The Uffizi to showcase "ten exhibitions in five years" in China
With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in China, major international exhibitions are heading to the country once again, showcasing some of the best art in the world. For our "Art Without Boundaries" series, we talk to the heads of museums and galleries from across the globe. In our second episode, Wang Siwen sits down with Eike Schmidt, director of the prominent Uffizi Gallery.
The Uffizi Gallery is located in Florence, Italy, the cradle of the Renaissance, and one of the most iconic centers of art in Europe. Its magnificent collection has played a pivotal role in the history of western art. After more than four years, the director of the Uffizi Gallery is visiting China once again, as part of an agreement with Bund One Art Museum, that will see ten exhibitions in five years, including "Botticelli and the Renaissance."
Q: Last time you visited China was in 2019, four years have passed, how do you feel this time?
I'm so happy to be back after an interruption which is way too long. I'm also happy to see the museum exhibitions are packed. That's a very good sign and all the people come to admire the Uffizi exhibitions, that's particular element of pride and satisfaction, it also shows us that we need to do more and go on into this direction.
Q: The Uffizi gallery is one of the most prominent and historical art museums in the world. Talking about the cooperation with Bund One Art Museum, also the plan for the "Ten Exhibitions in 5 years," What will this bring? Why is it important for both countries?
This is very important that we don't do just one show of the highlights and then go away. We wanted to have a stable relationship and we were very pleased when Bund One Art Museum had the same intention. Let's just do ten exhibitions, that way, we are here basically on a permanent basis but always with different offers, which means people liked one exhibition might very well return to see another exhibition and learn more and more.
Q: Both China and Italy have thousands of years of history and civilization, the renaissance period corresponds to the Ming Dynasty in China, both periods are with splendid artworks. Looking ahead, how might the two countries create more opportunities for dialogue and exchanges?
In fact, there were already the very first cultural contacts via the Silk Road between Italy and China. We see this admiration for China already in the Florentine Renaissance. This is a relation that goes back centuries and centuries. Italy is a country which has thousands of years of history and tradition, where people really look actively back to the tradition, and try to preserve it for the future and to combine it with innovation, just like in China.
Q: There are 48 rare paintings, ten by Botticelli. Of all the paintings, which one is your personal favorite?
Personally I love in particular this painting which shows Pallas, the goddess of wisdom and the symbol of civilization who is holding at centaur's hair. This is a very pragmatic painting because it allegorizes how wisdom gets people out of a more primitive stance and lifts them up to a higher civilization.
Another iconic painting is the Adoration of the Magi, that's amongst the most famous works by Botticelli. We see his self-portrait which was very rare for artists in the early years.
Q: What's a typical day like for you as a director of Uffizi Galleries?
Every day is different and that's good. It is also a very wide ranging, so we have delegations from all over the world to greet and to show to the galleries. We also have so many restoration conservation projects going on at the moment. We are in fact reinstalling a series of new galleries. We even have a film behind the scenes which you can see now on Air China.
Q: Do you have any strategies for attracting more overseas tourists especially Chinese?
As far as Chinese is concerned, we’re not back to 2019 quite yet, to have an ongoing active bilateral exchange and exchange of exhibitions. But I'm sure that there will be more and more Chinese tourists coming through.
Q: In this digital age. What do you think art appreciation and history mean to us?
For instance, if we look at artificial intelligence, we find variations based on the Birth of Venus or on the Allegory of Springtime all the time. So this is something that is very present in our digital culture.
On the other hand, we should never forget that these are absolutely unique masterpieces. They exist one single time. It's just so enriching to see the originals, now with the new insulation that we started in 2016, people also can walk up to a few inches, your nose is very close to the painting, you can see so many details that you could not see before.
To admire them, to reflect upon them, to study them, to come to your own conclusions, and learn, that is really what enriches people's minds and also enriches people's hearts.