The Bardini Museum


Imagine what it must have been like to be a golden-age millionaire traveling around Europe for months simply to buy art for your newly-built home. Well, stepping into the Bardini Museum in Oltrarno transmits a feeling of what buyers would have during a visit to an antiques showroom. The space - which was once a monastery - was purchased in 1881 and redesigned by the famed antiquarian Stefano Bardini to create a huge shop for the ultra rich. 

His specialty in European antiquities and Renaissance art made his shop the place to find timeless and valuable pieces meticulously restored by his team (who even perfected restoration and conservation methods). The likes of Isabella Stewart Gardner and Jacquemart-André would explore the massive space hand-in-hand with Bardini who would cater to each client's needs. It is said that Mrs. Gardner was so inspired by the design of the showroom that she painted the walls of her Venetian Palace in Boston the same hue of blue found in Bardini's showroom. Prior to his death in 1922, Bardini arranged his showroom exactly as he wanted it to be left and was ultimately turned into a gem of a museum. 

Void of hoards of tourists, the Bardini Museum gives visitors the opportunity to view art ranging from Etruscan and Roman era, all the way through the great Renaissance and Baroque masters. The space even has an impressive terracotta Madonna and Child by Donatello. 

If a visit to the Uffizi Gallery sounds exhausting in the height of tourist season, then head straight to the Bardini Museum for an inspiring and peaceful space to contemplate the wonderful works of art on display.  

Museo Stefano Bardini, Via dei Renai, 37. Tel. +39-055-2342427

The Guggenheims in Florence


Palazzo Strozzi does it again. Arguably the most forward thinking museum in Florence, the former palatial home of the powerful Renaissance Strozzi family is a sight to take in, even if just for its grand architecture. And where the Fondazione Strozzi lacks in a permanent collection of art (it doesn't have one), it makes up with strong rotating exhibitions with unique themes. Their latest show, "From Kandinsky to Pollock. The Art of the Guggenheim Collections," is a blockbuster for modern art lovers. 

The exhibition examines and compares prized pieces collected by Solomon Guggenheim (of the Guggenheim Museum in New York) and his niece Peggy Guggenheim (of the Guggenheim Collection in Venice) from the 1920s through 1960s. Both lovers of the avant-garde, the wealthy American patrons helped propel the careers of numerous artists who are now celebrated as geniuses of their time. And all of these big names are represented in the show thanks to a considerable number of loans from the respective Guggenheim institutions on either side of the Atlantic. 

With a series of rooms curated and lit with powerful dramatic effect, the show starts off with a strong Kandinsky that puts everything in perspective. Then, as the exhibition continues, gradually moves from smaller-scale (but grandiose) European works by the likes of Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and Max Ernst to impressive large-scale paintings by the revered Pollock, Calder, and our personal favorite Mark Rothko who has an entire peaceful space dedicated to him. 

We attended the exhibition's opening reception, and judging by the huge number of attendees, interest in the rare coming together of these two striking collections is strong, to say the least. So our advice is to get to the Palazzo Strozzi mid-week to avoid crowded galleries and appreciate the art on view in peace.

From Kandinsky to Pollock. The Art of the Guggenheim Collections, Palazzo Strozzi, from March 19-July 24, 2016.