Street Artist Creates an Optical Illusion That Lets People See the Art Inside a Shuttered Museum in Florence

The pandemic will end, but the coronavirus could become endemic, most virologists believe, “meaning that it will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population for years to come,” as Nicky Phillips writes at Nature. The disease will pose much less of a danger to us over time, yet the problem of its persistence raises a question many of us are asking ourselves as precautions drag into another year: what kind of world will we step into when this is (mostly) finally over?

Many restaurants, theaters, and music venues are shuttered for good, while the impact on the art world has been devastating. According to an Art Basel report, sales contracted 36% in galleries worldwide in 2020.

Daniel Langer predicts that up to 40 percent of galleries will close after the pandemic, even as the high-end “‘luxury’ art market is growing during the pandemic” as wealthy investors “look to art as a long-term value play.” The coronavirus has only exaggerated conditions in which “99 per cent of all artists are paid miserably, while the top 1 per cent enjoys a celebrity status and can sell their art with enormous premiums.”

French artist JR is one of the few who has done well over the past year, exhibiting his large-scale trompe l’oeil photographic installations in Paris and São Paulo. In his most recent installation in Florence, JR makes a striking visual commentary on “the adversities that cultural institutions — including museums, libraries, and cinemas — have faced over the past year,” writes My Modern Met. Called La Ferita (“The Wound” in Italian) and “measuring 28 meters high and 33 meters wide, this optical illusion creates a ‘crack’ in the exterior” of the Palazzo Strozzi, “so that viewers can see masterpieces like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera.”

In JR’s Instagram posts, you can see the piece being installed “as Italy entered another lockdown that will last until April 6, closing the doors of all cultural institutions once again.” Though it functions more as a memorial to what feels like a lost world than a political statement, JR has accompanied his Instagram posts with public commentary: “They say the museums are closed,” he writes, “but it’s up to us to open them. Here is Florence, the city of Botticelli, Donatello, Machiavel, and Dante, we opened the Palazzo Strozzi.”

JR concludes on a wan note of hopefulness: “we still have the freedom to dream, to create, to envision the future,” he writes. “Maybe it’s not much, but we have that!” Maybe we’ll also have more public art installations in place of indoor galleries and museums, and more artists bringing their work to the streets, “the largest art gallery in the world,” JR has said, and one that can’t be locked down or put out of business by a virus or the ravages of the market.

via My Modern Met

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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