female street art in Florence
Florence, cradle of the Renaissance, has lately became Italian capital of street art. The historical context of the city keeps inspiring numerous artists who use the urban spaces as their canvases. While walking through the streets of Florence you can be surprised by Clet’s compositions on the street signs, Blub’s drawings covering the gas windows or fantastic animals designed by Moradi il Sedicente that inhabit the squares and the riverbanks. There is an important female presence in this vibrant artistic environment of street art in Florence. I am talking about Lediesis, young artists who became known thanks to the series of posters representing funny but strong Superwomen winking at the passers-by from the Florentine walls.
Even if their first works started to appear in the urban space of Florence only three years ago, in March 2018, Lediesis became well known to the Italian public. Since then they works were displayed at the Archaeological Museum in Naples and their posters appeared on the walls of numerous Italian cities, Venice, L’Aquila, Rome, Bologna and Milan.
During the last three years, Lediesis’ Superwomen became an inseparable part of the Florentine artistic heritage. Now, when I walk through the city, I always spy them, I look for their new works, and when I am lucky enough to find one, I feel like I found a treasure. I love their intelligence. Their works treat serious and important matters with lightness and fun. They talk about gender equality, mafia and human rights. The artists ask important questions about female condition and discuss the concept of heroism. At the same time they make us laugh!
I wanted to know them better so I decided to interview them for you. We had a little chat, with a full respect of their anonymity. Here is what we talked about:
Agata: Dear Lediesis, first of all, thank you for this interview.
During the last three years we slowly learned to know you. You remain anonymous but we know that you are two friends and that you come from two different backgrounds. One of you was trained at the Fine Arts Academy, while the other graduated in communication. Your Superwomen has already appeared on the walls of various Italian cities, in Florence but also in Rome, Naples, Milan, Bologna or in Venice. Can I ask you why did you choose to work as street artists? What do you like about street art?
Lediesis: We are two friends. One of us studied at the Fine Arts Academy and she always wanted to express herself in art. The other comes from the world of communication but she has always worked with the visual arts. In the end, art is communication!
Our strength is that we unite these two apparently distant worlds, and by doing so we create something unique.
Street art became extremely popular in Italy and abroad but it maintains its peculiar qualities thanks to a more direct, informal and everyday contact with the viewer. Moreover, street art enjoys a greater creative and expressive freedom, thanks to which it can reach certain territories unexplored by the traditional artists.
Therefore, street art is an extremely powerful communication tool. It happens in the streets and thus it can convey positive message. Street artists bear a huge responsibility because they are there for all to see.
A: The Florentine street art scene is truly vibrant. Between the artists active in the historical centre of Florence I have to mention you, Clet, Moradi il Sedicente, Blub. It’s already impossible think of Florence without its street art. Is it important for you to work exactly here, in the cradle of the Renaissance, city of Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo?
Lediesis: In Tuscany, and in particular in Florence, beauty and harmony are everywhere. We were shaped by this atmosphere and we learned to look for grace and elegance. We developed particular sensibility by creating the artworks on the streets, and we always try to pay particular attention to the context in which we operate. We are very careful while we choose the place where to attach our works. We prefer using blind windows or arches which frame our Superwomen. This way we add value both to our work and to the place where it is displayed.
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A: Despite the importance of street art in Florence, the activity of the local street artists is often hindered by the authorities. What is your relationship with the Florentine administration? How do you see it in the future?
Lediesis: Apart from last year fundraising campaign, made in collaboration with the Foundation Il Cuore si Scioglie, we usually place our works in illegal places trying, at the same time, to enhance them.
This is why our relationship with the local administration is often schizophrenic. For example, during our exhibition at the Murate in Florence, patronized by the City of Florence and organized inside the exhibiting spaces managed by the local administration, we were reported to the local police, because we placed some of our works in the neighbouring area.
We are convinced that if street art follows certain aesthetic principles, its illegality is a mental construct. There are many advertising banners, which are far more invasive than our art but, because they are placed legally, they are allowed and accepted.
