Thursday, November 8, 2012

Proposal to Ban Markets from Historical Squares in Florence

With the recent exhibition for Florens 2012 of a huge marble cross in Piazza Santa Croce, the head of the City Arts Council has proposed to make Florence’s most famous squares a center for art and culture – and not a stage for publicity and commerce. The Councilman asserts that over the years the city’s most beautiful squares have been debased by the presence of cheap souvenir stands, unattractive advertising and a general lack of urban d├ęcor and esthetic valorization.

It is precisely in Piazza Santa Croce where so many commercial events are held. During the holiday season this is the venue for a Christmas market with stands from Germany and other European countries selling a variety of foods and crafts. Throughout the year the piazza hosts numerous initiatives, like concerts, performances by comedians and actors, as well as the famous match of Florence’s Historic Soccer, Calcio Storico Fiorentino. On a daily basis there are numerous stands lining the perimeter, obstructing the view of the historic buildings and selling banal trinkets that have nothing to do with the city’s artisan traditions. 

For the politician, who is also a philosopher and professor of Esthetics at the University of Florence, there is a need to bring in artists to breathe new life and beauty into these open spaces that represent areas of congregation throughout the city. Although he is not necessarily opposed to holding some of the cultural events that have become rituals, he feels that there must be a new approach by the city to stop degrading these public spaces which have become the victims of our consumer driven society.

Despite the fact that not everyone agrees about the current installation by Mimmo Palladino, there is an overall consensus that it is a good idea to draw attention to the history and beauty of these squares. Since the exhibit was inaugurated there has been a steady flow of visitors drawn by the curiosity of seeing and “figuring out” what this work of modern art is. The Piazza has come to life as people interact with the enormous blocks of marble. This vitality has made residents and business owners in the piazza recognize that perhaps it really is time to consider a change. By doing away with the petty commerce that has become typical over the years and replacing it with art, Florentines can restore dignity to some of the most historically significant public spaces in their city.

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