Palazzo Strozzi in Florence has unveiled a major new installation by acclaimed French contemporary artist JR. Titled La Ferita (The Wound), the site-specific artwork reinterprets the façade of the Renaissance palazzo, opening it up 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.
JR has created monumental photographic collages that have inspired audiences around the world from the favelas in Rio de Janeiro and the Louvre in Paris, to Ellis Island in New York and the top security penitentiary in Tehachapi County, California. This latest work ‘La Ferita’ imagines the Renaissance palazzo with a deep wound or gash revealing the interior of the building with some of Florence’s most iconic artworks occupying the space. Measuring 28 metres tall and 33 metres wide, this monumental photographic collage installation covers the primary façade of the Palazzo Strozzi and works like an anamorphosis, an illusion in which, observed from a specific viewpoint, various areas of the Palazzo Strozzi – the colonnade in the courtyard, an imaginary exhibition hall and a library – open up as a wound.
With La Ferita, JR proposes a direct and evocative reflection on accessibility, not only to Palazzo Strozzi but to all cultural sites in this pandemic era. Thus, Palazzo Strozzi becomes the spectacular stage for a symbolic yet painful wound suffered by all cultural institutions both in Italy and abroad: museums, libraries, cinemas and theatres forced either to restrict audience access or to shut down altogether. Looking ‘inside’ Palazzo Strozzi also has the makings of an act of voyeurism designed to reveal that which cannot be seen: the depiction of a reality that goes beyond what one can customarily behold.
With this latest work, JR also adds a new dimension to his ongoing dialogue with art history by transforming the façade of the Palazzo Strozzi into a ‘Trompe l’œil’, a reference to architectural perspectives and the painted depiction of illusions which, from the 16th century onwards, allowed artists to portray an illusory depth into the thickness of brick or stone by applying their perspective studies to sheer walling. With this installation, JR also references another important moment in art history termed ‘Ruinism’, a stylistic trend that proved particularly popular in the 18th century as part of which ancient buildings were presented as testimonials to a glorious past in a dramatic reflection on the fate of mankind.