In March 1914, the minister Arduino Colasanti inaugurated a small section dedicated to modern art in several rooms of the Galleria dell’Accademia. Twenty years later, in June 1924, the collection arrived in Palazzo Pitti, its current museum venue.
In order to celebrate the centennial of a cultural institution, it is necessary to trace back the many threads that have contributed to forming the Museum’s historical-artistic fabric and the growth of its collections.
In the case of the Galleria, the various origins of the works of art – from painting competitions held by the Accademia to the Lorraine and Savoia collections – suffice alone to illustrate critically a long and complex history that led up to the founding of the museum. We are referring to historical phases that must be considered as preparatory for the later season (from 1908 onwards) that culminated in the Convention between the State and Commune (June 1914). The main objective of this agreement was to indicate a space to devote to the nineteenth- and twentieth-century works of art, for the most part from Tuscany and already in the collection, in view of a future museum to dedicate to then-contemporary art.
The important Bequest that critic Diego Martelli, a fellow of the Macchiaiolo movement, left to the museum in 1896 stressed the necessity that Florence, like Rome and Venice, should have a Gallery where the proposals of modern art could be presented to the public. The collection of works by important exponents of Tuscan nineteenth-century art, especially by the Macchiaioli, therefore needed a worthy venue, as the Accademia’s documents of the Purist art movement also required, in an itinerary that also included the novelties introduced by contemporary currents. The Martelli bequest formed an indivisible bond with the birth of this museum. We have decided to celebrate this anniversary, dedicating an exhibition to the XX century. It will be more than an exhibition though. It will be the hypothesis for a museum itinerary of masterpieces, most of them from the past century and till now kept in storage at the Galleria d’arte moderna di Palazzo Pitti, which we hope can take on concrete form in rooms on the top floor, thus giving rise to Florence’s first museum dedicated to twentieth-century Italian art.
As we can understand from this first selection of works (and thus a small part of the possible itinerary of the future museum), many are the expressions of Italian figurative culture and of its most important interpreters: Capogrossi, Carena, Casorati, De Chirico, De Pisis, Peyron, Rosai, and Severini. Moreover, we shall present connections with the greatest exponents of the literature and music of the epoch (reviews, poets, novelists, and scenographers). Finally, and especially, we shall present an excellent collection of works of art from the twentieth-century Tuscan Group of Baccio Maria Bacci, Giovanni Colacicchi and the other devotees who revolved around the journal “Solaria” in what was the haunt of the Florentine intelligentsia: the Caffè delle Giubbe Rosse. In the 1920s, Florence was a fertile cultural centre and destination of the greatest artists and intellectuals. Proof of this climate is also found in the paintings by Baccio Solaria at the Giubbe Rosse, and by Peyron, the friends of the atelier and the works of art by the group members, such as Franco Dani, Libero Andreotti, and Giovanni Colacicchi. The limpid clarity of the Macchiaiolo tradition showed them the way to follow, in line with the fifteenth-century Tuscan artistic expressions. As part of the Centennial celebrations, we plan to host a few chapters of the Gallery’s twentieth-century patrimony in the Ballroom and Music Room of the Winter Quarters. These will include masterpieces by Carlo Carrà, Baccio Maria Bacci, Alberto Savinio, Marino Marini, Libero Andreotti, Antonio Maraini and many other protagonists of Italian figurative culture. The exhibition will arouse attention around this new and until now “underground” museum and, at the same time, attract generous patrons who could allow us to transform this dream into a reality for Florence and the museum-going public. We hope that this project to complete the museum – the desire and objective of every director since the 1960s – will become a concrete reality and a true “eye-opener” (and not only in the figurative sense) with these works of art installed in the rooms on the top floor of the Palace better known as Mezzanino degli Occhi.