How is art measured today, and is it possible to speak of contemporary art as “great”? At the turn of the millennium many believed that art was simply commercially driven or its opposite, ephemeral. Postmodernism has often been blamed for the demise of “greatness” in art and the fading away of art’s enigma and complexity. And yet the postmodern bubble is supposed to have burst years ago, as far back as 2005, some believe (Perniola, 2015). So, what are we left with? Nothing reassuring and comfortably recognizable it seems, certainly not a name or another “ism”. Where are we, and what kind of parameters can be used to relate to contemporary art? In fact, does contemporary art still matter? It appears so since it is now “the subject of global events, tabloid coverage and mass attendance” (Mirzoeff, 2009). Art has blasted its way into the public sphere, and has become “liable to be received as a provocation to or an act of violence” (Mitchell, 1994). Has art turned from “great” to violent, yet violent to whom and for what purpose?
By looking at a series of curatorial practices in the city of Florence, this talk will rehearse some of these questions, focusing on the way in which local identity might be challenged and even violated by the assemblage of disparate art forms that bring about what the visual studies expert Nicholas Mirzoeff calls “neoculturation” (2009).