Wolfgang Laib: Without Time, Without Place, Without Body

25 ottobre 2019


His sculptures, with a minimal and abstract language made of natural materials such as beeswax and pollen, will be installed for the first time in four places of extraordinary historical and artistic value: Museum of San Marco (Polo Museale della Toscana), Chapel of the Magi (Palazzo Medici Riccardi), Rucellai Chapel (Church of San Pancrazio, Museo Marino Marini) and Pazzi Chapel (Monumental Complex of Santa Croce), in a relationship based entirely on sensitivity and subtle perceptions between the visible art and the invisible spirit, creating an ideal connection between Renaissance magnificence and contemporary artistic research.

The exhibition Without Time, Without Place, Without Body, curated by Sergio Risaliti and produced by Museo Novecento, confirms the project identity of the institution that extends its scientific and cultural actions outside the museum galleries in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, with the concept of a widespread museum and unique on a national scale. The exhibition, created in collaboration with Città Metropolitana di Firenze – Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Museo di San Marco – Polo museale della Toscana, Museo Marino Marini, Opera di Santa Croce, Fondo Edifici di Culto – Ministero dell’Interno, opens to the public on the 25th and 26th of October, offering both citizens and tourists the chance to experience the city not as the birthplace and showcase of the Renaissance, but as a laboratory of the contemporary, dissolving the distance between the historical past and the artistic present.

Inside the Pazzi Chapel of the Monumental Complex of Santa Croce, Laib will exhibit an iconic work, Without Beginning and Without End, a large Ziggurat made of beeswax, one of the symbolic forms used in many of his works. The Museum of San Marco, on the other hand, has exceptionally agreed to exhibit for three days, two works made in pollen inside the cells frescoed by Beato Angelico, one with the image of the Noli me tangere and the one universally known as the cell of Cosimo the Elder. A remarkable occurrence, it will be the first time that a living artist will be able to install, even if only for a very short period, his creations in a place of such high artistic, cultural and spiritual value. The chapel of Sacello Rucellai (church of San Pancrazio, Museo Marino Marini) and the Chapel of the Magi in Palazzo Medici Riccardi, will host respectively Towers, a previously unseen work made of beeswax, and Pollen from Hazelnut, a pollen piece positioned inside of the scarsella on the altar. The project conceived by Wolfgang Laib for Florence involves spaces of extraordinary historical and artistic value in a dialogue that combines the art, architecture, history, economy and spirituality of the city. The artist thus confirms himself as a great artist of our time, capable of linking spirituality and art, anthropology and theology through centuries of history.


Museum of San Marco, Polo Museale della Toscana

Pollen from Dandelion, 2019

Pollen from Hazelnut, 2018

Pollen, Courtesy of the artist

October 25-27, 2019

For the first time in its history, a contemporary artist crosses the threshold of the convent cells, the heart of the Museum of San Marco, and stands in dialogue with the works of Beato Angelico painted between 1436 and 1446. Laib intervenes inside of the cell with the fresco of Noli me Tangere and that of Cosimo the Elder frescoed with the Adoration of the Magi, entering the sacredness of the place with all the delicacy, evanescence and material fragility of his works. The pollen, sifted on the ground or grouped to form a mountain, has an intense yellow color that recalls the quintessence of spiritual purity, that of the color that also characterizes light in the paintings of the Renaissance artist. The work of art is charged with a symbolic meaning that allows it to exist beyond spatial and temporal coordinates, as the title of the exhibition suggests: Without Time, Without Place, Without Body. We rarely see such a profound encounter between an artist of today and those of the past. The language of the spirit and that of art merge and are recognize each other, overcoming every difference and distance between historical epochs and religious worship. The Museum of San Marco, on the 150th anniversary of its foundation, has exceptionally agreed to exhibit for three days, two pollen works inside the cells frescoed by Beato Angelico, one with the image of the Noli me tangere and one universally known as the cell of Cosimo the Elder.