So, after our exhibition in Florence we found new ways to display our works. In fact, we’ve launched two new Superwomen designed as advertising posters and we display them in a sort of outdoor exhibition using the official billposting spaces. One of them is Lashana Lynch, British actress who will play 007 in the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, which is set to premiere in April 2021. Lynch has been criticised for this role by these who weren’t ready to see a Black woman as a secret agent. Our second Superwoman is Ellie Goldstein, Gucci’s model with Down syndrome.
The title of this show is Stop for a new hope. As the museums could reopen, our exhibition continues thanks to a series of posters displayed in the most prestigious spots in the city, like the Uffizi, the Palazzo Strozzi, the Bargello and the Museo del Novecento.
A: Your art speaks mainly about women, or rather about “superwomen”, heroines of our times, who are often very different one from another. Margherita Hack, Frida Kahlo, Mother Teresa are among your protagonists. You talk about scientists, but at the same time you pay tribute to Sora Lella, an icon of Roman woman, then you portrait Barbie – an utopic image of female beauty. What unites all your protagonists?
Lediesis: We never follow a reasoned choice but we rather trust our instinct and intuition. Our desire for change determines our painting and dictates the choice of our protagonists: free and enlightened women who send positive message of personal growth facilitating the spiritual growth of our societies. Each heroine has left a heritage in her particular field, an example to follow and thoughts to be remembered, shared and honoured.
Also our choice to paint on their chests the flaming Superman’s S, an iconic symbol of a male superhero, was driven by an impulse. We wanted to play, overturn and dis-identify the traditional gender roles.
All of our superwomen wink at the passers-by who can stop to look at them and establish an intimate, friendly and complicit relationship with them.
A: The figure of a hero and the idea of heroic virtues are deeply rooted in our tradition, from Homer to comic books and Marvel’s movies. We live in Florence, city which for ages used heroes like David and Perseus to ideally represent its own virtues, and to communicate to the world its own idealized image. What links your idea of a hero with this tradition? Does Giovanni Falcone, one of the protagonists of your art, has something in common with Hector, Ulysses, Hercules, David or Superman?
Lediesis: Falcone and Borsellino, Mother Teresa, Hattie McDaniel, Laika, just to mention few of them, are the heroes of our times. They were ordinary people who changed the world by actively engaging in their lives. We cannot see much difference between them, Hector or Ulysses. Also because Homer described his heroes through their most human and vulnerable traits.
A: There is a number that constantly returns in your art. It’s 8. Your cycles often talk about eight women, in the past you worked contemporarily in eight Italian cities. What is the meaning of this number for you?
Lediesis: For us eight symbolizes infinity, completeness and perfection, intrinsic elements of female nature. Eight is esoterically an extremely powerful number and it became our figure.
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A: Street art is based on the idea of freedom. Usually, street art is illegal and unofficial. Yet, your Superwomen entered the museums. In March 2020 your works were displayed at the Archaeological Museum in Naples. Last autumn you had a show at the Murate in Florence. Do you want to keep displaying your art in official spaces? What is your relationship with museums? Is it possible to organize an exhibition of street art?
Lediesis: It’s not important where your art is displayed but what is its content and how you present it. It is essential for us to show our art on the streets but we also want to exhibit it in the museums in order to make street art known in a new way. While working in the museums, we always try to create a fresh display trying to avoid the distortions of what we do in the streets.
We were so lucky as to exhibit in some extremely prestigious institutions and it allowed us to grow both personally and artistically. These shows resulted in fascinating discussions. It was the case of our collaboration with Paolo Giulierini, the Director of the Archaeological Museum in Naples, an unparalleled professional with an extraordinary attention towards contemporary art discourses.
A: The fame of world’s most popular street artists, such as Banksy, made possible the entrance of these ephemeral and unofficial artworks to the art market. What is your point of view on the relationship between street art and contemporary art market? Is it possible to create a collection of street art?
Lediesis: Before Banksy it was Keith Haring who destroyed these mental constructions and limitations.
A: Thank you for your interview! I cannot wait to see your new works on the streets of Florence!
If you want to discover Lediesis’ art and learn more about street art in Florence, contact me! I will be happy to organize a personalised itinerary for you!