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Between Michelangelo and Donatello

Koons’ Sculpture on display on PIazza della Signoria until Dec. 28

By Emily Baqir

A sculpture by American artist Jeff Koons is currently exposed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria between a copy of Michelangelo’s David and a copy of Donatello’s “Judith and Holoferne.” Titled “Pluto and Proserpina,” the sculpture stands 3.2 metres tall, is made of mirror-polished stainless steel with a transparent gold color coating and live plants, and will be on display until Dec. 28. It is the first time in nearly 500 years that a sculpture has been displayed in the square, the last being Baccio Bandinelli’s sculpture “Hercules and Cacus,” which was completed in 1534.

“Just as Renaissance artists took Florence by storm…contemporary artists are also transforming and enriching it; Florence is back to being Florence; if we manage to instill a spark of curiosity in those who see these works, then we’ll have done something useful for our city,” said Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella when presenting the statue.

“It’s an honor for me to have been invited to Florence to represent contemporary art and to have one of my works displayed between Michelangelo and Donatello,” replied Jeff Koons.

Other works by Koons will be on display in Palazzo Vecchio’s Sala dei Gigli until Dec. 28.

Koons is known for reflections on the eternity of beauty and instability of life, along with bold provocations. His art is known internationally and has sold for high prices. Koons’ art can be found next to the creations of Michelangelo and Donatello.

The show, “Jeff Koons in Florence,” was organized by the Florence-based cultural association Mus.e with the contribution of the Chamber of Commerce, Moretti Fine Art, and David Zwirner. It also inaugurated the International Antiques Biennial last month.

Curated by Sergio Risaliti, the initiative will present in particular two works by the artist, including the three-meter-high sculpture in Piazza della Signoria.

The artwork is inspired by Bernini’s “Rape of Proserpina.”

Palazzo Vecchio’s Sala dei Gigli will showcase “Gazing Ball (Barberini Faun),” a provocative and daring plaster statue made in 2013, part of a series.

In the “Gazing Ball” series, Koons interprets a number of famous sculptures from the Greek-Roman period, adding a light blue mirrored ball in a position of tricky balance.

The ball is aimed at distracting the attention of admirers, bringing them back to their individual reality reflected on the shiny surface.

The ancient sculpture revisited by Koons dates back to the Imperial period, most likely inspired by a bronze work from the late Hellenistic age, which was found in Rome in the moat around Castel St Angelo in approximately 1624, became part of the collection of Cardinal Francesco Barberini.

It was acquired by Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. Today, it is located at the Munich Glyptothek.

Renovated by Bernini’s atelier, the marble statue is a model of classicism which the American artist took as symbol of absolute and provocative beauty, of strength and power.

At the same time, the shining sphere evokes the deep frailty of human existence.

The effect becomes even stronger besides Donatello’s “Judith and Holofernes,” almost an antithesis of the biblical heroine with her sensual pose and blatant nudity.


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