Oblong Florence

New contemporary art gallery in Florence

In early October this year Florentine cultural panorama gained a new important spot: a new contemporary art gallery has been inaugurated in Piazza del Carmine. In Florence opened the Oblong Gallery, already active in Forte dei Marmi and Dubai. A Gallery different than others, open and welcoming, Oblong Florence wants to organize temporary exhibitions and attract the Florentines and the art collectors.

Oblong Firenze, Antonio Signorini Attraverso
Oblong Florence opened in Piazza del Carmine on the occassion of Antonio Signorini’s exhibition “Attraverso”.

I wanted to learn more about this new interesting place on the artistic map of Florence, therefore I interviewed director of the Gallery Ilaria Magni.

Agata: Good morning, Ilaria! Thank you for having agreed to this interview. Can I ask you what the origins of the opening of Oblong Florence were?

Ilaria Magni: The gallery opened thanks to the three Florentine businessmen, Patrizio and Claudio Lari, owners of the Badari Lighting, a historic Florentine enterprise, and Jacopo Ciglia, owner of the artistic foundry Ciglia&Carrai. The three men arrived to an agreement with the Oblong Contemporary Art Gallery in Forte dei Marmi and Dubai (co-founded by Paola Marucci), with which we share professional approach to our work, solidity and experience. Subsequently I was asked to lead the works of the Gallery as its director. I work here together with my colleague, Margherita Banchi, who takes care of the gallery’s external relationships . This is Oblong Florence.

La Galleria Oblog Firenze.
Oblong Florence

The Gallery is located in a very particular place. It occupies the space of a deconsecrated church. For a long time this place hosted various commercial activities, which all left their traces in the iterior. One can clearly see neo-gothic additions to the decoration and some elements of design dating back to the 1990s, like this unique platform at the centre designed by Italo Rota. This structure is an artwork in itself and it defines the character of this space.

Agata: When did the Gallery open?

Ilaria Magni: Oblong Florence was inaugurated two months ago, in October 2022 together with an exhibition of Antonio Signorini‘s works. This show is connected with the display of Signorini’s monumental bronze statues in Piazza del Carmine and Piazza San Firenze made possible thanks to Oblong Contemporary Art Gallery and the Municipality of Florence.

Ilaria Magni, curatrice della Galleria Oblong
Director of Oblong Florence Ilaria Magni.

Agata: Can you tell us few words about this artist?

Ilaria Magni: Antonio Signorini is a sculptor, particularly related to Florence. In fact, his artistic training started here, at the Florentine workshops. Later his activity expanded in an international environment, in Milan in the world of design, in London and Dubai. Thanks to these new experiences Signorini became fascinated by monumental art and wide, open spaces. As in his artistic research Signorini always dialogued with history and his Florentine and Tuscan identity, we are very happy to host in Florence his monumental works. This exhibition would not take place without Oblong Gallery in Forte dei Marmi and the Municipality of Florence. The sculptures displayed in the urban space of Florence represent flying horses, warriors and dancers, who hover above the two Florentine squares. At the same time you can admire more of Signorini’s works here, at our Florentine Gallery.

Antonio Signorini, Guardiano dell'Accoglienza.
Antonio Signorini, Guardiano dell’Accoglienza, bronze, 2022.

Signorini’s exhibition received a very warm welcoming from the public. The locals from the neighbourhood keep coming to the Gallery full of curiosity and fascination. Obviously, here at the Gallery we want to attract also the collectors, both Italians and the foreigners.

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Antonio Signorini, Oiram, bronze, 2022.

Agata:  What is your vision for this Gallery?

Ilaria Magni: For very long time the Florentine public could not access this particular, historical space. Many commercial activities were located here, including some clubs. Once it was even run by the famous designer Cavalli. All this made it almost impossible for the locals to appreciate this space.

Subsequently, this space was closed for a very long time, and it almost became forgotten. Yet, we are talking about an important place for the history of the Oltrarno neighbourhood. This chapel was used by the friars. It is situated next to the Saint’Agnese Chapel and adjacent to Santa Maria del Carmine church. We are two steps from the Brancacci Chapel frescoed by Masaccio, Masolino and Filippino Lippi.

Moreover, Oltrarno is the neighbourhood of the Florentine artists and artisans. So, what we try to do is to invite the Florentines to this corner of Florence again. The Gallery is open to all! We want to invite the public to join us for the cultural events we will organize here. We don’t want to be perceived as a closed, cold and unfriendly contemporary art gallery.

Agata: After Signorini’s show will you organize other temporary exhibitions?

Ilaria Magni: Yes, undoubtedly! Shortly we will display at the gallery the works by Mario Arlati, an artist influenced by Art Informel, who works with gesture and colour. All the artists represented by Oblong are established authors. Yet, we also want to create some space for the young, emerging artists, forming at the same time our Florentine offer. I am very excited that I can look for new talents. I am art critic and curator, therefore this part of my work is particularly interesting and stimulating.

Igor Mitorai, Sonno tatuato sdraiato
Igor Mitorai, Sonno tatuato sdraiato, 2002.

Agata: Would you mind presenting us some of the artists represented by Oblong Florence?

Ilaria Magni: It’s a pleasure to work with Antonio Signorini. His way of sculpting is one of the most elegant I’ve ever met. His work is touching. Antonio’s art crosses every temporal and spatial boundary. He is inspired by the ancient past and at the same time he looks towards the future. He manages to unite so many different cultures, the Etruscan past, oriental art, Italian futurism. He does it with respect and humanity. I think that this is the reason why his art manages to talk to the public and evoke emotions.

Gustavo Vélez, Ritmica VIII, marble, 2022.

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Another artist I would like to present is Gustavo Vélez. I particularly appreciate his clean lines, movement and transparency. Sculpture is made of heavy matter. It is static. Yet, Vélez manages to introduce transparency, brilliance and luminosity to his marble. I find this contrast between weight and lightness interesting.

Gustavo Vélez was born in 1975. He is young, but his career is already at its heights. He was born in Colombia but he studied sculpture in Pietrasanta, one of the centres for sculpture production in Italy. Therefore, Vélez has this double identity, suspended between Colombia and Pietrasanta, which gives him this particular force.

Stefano Bombardieri, Omaggio a Colbert
Stefano Bombardieri, Homage to Colbert, bronze, 2022.

At Oblong Florence you can also admire the works of the Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj and the poetic works by Stefano Bombardieri. This new opening makes the Florentine art scene more alive, as the city always risks to focus too much on its historical heritage closing its door to contemporary art. Oblong Florence shows once again the importance of the dialogue between the past and the present, between old masters and contemporary artists.

I hope to visit Oblong Gallery often discovering new artists and tendencies. I will keep you updated with the news from the Gallery!

Do you want to visit Oltrarno and Oblong Florence with me? Contact me! I will be happy to organize your guided tours and museum visits in Florence!