Florence – Kyiv and Back by Massimo Listri

Sala d’Arme, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, 8 February-8 March 2024

This exhibition presents a unique series of photographic works dedicated by Massimo Listri to the architectural and artistic beauty of Kyiv, where much of the historical and artistic heritage is at risk of survival. The exhibition also serves as Florence’s tribute to the capital of Ukraine, a symbol of the struggle for freedom and independence of a people militarily attacked by Russia. Florence has been twinned with Kyiv since July 27, 1967, when Piero Bargellini was the Mayor of Florence, and this project reaffirms the friendship and closeness to the Ukrainian people during such a dramatic historical phase. Unlike typical war coverage, this exhibition avoids images of warfare, destruction of theaters and libraries, homes and schools, the injured and the dead. Instead, twelve of these photographs will be printed in large format and displayed on metal structures, like ancient paintings on their easels. The rest will be projected onto the walls of the Sala d’Arme, using the room’s installed projectors to enhance the crystalline, sharp quality of the photographic details, a hallmark of Listri, known worldwide for his ‘metaphysical’ artistic views.

“It’s a precise choice that Massimo Listri makes with these photos,” declares Mayor Dario Nardella, who will be present at tomorrow’s exhibition opening: “images that at a first, hasty glance appear timeless and spaceless but, upon closer and more detailed inspection, reveal all the anguish that accompanies the Russian invasion of Ukraine for two years. A huge theater with red velvet seats completely empty, hundreds of photos of women and men gathered together in a grim collage of the fallen, sacred places gutted of any religion, luxurious ballrooms halted before the last dance, stocks of bread ready to be distributed, artworks covered, sandbags seeking shelter from the horror. A war without protagonists and blood but which looms imminent from Listri’s images.”

“The UNESCO,” emphasizes curator Sergio Risaliti, “estimates that more than 250 cultural buildings have been damaged or completely destroyed, with an economic loss of nearly 3 billion euros. A few decades ago, the same happened to the library in Sarajevo, a symbol of universal value and meaning, like the city of Palmyra. We all feel robbed of something that belongs to us, because culture affirms us as human beings endowed with a higher consciousness, achieved not by divine intervention, but thanks to art, music, and all that is beautiful and memorable that we have created over the centuries.”

“Massimo Listri reached Kyiv, but he did not photograph the ruins, the injured, and the dead,” continues Risaliti, “he did not want to document the horror, the despair. His reportage, as always of the highest poetic and formal quality, concerns some of the major sites of the historical, artistic, and architectural heritage of the Ukrainian capital. He sought to generate contemplation, endurance, projecting feelings of death through compassion for the beauty that the Ukrainian people have built over the centuries. Indeed, this new cycle of photographs deeply touches us, moves us, and leaves us somewhat dismayed. They are undeniably beautiful, showcasing nothing but beauty, magnificence, aesthetic richness, sacredness, creative opulence, spiritual devotion. Yet, we cannot help but associate all this beauty and splendor with the depressing, hallucinated, and suffocating presence of war, with its disasters and its heavy cloak of pain.”

The exhibition will be open daily, except Thursdays, until March 8th, 2024, from 2 PM to 7 PM.