Bright steel geysers stand out against the sky of Florence, bronze stalagmites of prehistoric appearance and gigantic resin flowers sprout out of the gravel and between the hedges, colossal and candid stems, hilly eruptions and elliptical shapes, colossal interweaving of imaginary fossil forests, metal flows that shake, twist and fold, caught in the last soft phase before solidify: Tony Cragg's monumental sculptures offer an unexpected dialogue, between associations and dissonances, with the orderly nature of the Boboli Gardens and the panorama of the city, between their layered, fragile and organized historical fabric and the primordial force of the sculptural material.
The exhibition Tony Cragg at Boboli Gardens presents sixteen works by the English master, one of the most famous and acclaimed exponents of contemporary sculpture, scattered in the most evocative places of the garden, to tell the last twenty years of the artist's work, from 1997 to the present day. With their imposing but poetic presence, the sculptures accompany the visitor on a journey of amazement and knowledge, which provides a new interpretative key not only to the sculptures themselves, but also to the space that hosts them. It is as if the unexpected plastic presences that now suddenly appear in the open spaces and meadows of the Boboli Gardens - near the Grotta del Buontalenti, in the Anfiteatro, in front of the Palazzina della Meridiana and so on - suddenly reveal the energy and the irrepressible underground force of these hills, these familiar and comforting views, ordered by architects and gardeners over the centuries. But here, with Cragg's sculptures, Matter joins History, displacing us. The role that Tony Cragg attaches to sculpture is precisely this: starting from an incessant and restless exploration of matter and its relationship with the environment that surrounds us, new meanings, dreams and languages emerge.
"This is the first time that a main Italian museum has dedicated a monographic exhibition to Tony Cragg - comments Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries - and the Boboli Gardens, with their natural wonders, works of ancient art and highly rational structure, are the perfect theatre for this exhibition. In fact, the theme of sculpture in the park, central to the artist's poetics, necessarily includes forms inspired by nature and its mysterious power, created by Cragg to provoke a strong reaction in the observer, whether it be pure emotion or intellectual interpretation”.
Born in Liverpool in 1949, Tony Cragg lives and works in Wuppertal, Germany, since 1977. This is where his studio is located, not far from the Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden, a lively exhibition centre dedicated to contemporary sculpture, created by Cragg in 2008. Active on the art scene since the late 1970s, Cragg has dozens of exhibitions in galleries, museums, parks around the world. He also participates in major contemporary art exhibitions such as documenta or Biennale di Venezia. For a long time, he has combined artistic activity with teaching at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and the Universität der Künste (UdK) in Berlin. He has received important awards and honours including the prestigious Turner Prize (1988), Shakespeare Prize (2001), and the Praemium Imperiale for Sculpture (2007).