An inspired collector’s volume, the editorial representation of JR’s monumental artwork ‘The Wound’ recounts an unpublished dialogue between the artist and curator Arturo Galansino. Published by Marsilio Editori, the book was unveiled on 17th May through a live event on Palazzo Strozzi’s Instagram account
Text by: Chetna Chopra
Acclaimed French-born contemporary artist JR ripped open the façade of a Renaissance palazzo in an artistic representation triggered by the restricted state of the art and cultural institutions in the Covid age. The site-specific artwork La Ferita – translated as ‘The Wound’ – has reinterpreted the façade of Palazzo Strozzi, creating an illusory crack in the building that appears to split the gallery in half. Measuring 28 meters tall and 33 meters wide, this monumental photographic installation has been one of the most dramatic works of the street artist yet. The black and white photographic collage works like an anamorphosis – an optical illusion when observed from a precise point of view – thanks to which the colonnade in the courtyard, an imaginary exhibition hall, and a library open up like a wound to the public.
La Ferita, sheds light on the precarious and wounded state of art and cultural institutions, “to reveal a vision of an interior at once real and imaginary achieved with a black and white photographic collage to trigger a debate on the accessibility of culture in the age of Covid-19,” commented Palazzo Strozzi.
JR looks inside Palazzo Strozzi with a historical lens and reveals other celebrated art and heritage sites in the city such as the library of the Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, Botticelli’s Primavera (1477), and The Birth of Venus (1485), which are both housed at the Uffizi Galleries. By inserting iconic works of the Florentine artistic heritage JR proposes a direct reflection on accessibility not only to Palazzo Strozzi but to all the traditional art and culture destinations, across the world, during the pandemic.
The artwork, depicted as an optical illusion, comes with a hard-hitting message that showcases the poignant state of affairs experienced by the international community in relation to the state-mandated distancing from our cultural heritage, and not just from other humans. It raises imperative questions about the future of creative dialogue, expression, and appreciation. `The Wound’ invites us to look “inside” Palazzo Strozzi through a voyeuristic act to discover what cannot be seen: the representation of a reality that goes beyond what meets the eye.
Each of the facets of this anamorphic image reveals a different story, a peculiar perspective, a tragedy, and finally an awakening, for every individual viewing it. “JR’s artwork brings an opportunity for public involvement in the values of freedom, creative imagination, and participation. In the current scenario of restricted options for the enjoyment of art in traditional spaces, the choice to create a work visible to anyone on the façade of Palazzo Strozzi becomes an invitation to rediscover a direct relationship with art and a solicitation for new forms of sharing and participation,” commented Arturo Galansino, General Director of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation.
Critics and art historians define Palazzo Strozzi as one of the finest examples of Renaissance domestic architecture. The palazzo has hosted an array of exhibitions, from shows of Old Masters to contemporary exhibitions featuring the work of such artists as Ai Weiwei, Carsten Höller, and Marina Abramović. Palazzo Strozzi is currently closed and suffers, like other national and international cultural institutions, the effects of Covid, which has taken away the freedom to admire art.
This trompe l’oeil installation by JR resulted in an unbridled traffic on the social media channels of the Palazzo. It was shared by over one million people between Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The wound will remain open and on display till August. However the image of this uncompromising installation will remain deep in the memories of people as a healing wound, “even when it is no longer there, the people who have seen it will go and see what’s behind that wall,” says JR.
JR’s new piece marks the launch of the Palazzo Strozzi Future Art Programme, a new contemporary art initiative that includes an annual public art commission for Florence. The new program is backed by the philanthropist Andy Bianchedi who runs a property company in Milan. Details of future commissions are yet to be announced; meanwhile, La Ferita has already been turned into a publication. On 17 May at 6:30 pm, JR and Arturo Galansino unveiled the publication, through a live event on Palazzo Strozzi’s Instagram account. The book, published by Marsilio Editori, recounts an unpublished dialogue between the artist, and curator Arturo Galansino. “We are proud of La Ferita’s editorial representation. We have paid attention to detail in this volume, and we measured ourselves with an original narrative dimension,” Arturo Galansino, General Director of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation, said in a statement.
Artist, activist, and photographer JR first garnered international attention at age 27 when he won the TED Prize in 2011, which raised the question, ‘Could art change the world?’ His in-your-face black-and-white close-up portraits pasted on buildings, streets, trains, and monuments make for some of the world’s most provocative large-scale public photography projects. His works have been exhibited across the globe – including France, the UK, USA, China, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, Kenya, India, and Cambodia to name a few.