The new Vasarian Corridor told by its Director, Eike Schmidt
Eike Schmidt tells us about the Vasari Corridor and the new Uffizi
Following Eike Schmidt’s decision to stay in Florence, we met the director of the Uffizi Galleries to talk about budgets and plans. He spoke about the expansions and opening of new rooms scheduled for 2020. The exciting plans means that you’ll no longer only visit this museum; instead visitors will head back often to see true masterpieces of the past alongside temporary installations and exhibitions featuring top contemporary artists.
You’ve made major changes during the first part of your tenure. What are you most proud of?
I have to admit that every single project we’ve completed makes me happy because they have always been the result of a group effort. I think, for instance, about the opening of the rooms dedicated to the sixteenth century, thanks to the tireless work of many colleagues, with extraordinary self-sacrifice, who made this project happen. The hardest challenge, however, was undoubtedly developing a system to cut the queues at the Uffizi. When I announced it on my arrival at the Uffizi, nobody believed it. Now it’s underway. We use the system when the museum is open for free. Previously the queues snaked their way across piazza della Signoria. Now the project is being implemented.
The Vasari Corridor will reopen in 2021. Tell us about this ambitious new project?
We are working on several fronts at the same time. The Vasari Corridor will undergo a massive restoration campaign to return it to its original “Vasarian” appearance, which was altered during post-war restorations. It will be made accessible via lifts and ramps for visitors with mobility issues. 73 windows will be opened, which had been blocked out to date, offering unique views over the city. Hence, it will become a magical stroll into the heart of art, history and the memory of Florence. Another 24 rooms will open at the Uffizi in 2020: the public should be able to enjoy an Uffizi experience that measures up to our masterpieces. Ten rooms will be devoted to painters of the early sixteenth century: Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino, Parmigianino and many more will finally have settings suited to their intensity and expressive force, as well as the size of the paintings. Then we’ll work on the self-portraits that were formerly on display in the Vasari Corridor.
Where will the self-portraits be displayed?
It’s the largest and oldest collection of self-portraits in the world and in the spring the public will be able to see them again in the Uffizi, where they were originally on display. We are talking about 14 rooms that will show part of the 2,000 or so self-portraits in the Uffizi. There’s Raphael, Bernini, Vasari, Chagall and Morandi, to mention a few. The old master self-portraits will go on permanent display, whereas we are considering a rotation system for contemporary artists in order to offer something new to visitors, especially people who return regularly. This system will also enable us to show the continual increase of the collection in real time.
The corridor will be visited in a single direction, from the Uffizi to Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens, so the Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti will be reunited at last. What will this mean for visitors?
For visitors who wish to do so, it will become a huge covered walkway inside one of the most important monumental complexes in the world. Just consider that you’ll be able to walk into the Palazzo Vecchio, across the entire second floor of the Uffizi, enter the corridor that crosses over the Arno and winds its way between the houses, looking out over the church of Santa Felicita before leaving next to the Buontalenti Grotto in the Boboli Gardens. It’s known as the “Prince’s Way”, but you need to be an athletic prince. The shortest route, focusing on the corridor alone, means that the visit will begin on the ground floor of the Uffizi, featuring rooms dedicated to the history of the Medici and the Uffizi itself, before carrying on into the corridor as a unique experience with aerial views over the city and the river. The exit is the same one in the Boboli Gardens. There will also be a space concentrating on the sixteenth-century frescoes that once adorned the corridor’s external vaults over the Ponte Vecchio, according to Giorgio Vasari’s wishes. As well as the views, the route will also have an historic purpose, which is why two points along the walkway will host memorials: the first, by via dei Georgofili, where visitors can see where a mafia bomb exploded in 1993, killing five people; and the second, having just crossed the Ponte Vecchio, will focus on the devastation of Florence’s historic centre by Nazi troops.”
10 artworks that now have to be seen in the Uffizi?
Thankfully, the Uffizi has many pieces of art that simply must be seen. I always say that we don’t have one Mona Lisa, but many: perhaps 40 or more. My advice is to come back often to see them all and to savour the new displays. Among the 10 artworks that have to be seen are those by Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi: that’s ten artists and for each of them, with the exception of Michelangelo, we have more than one work on display. It’s up to the visitor to choose the work of their choice.