Let’s cut straight to the chase – The Centre for Contemporary Culture (CCC) at Palazzo Strozzi, a.k.a. the Strozzina, is free (!) on Thursdays from 6-11 p.m. That means every week, guests have a free opportunity to view contemporary masterpieces in one of Florence’s most famed palazzi. Time to explore both parts of this win-win.
First, the building. Held in high regard as a beacon of Renaissance architecture, the palazzo is an OCD architect’s dream. While artists were perfecting the proportions of the human form, civil builders similarly strove for symmetrical flawlessness on a large scale.
Filippo Strozzi, the building’s patron, wanted to make a big splash upon his return home after living in exile for almost 30 years. Considering it was the Medici who banished his family, he certainly wanted to outdo and show up his old rival; seems his inadequate palace (the Palazzo dello Strozzino, which today is home to the Odeon Theater) would no longer make the cut. Instead, Filippo bought up all the buildings in today’s piazza and demolished them so he could be free to build the massive, freestanding, remarkably symmetrical structure we see today.
The building was commissioned in 1489 but not finished until 1538, well after Filippo’s death in 1491. Architect Benedetto da Maiano took the best of the original Medici palace, including the rusticated stone on the ground floor and the bifore windows of the upper levels. Of course, Palazzo Strozzi was done on a much tighter, grander scale, plus it boasted four free walls, as opposed to nudging up against neighbors. Filippo would have been proud (until the Medici pimped out Palazzo Pitti a few decades later).
Fast forward to 1999, when the city of Florence took control of the Renaissance landmark (remarkably, the Strozzi family remained in the palace until 1937). The building became home to a number of cultural institutions and events, and in 2007, the basement was converted into an exhibition space. Since Florence is saturated with Renaissance goods, the Strozzi team seized the opportunity to start a center celebrating contemporary culture in downtown Florence.
Which brings us back to today – the Strozzina is a beautiful, smaller vaulted space under the building’s courtyard famous for hosting innovative contemporary art shows. Currently, Francis Bacon paintings are on display among works by Nathalie Djurberg, Adrian Ghenie, Arcangelo Sassolino, Chiharu Shiota and Annegret Soltau.
Some photos from the exhibition, Francis Bacon and the Existential Condition in Contemporary Art, follow:
Most days, the Strozzina charges about a 5-euro entry fee, but head there this evening, and every Thursday evening, after 6 p.m. for a free dose of contemporary culture in the midst of the Renaissance capital.
A bonus: The Strozzi courtyard is free to walk through as well, and often features knockout artwork or events; even if you don’t have time for a full outing, peak your head in for a quick source of inspiration.