JR cuts open a Renaissance facade to push for access to culture in Covid times

The French photographer’s new installation La Ferita takes over the facade of the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, and appears to reveal the building’s interior, created using trompe-l’œil and his signature black and white photo collage.

22 March 2021

French photographer JR has brought optical illusion to the facade of the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, creating a vast new installation that aims to comment on access to culture during the Covid era. The artwork uses trompe-l’œil techniques and the artist’s signature black and white photo collage to create a vast trick of the eye, appearing to have cut open the Renaissance facade to reveal the building within. It comes as much of Italy is back in lockdown, and museums and galleries in Florence are closed under the restrictions.

The piece is titled La Ferita, which translates as “The Wound” and as such makes an evocative comment on access to culture during the pandemic, and the painful effects inflicted on cultural institutions as a result of their closure. Standing 28 metres tall, the monumental installation shows real and imagined details of the inside of the palace such as the colonnade in the courtyard, an exhibition hall and a library, with some of Florence’s most famous artworks on display. In doing so, JR hopes to speak to the pandemic’s impact not only on the Palazzo Strozzi but all cultural sites in Italy and abroad. His application of trompe-l’œil techniques makes reference to classical art history, wherein it has been used to depict illusions and play with perspective since the 16th Century.

The installation was created to launch the Palazzo Strozzi Future Art Programme, a new initiative to support, commission and promote contemporary art in Italy, which includes an annual public art commission for Florence. The programme was developed to provide a “much-needed catalyst to the arts at a challenging time,” says a statement from the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, and aims to celebrate creativity and champion accessibility.

Arturo Galansino, director of the foundation, says the Palazzo Strozzi is “unique for its determination to forge a dialogue between the classic and the contemporary through the involvement of artists capable of interpreting the present,” adding that JR’s commission for the first edition is apt. La Ferita, he says, is “a powerful reflection on the difficult conditions surrounding access to culture in the age of Covid-19, but also a symbol of freedom, creative imagination and participation and an opportunity to involve the audience, the public at large, in a totally new way.”

JR is known for his epic, photomontages, often making political statements and going viral in the process. In 2017 he depicted a giant Mexican child peeking over the US/Mexico border wall, and in 2016 (then again in 2019) he made the Louvre pyramids disappear.


JR: JR au Louvre, La Pyramide (Copyright © JR, 2016, Pyramid © I. M. Pei and Musée du Louvre, 2016)


JR: Giants (Copyright © JR, 2017)

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JR: La Ferita, Palazzo Strozzi (Copyright © JR, 2021)

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny (she/her) is online editor of It’s Nice That, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output. She was previously news editor for five years. Contact her with stories, pitches and tips relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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