Chapel of the Magi, Palazzo Medici Riccardi

Pollen from Hazelnut, 2019

Pollen, Courtesy the artist

October 25, 2019 – January 26, 2020

Inside the Chapel of the Magi, Laib exhibits a pollen piece positioned inside the scarsella above the altar. In line with his research and in dialogue with the installations in the Convent of San Marco, this work re-proposes a minimalist language, the result of a practice that proceeds by subtraction and simplification, yet is enriched with numerous symbolic references. “A small mountain of pollen is surrounded by one of the most incredible works of European art history, which,” says Laib, “is also a representation of power on horseback, and potentially represents the origin of the plant world, the beginning of life.” In its density and concentration of meanings, the installation creates a dialogue with a place dedicated to retreat, prayer and meditation. It is also a place, however, where the power and opulence of the Medici family, a lineage at the center of the history of Florence, of the Church, of the whole world, come to be exalted. Beyond the magnificence of the garments and the colors of the procession, Laib’s work appears connected to the gaze of the little son of Mary, the true king of the world, lying humbly on a flowery meadow.

Rucellai Chapel, Marino Marini Museum

Towers, 2019

beeswax, Courtesy the artist

October 25, 2019 – January 26, 2020

Inside the Rucellai Chapel – built in the second half of the fifteenth century in the church of San Pancrazio (currently part of the Marino Marini Museum) which houses the sacellum of the Holy Sepulcher, a masterpiece of architecture by Leon Battista Alberti – Wolfgang Laib presents a new work on the marble altar, a group of towers made of beeswax. As with the Ziggurats, Laib uses simple and geometric shapes, synthetic and essential, which with various heights refer to an ideal ascension. The dialogue between the small sculptures and the architecture that houses them plays on an idea of ​​transcendence, of transition from an earthly condition to a more spiritual one. If the Renaissance sarcophagus repairs and isolates the body beyond life, Laib seems to resort to the use of beeswax, not only for the extreme ductility and intrinsic brightness of the material, but also for its soothing and protective properties known to man since antiquity.

Pazzi Chapel, Monumental Complex of Santa Croce

Without Beginning and Without End, 1999

wood and beeswax, Courtesy the artist

October 26, 2019 – January 26, 2020

Laib’s monumental construction, a large pyramid made of impractical steps but which suggest an imaginary ascent towards the top, stands in the center of the chapel commissioned by the Pazzi family and designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1429-30 next to the Basilica of Santa Croce. The Ziggurats are part of a series of works begun by the artist in 1995 that draw on the simplicity and linearity of oriental religious architecture, such as temples and tombs. The artist revisits some architectural archetypes, such as the staircase and the pyramid, in a symbolic way. The sculpture, entirely covered with precious beeswax, suggests a total symbiosis between art and nature. As in the installations with pollen, the link with the natural world is essential to the existence of the work, since the artist does not create from nothing but collects and organizes natural elements, rich in beneficial and soothing properties for the body and the spirit, into another form. In his sculptures, Laib reduces shapes to essentiality. This simplification process is the first step towards a total knowledge that passes through the observation of what surrounds us and meditation between visible and invisible. With this project, the Opera of Santa Croce, conscious of its deeply rooted historical identity, will begin a series of interventions with contemporary artistic practices, ​​bringing its historical spaces in the present and participating in the construction of its future.

The monumental complex of Santa Croce is property of the Fondo Edifici di Culto – Ministry of the Interior and the Municipality of Florence.

Wolfgang Laib was born in 1950 in Metzingen, Southern Germany. He started making art after studying medicine, creating his first Milkstone in 1975, a slab of white marble covered with milk. In 1977, he started collecting pollen in the fields around his house, the beginning of a “practice” that will become a milestone in his artistic production. In the following years, between 1978 and 1981, he presented his famous pollen squares in various solo exhibitions in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the United States. In 1982, he participated in both the Venice Biennale and Documenta 7, curated by Rudi Fuchs. Following a long journey that he made to India in those years, he inserted rice into his works, creating The Rice Meals for the Nine Planets and, later, the first Rice Houses. His exhibitions have been held in museums, and art institutions around the world including: the ARC in Paris, the CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain in Bordeaux, the Sydney Biennale, the Toyota Municipal Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art of Tokyo, the National Museum of Contemporary Art of Seoul, the Fondation Beyeler of Basel, the Macro of Rome, the complex of Sant’Apollinare in Classe in Ravenna, the Kunstmuseum of Bonn, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Musée de Grenoble , the MoMA in New York and the Center Pompidou in Paris.

The works in the Monumental Complex of Santa Croce, in Palazzo Medici Riccardi and in San Pancrazio (Marino Marini Museum) will remain on view until January 26; while the two installations, exceptionally housed in the cells of the Museum of San Marco, will only be on view October 25, 26 and 27.