Eike Schmidt. An unique experience
The director of the Uffizi Galleries talks about their rebirth through art
The Uffizi Galleries have recently reopened. What’s new?
Even before Covid, the maximum capacity of the Uffizi was 900 people at any one time, which meant on average an area of 22 metres squared for every person inside the museum. Now the maximum number has been reduced by half, so every visitor has at least 44 metres squared to themselves.
What changes do you predict will follow this emergency?
At this current, intermediary stage, there’s a great lack of international visitors. But this allows those who do visit Florence a more leisurely stay, with more space and time. This summer our museums will offer an exclusive experience, one which has not been possible for more than half a century.
The must-see Uffizi artworks?
I would recommend a long pause in front of Botticelli’s Primavera, for its strong message of rebirth. Covid has taught us the importance of care and fellow-feeling, of family, and why not look for them in the expressions of the most famous Madonnas in our collection? The so-called Lippina Madonna by Filippo Lippi and the Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael are two masterpieces of serenity. Caravaggio’s striking Medusa, with her horrible array of serpents for hair, reminds us of the scientific image of the virus; it’s as if it’s telling us not to forget. Finally, in the Sala della Niobe and the mythological heroine who protects her youngest daughter, we find the material synthesis of a tested, wounded humanity.
Something not to miss in the city?
It’s the moment to take stock of the landscape, and find certain corners in the centre that previously lay hidden. We can allow ourselves the luxury of choosing the light with which we look at a painting in a church; we can enjoy it in absolute solitude, listening to the sound of passing footsteps. It might be a visit to Santa Croce in the early morning, or Santo Spirito, or San Miniato al Monte in the afternoon, when the sun streams through the doors. And it is always, always the time to go to San Marco to see Fra Angelico.