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text Matteo Parigi Bini

September 19, 2022

The Art of Fabrizio Plessi at Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni and Tornabuoni Arte

In Florence, the exhibition PLESSI. Emozioni Digitali, dedicated to one of the most important Italian video art artists

Florence celebrates the art of Fabrizio Plessi. Pioneer? Avant-garde? These are almost anachronistic definitions for an artist like him. In step with the times? Less so. It is the times that try to catch up with him. Because it was already in the late 1960s and early 1970s, while everyone was painting and making sculptures, that Plessi began shaping the pixels of screens, introducing Italy to the world of video art and digital language, what was called 'electronic' at the time, the medium most suited to the poetics of an artist who has always placed immateriality and spirituality at the centre of his investigation. Indeed, his is not a cold technology, but a humanised technology, rooted in nature and time. His works are capable of raising the emotional temperature of a technological medium. Yesterday as today.

Plessi Acqua

And herein lies the apparent paradox: in a constantly changing art world, Fabrizio Plessi manages to be beyond the contemporary precisely because he is still consistent with the positions of more than 50 years ago. Yet without ever repeating himself, because he is never satiated with experimenting and 'putting his nose' into non-standard situations.

Television sets - which in the 1980s the Venice Biennale refused to allow into the exhibition because, they told Plessi, "it was not artistic material" - have flattened out, the digital world has evolved, NFTs have appeared... all this for Plessi is nothing more than a natural transition. A change of technological tool, not of content.

Under Water, Fondaco dei Tedeschi,Venezia, 2016

On show at Tornabuoni Arte is an NFT, the first one ever exhibited in a gallery, just as no gallery had ever gathered such an important retrospective on this artist, more often exhibited in museums or engaged in monumental installations en plein air.

It is entitled PLESSI.Emozioni Digitali (Digital Emotions) and is on display until 18 November. An exhibition of more than thirty works, some of the most historical and important, such as the Caryatids from the early 2000s, what can be considered the archetype of his famous Splash, projects on paper from the 1970s, with drawings and notes, up to more recent videos where he continues his reflection on the primordial elements - from the fluidity and force of water flowing and transcending the tangible perimeters of the work to the glow of lightning that briefly illuminates the darkness of the night, to the incandescence of fire that also manifests itself in the streak marked by the passage of lava - and 'regal' installations such as Cascate d'oro (Golden Waterfalls) and the Mosaico series, where the ancient tradition of the golden tile technique acquires a contemporary visual rendering.

Digital Gold, 2022, NFT

Water, fire, lightning and gold are also the protagonists of the video installation that will enliven for six months (until 31 March 2023) the façade of Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni, home of the Roberto Casamonti Collection, a project born from the collaboration between the museum and the Uffizi Galleries. After the work with which he flooded the entire Piazza San Marco in Venice with light, Plessi thus returns to dialogue with the historical architecture. Videos fill the four niches of the façade, first water, then fire, lightning and finally, to consecrate it all, gold. For each, four different images at the same time. An intervention that in its contemporaneity enters into an almost biological intermingling with the 16th-century building, as is typical in Plessi's vision, in which technology and the past not only do not exclude each other, but are perfectly synchronised. An urban revelation for anyone crossing the central Via de' Tornabuoni.

Palazzo bartolini salimbeni fire

For the occasion, Plessi will donate one of his self-portraits to the Uffizi Galleries, whose director, Eike Schmidt, comments on the work as follows: 'Plessi does not seem to be so much interested in the substantial, elementary, atomic, chemical and physical quality of the phenomena evoked as, like Leonardo da Vinci, in their movement. A movement that opposes ours on the ground and imposes a pause for reflection: in the coming months, those who walk along Via de' Tornabuoni will be able to stop and admire the unexpected animation of the façade of Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni, and become involved in the cathartic contemplation of the four images in succession'.

After Florence, for the Maestro it will be the turn of an exhibition in Brescia - Plessi marries Brixia, set up on a 12,000 square metre area, with, as the main work, a ring of gigantic dimensions and, as a leitmotif, the theme of gold - and an exhibition at the Palazzo Reale in Milan with a focus on his 'fleet' of Caryatids. Both with an opening in June 2023. As well as a forthcoming exhibition in his now Venice, at Palazzo Fortuny.

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