Text by Fiammetta Cesana
Photography by Giovanni Savi

A space which lives in its own metamorphosis, preserving the past of the former tobacco factory amongst the mosaics of the walls and large pipes running through the ceilings, transforming a warehouse into ateliers, exhibition spaces, bar and carpentry, and letting time tell how to reinvent the former cells for the impartial frisk at the end of every day in the factory. This is only a small, very small part of the evolutionary path of art, fashion, science and nature, which opens like a butterfly from its cocoon by exploring Manifattura Tabacchi. The former establishment, not far from the Florentine train station, had been abandoned for seventeen years, until this gradual redevelopment process began in 2018 seeing it become the new cultural center of the city. A hatter sits behind the desk in his atelier, separated only by a glass window-wall from an openspace, where students and workers share a long wooden table with their books and laptops, while others are serving themselves a smoothie and a sandwich at the bar. Amongst huge canvases, unique pieces of furniture, an old elevator that used to reach the warehouse has been transformed into a coin-operated recording room (the first ever built), and a real greenhouse beside the table cleans the air in the hall through a system of pipes. Crafts-ladies are smoothing ceramic and porcelain vases, next to them is another co-working table, and the room of a carpenter struggling with newborn chairs. It is not easy to describe in words the amazement one feels entering such a place, where the soul of the industrial past embraces the enthusiasm of contemporaneity in all its forms, from the artistic, manual and technological, to the scientific and biological one. 100,000 hectares of land which are still taking shape, giving an alternative to the vastness of the historical and artistic heritage of the city’s center and giving space to the beauty of contemporary. An electrifying meeting point where the interdisciplinary nature of arts brings us back to the excitement of 60s-70s art groups, full of positive stimuli and faith in progress, despite all the challenges that present time is forcing us to cope with.

Not A Museum_NAM_2020 2021_Manifatture Tabacchi_contemporary art and science_Photo Giovanni Savi
Not A Museum_NAM_2020 2021_Manifatture Tabacchi_contemporary art and science_Photo Giovanni Savi

On 10 September, Manifattura Tabacchi presented the new NAM program for autumn-winter 2020-2021, bringing together artists, curators and journalists in one of the large rooms created from the former factory. It is such a dense calendar that sees the Not A Museum, the beating heart of Manifattura Tabacchi with the aim of bringing together artists, actors, radio producers, innovators and the public, at the center of a series of unique events for hybrid experimentation between contemporary art and scientific research. 

The starting point was immediate with the Aria Days, from September 10 to 13 in collaboration with Palazzo Strozzi, which is dedicated to the aerial-solar sculptures of Tomás Saraceno. First true artifacts of what is imagined to be the next era, the Aerocene, these enormous sculptures fly only thanks to solar heat, therefore without using any fossil fuel, and among the various experiments to which they have been subjected to, like transport of objects, aerial shots, recordings of atmospheric data, these enormous black balloons even managed to lift a man into the sky. Who knows that one day they will be able to fly entire cities in the air?

Not A Museum_NAM_2020 2021_Manifatture Tabacchi_contemporary art and science_Photo Giovanni Savi

The NAM’s appointments then continue on September 14 with the opening of the third edition of Residenze d’Artista, curated by Sergio Risaliti. Young selected artists, who will exhibit in ateliers of Manifattura Tabacchi, tackle the theme of Harmony, mainly in the purpose of seeking balance between man and nature, after that the themes of Care and Wonder of the past years. Between photography, painting, sculpture, video and installations, we will explore the works of Ludovica Anversa (1996), Ambra Castagnetti (1993), Diana De Luca (1996), Chiara Gambirasio (1996), Nicola Ghirardelli (1994) and Max Mondini (1990).

Not A Museum_NAM_2020 2021_Manifatture Tabacchi_contemporary art and science_Photo Giovanni Savi
Courtesy of Manifattura Tabacchi

From September  25 to October 4, Happening! makes its debut, the performing arts festival curated by Letizia Renzini and produced by NAM.

Afterwards, from October 9 to 11, the third edition of God is Green opens, a festival produced by Manifattura Tabacchi dedicated to sustainability and the future. This year, with the curation of Nero, the festival brings the title “Supercatastrofe – Quali storie per la fine del mondo”, involving among the most interesting authors, artists, thinkers, activists and cultural operators who in Italy have begun to question in an original way the current era, that of the Anthropocene, in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change (click here to see Edward Burtynsky’s astonishing, devastating photographs of Anthropocene on DRY Vol. 1).

Still deepening the reflection on the current crisis condition and possible visions for the future, twelve films and video installations of the Resisting the Trouble – Moving Images in Times of Crisis project are presented from November 9 to December 9, curated by Leonardo Bigazzi. The show is produced by Schermo dell’arte and NAM as part of the ninth edition of Visio. European Program on Artists’ Moving Images.

Not A Museum_NAM_2020 2021_Manifatture Tabacchi_contemporary art and science_Photo Giovanni Savi

From visual knowledge to that of listening: from December 12 to 13 it is the turn of LUCIA La Radio al Cinema, festival curated by Radio Papesse and dedicated to Italian and international radio works and podcasts. This year, for its second edition, the program extends between the location of Manifattura Tabacchi, radio listening and web contents.

Not A Museum_NAM_2020 2021_Manifatture Tabacchi_contemporary art and science_Photo Giovanni Savi

And then, of course, the theater. The Sotterraneo group presents on December 18 a heterogeneous evening, between operas, installations and preparatory meetings for the production of the show, trying to get closer to the audience in forms different from those of traditional theater.

Alongside the NAM’s programming, the former concierge booth of Manifattura Tabacchi continues the activity of Toast Project Space, where every two months an artist is invited to create a site-specific project. Namsal Siedlecki’s solo exhibition, “Habitat”, is presented on September 16.

Finally, always insisting on the interdisciplinary connection between arts and sciences, which is the stronghold of technical and creative process embraced by Manifattura Tabacchi, on September 19 it takes place the presentation of new The plant of the world, the new book by Professor Stefano Mancuso published by Laterza.

Not A Museum_NAM_2020 2021_Manifatture Tabacchi_contemporary art and science_Photo Giovanni Savi

A very rich and engaging program that demonstrates Manifattura Tabacchi’s desire to face the obstacles of today’s crisis with courage, awareness and creative thinking. All the events are the result of the hard work that was done during the lockdown and now that they are finally revealed to the public, guaranteeing total safety thanks to the wide spaces in which the former factory hosts us, they are proof that human talent and knowledge can save us from our own mistakes and restore a lasting Harmony between with nature.

For the whole program, visit: NAM – Manifattura Tabacchi, Florence