philosophy of the crisis, was manifested in several important ways, the latest visual art experiences find Florence in line with the international panorama, although exluded to a fair extent from the national and international scene as it is less industrialized than some of the other larger towns.
The first years of the 60's are characterised by promotional activity devoted exclusively to the more advanced artistic and musical fields. The flood of 1966, which caused great damage to the artistic patrimony of Florence, also brought to the town a great number of young people from all parts of the world who helped to make known that society was going through a crisis between capitalistic industrial economy and democratic liberty. It is this crisis which brought about (in line with the fight for liberty all over the world) the students' revolts, which for the first time had joined forces with the workers'.
With regard to architecture in Florence, political and operational team projects take on a definite form, launched during the occupation of the Faculty of Architecture in January 1968 with continual research courses. As a result of this radical architecture is born: a refusal to accept consumistic compromises and an attempt to provoke a reaction for the development of individual and group creativity by adopting "poor" materials. The same type of objection was also made with regard to the visual arts: the art of "behaviour", conceptual art, body art, the poetic alternatives to "non art", have substituted, for the young generation, the traditional "gift for art".


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