Discovering a Nation in the Palazzo Strozzi

April 20th, 2018toDecember 20th, 2018
April 20th, 2018toDecember 20th, 2018

by Ellie Rosa (Stanford University)

Within the walls of Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi, an exploration of the development of Italy as a nation is taking place. Hosted from the 16th of March through the 22 of July, the exhibition Dawn of a Nation. From Guttuso to Fontana and Schifano, presents a unique look at the artistic, cultural, and political growth Italy experienced during the so-called “economic miracle” of the 1950s to the protest years in the late ’60s. The exhibition’s curator, Luca Massimo Barbero, brings together eighty works of art by such masters as Renato Guttuso, Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, Emilio Vedova, Piero Manzoni, Mario Schifano, Mario Merz and Michelangelo Pistoletto to explore how in this 20-year period new forms of expression appeared that were bursting with the creativity and energy of the time, yet that were still haunted by the ghosts of a post-war Italy.

Dawn of a Nation is staged in separate rooms that each display different powers and historical contexts of the time period. The initial room brings the viewer into a theater-like setting where film footage transports the viewer through a grand preliminary historical background. Though there are few words to contextualize the video, the music, well-known figures, and political scenes that appear on the screen allow the viewer to feel confident in understanding the context of the moment. After the film footage, the exhibit becomes a voyage that brings the viewer through a series of rooms whose intensities reflect the evolution of Italy artistically and politically. Entering the room “A Clash of Situations,” for example, brings the viewer into a room with black walls where the gaze is immediately drawn to Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Concept, 1962. This massive work looms from the wall where the Fontana’s characteristic cuts (in this work on sheet metal) gleam with the power of showing the importance of urban life and violence in a post-war setting. The next room one enters, “Monochrome as Freedom,” is in complete contrast of feeling to the darkness of “A Clash of Situations.” The walls are a blinding white and the viewer immediately feels the explosive reset of previous artistic experience through monochrome as the symbol of modernity in Italy. The journey from war-torn and violently re-created Italy, to clean-seeming monochrome Italy is thus taken in the single step from one room to the other. Italy’s struggles as its growth and development are shown through the next rooms where works explore, isolation, the politics of the Cold War, and the power dynamics of Italian society at the time. The exhibit closes on a hopeful note with a view into Italy’s role in a modern context. In the last room of the exhibit, Alighiero Boetti’s Map is the focus of the viewer’s attention. The tapestry encompasses an entire wall and its display of borders through countries flags brings the viewer to understand that Italy’s growth as a nation is one in which it holds a greater role in the larger scope of globalization. Italy is thus shown to have grown and developed not only individually, but also in the greater whole of a globalizing world.

To experience Dawn of a Nation is to experience the tumultuous changes of Italy in the 20 years of development in the post-World War setting. The exhibit is emotional, beautiful, and fulfilling. It is an odyssey in line with political and cultural journeys. One leaves the exhibit feeling that they have been through the range of human emotions and has achieved an understanding of the beauty and pain of the creation of a nation in the context of a developing world.


Palazzo Strozzi

16 March-22 July 2018

Daily including holidays 10.00-22.00

Thursdays 10.00-23.00


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