July 1, 2006
Antoine Gaber’s Artwork by Prof. Giampaolo Trotta, Art Critic, Exhibition curator
Between past and future, a sparkling showcase of international contemporary arts forms and contents, a pulse of life
Official opening of Antoine Gaber’s PASSION FOR LIFE Art Exhibition at the exclusive Museum and Cloister “Museo Diocesano della Chiesa di Santo Stefano”, Florence. Dr. Giampaolo Trotta, art critic was commenting about Gaber Art work during media interview.
Translated from Italian, unedited quote
The series of exhibitions at the Diocesan Museum begins with a solo presentation by Antoine GABER, Canadian of Egyptian origin rightly considering himself as post-impressionist. His figurative art of surprising immediacy communicates us through rich chromatic range, images and sensations linked to nature, capturing fleeting “impressions” blended with light and gaudy colours. His galaxy of fast brushstrokes, directly pouring out of melancholy and nostalgia, in a glittering rainbow of material colour-flamed strokes that form and mix, creates an essential iridescence and irrepressibly rises in a festive hymn to pulsating life, where everything is light, even coloured shades (faithful to the French Impressionists principles) and reflections on water. A tribute to old masters, from Monet, with flowers and plants carried away by the current against the sunlight (also referencing the English pre-Raphaelite tradition) to the Post-Impressionists with more definite, resolved and “violent” colours – also characteristic of Michele Cascella in his latter period.
The beautiful initiative Passion for life, shown at the Diocesan Museum for Sacred Art and at the Baglioni Hotel in Florence, holds a two-fold interest. First of all, the presence of numerous foreign artists – so diverse by national origins, motivations and artistic techniques, as well as by experience, career, ability and expressive results – is a definite stimulus for Florence. The City has been well-renowned, for too long now, as being turned in on herself and on the recollection of its past (though glorious), but not always welcoming, particularly from the early 60s, more disparate cultural and artistic contemporary trends. Secondly, it’s also inspiring for young painters and sculptors to come into contact with the great Florentine inheritance, to meet and to compare one another in such a history-rich and spellbound place as the Diocesan Museum. We hope this exchange and bilateral influence contributes in the future to reassert Florence in the global artistic arena and allows it to play, as until a recent past, a decisive role in the promotion of events and movements which deeply marked human history.
For these very reasons, it seems essential, before introducing the single artists, to remember, albeit briefly, the importance – both historical and artistic, of the site which will, for a few weeks, become the prestigious “recipient” of this international contemporary arts showcase.
The Diocesan Museum for Sacred Art opened in 1995, in part of the ancient section of the ex-monastery of Santo Stefano, housing significant artworks, e.g. marble of the Madonna with Child, by Nino Pisano (XIVth century), the Madonna on the throne with Child and Angels, by Giotto (1290/1295), the Madonna with Child by Giovanni del Biondo (XIVth century), four wooden statue from the Orcagna workshop (XIVth century), the Quarate altar-step by Paolo Uccello (1433/1434), an Annunciation, by Bicci di Lorenzo (XVth century), a triptych by Filippo Lippi and the Abraham’s servant and Rebecca by the well, by Santi di Tito (1602).
From the cloister, site of the Passion for life exhibition, one accesses the adjacent church of Santo Stefano al Ponte. The sacred building of ancient origin is documented as early as 1116, likely dating back to 969 : it had then a basilica plant with triple aisles and the apse facing East. Merged into a single nave, it underwent enlargement works from 1233 to the early XIVth century. From the preceding Romanesque phase of the church remains only the lower half of the stone façade, flanked by two lateral portals. The upper half of the façade and the beautiful central portal, in white and green marble, dates back to the late gothic stage of the medieval works.
In the XVIth century, in the chapter house and thereafter monastery, the Compagnia of San Luca was created, bringing together numerous artisans and goldsmiths from the area. The side altars along the nave also dates back to the second half of that century and the beginning of the next. In 1585, the church was conceded to the Augustinians from Lecceto.
Between 1631 and 1641, the Marquess Anton Maria Bartolommei began the internal reconstruction. In 1637, the lateral passage towards the monastery was built (involving the destruction of the original chapels at the end of the transept). Bartolommei was himself the architect of the building works, with the assistance of the engineer Andrea Arrighetti (1592-1672), at least for the monastery part (as of 1639 and possibly as early as 1634). A friend and follower of Galileo Galilei, Arrighetti was admired by both Torricelli and Viviani and member of the Accademia della Crusca. The apsidal section, with the crypt and the presbytery, was to be completed only in 1655 by Marquess Bartolommei’s heirs. As from 1650, at the very least, Ferdinando Tacca (1619-1682) participated in the work.
The majestic and spectacular presbytery, almost a theatrical backdrop, is adorned with a double Corinthian order in pietra serena and based upon the geometrical forms of the square, rectangle, octagon and dodecagon. Such architecture, absolutely unique to Florence, heretically heterodox and anticlassical is one of the most significant illustrations of the exuberant Baroque originality in Tuscany.
In 1894-1895, the architect Luigi del Moro (1845-1897) set the present main altar, from the Church of Santa Maria Nuova, an extremely elegant work by Giambologna (1529-1608) completed in 1591. The splendid and fluid front stairways was in turn taken from the Church of Santa Trinità, a Mannerist work by Bernardo Buontalenti (1536-1608).
The building was badly damaged in August, 1944, by the explosion of mines during the Germans’ retreat, and then, again during the Florence flood of 1966 and by the bomb in via dei Georgofili in 1993. However, each time, it has been scrupulously and lovingly restored.
Prof. Giampaolo Trotta, Art Critic, exhibition curator.