Six enormous bronze arms reach out from the three headed Buddha to capture the Dome of Florence in the recent exhibition by Chinese artist Zhang Huan “Soul and Matter” At last Forte Belvedere has reopened with this unusual exhibition of complex sculptures and artworks after a 5 year closure due to two tragic incidents where young people fell off the walls. The fortress is beautifully located on the hill above Florence, and as its name denotes, has a magnificent view. It has always been one of my favourite places, and years ago when I lived in town I often walked up the tree lined avenue, stopped for a while at Piazzale Michelangelo, savoured the view and continued on to the Fort to sit and do my Italian homework. It was always quieter there, restful and very conducive to conjugating Italian verbs!
It is right next to the Boboli gardens of the Pitti Place which meant a quick escape to safety for the Medici family and court, especially in case of any internal uprising, although there is no access through for the public nowadays.
It has housed in its elegant building and on its majestic lawns many exhibitions, from the erotic – photos of female orgasms (I will leave you to work out how that was done?!), to satirical characters by a crime journalist who was jailed for side-tracking investigations into the Monster of Florence -“DiMostro in Mostra” the title being a play on words “The Monster on show/Showing in the Exhibition”. Or my favourite being the fanciful sculptures of the Belgian artist Folon. (I promise a blog on that one). And when the Fort was not showing off contemporary art we enjoyed many Summer evenings at the outdoor cinema catching up on movies we had missed during the season or some cult reruns.
The ‘Soul and Matter’ exhibition of Zhang Huan, is perhaps not my style but it’s certainly dramatic and very unusual. As the blurb says “it is a fruitful dialogue between tradition and experimentation, earthly reality and spirituality, an encounter between the two great cultural capitals –the Renaissance Prince meets the Shanghai new Factory creator”. After the mammoth Buddhas in various metals, many of his other panels are made of incense ash to reflect ‘the collective soul of our memories and hopes’ as incense is burned in moments of prayer. It is incredibly suggestive seeing the images produced –from Confucius to tigers and high seas.
The Fort is a fantastic backdrop for such creativity and technical versatility as well as a relaxing place to visit, have a wine, or just sit on the grass and take in the view. So we look forward to the next show!