Florence, Liu Ruowang's wolves invade Tuscan city squares

Coming to Florence are Liu Ruowang's wolves, the ravenous animals that remind us how badly we are treating our planet.

Wolves in the square in Florence: these are the metal ones by Chinese artist Liu Ruowang (Jia Xian, 1977), which have invaded Piazza Pitti and Piazza Santissima Annunziata. They will remain in Florence’s two squares between July 13 and Nov. 2.The installation, titled The Coming Wolves, is meant to reflect on the excesses of progress in contemporary society. The menacing pack of wolves created by the Chinese artist and composed of one hundred iron castings, each weighing 280 kg, is an allegory of nature’s response to man’s devastation and predatory behavior toward the environment. And at the same time it is meant to be a reflection on the values of civilization, today’s uncertainty and the actual risks of irreversible annihilation of the present world. Wolves on the way is thus meant to be a critique of a world bent on self-destruction, and wolves a desperate plea for environmental protection of the entire planet.

Organized thanks to Matteo Lorenzelli, owner of the Milan-based gallery Lorenzelli Arte, the exhibition aims to establish a physical, intellectual and even playful connection with the citizenry, stimulating curiosity and participation, so as to bring in a wider audience than the one that usually attends exhibitions and museums. The project was conceived on the occasion of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Italian Republic and the People’s Republic of China (the latter represented by Consul General Weng Wengang) and made possible by the collaboration between Eike Schmidt, Director of the Uffizi Galleries, and Tommaso Sacchi, Councillor for Culture of the City of Florence, who made available two of Florence’s most symbolic spaces. Before coming to Florence, Liu Ruowang’s wolves had been exhibited in Naples, where they were placed in Piazza del Municipio.

The interaction of Incoming Wol ves with the architecture (particularly that of the Pitti Palace and the Spedale degli Innocenti) and with passersby reflects the author’s intent that “to teach love and respect for art to new generations, the best method is to bring art into everyday life, making museums more and more accessible and beyond. My sculptures, for example, are placed in squares: this is how art also creates a connection with public spaces. It is important to build a culture of the common good.”

Liu Ruowang’s art brings together cross-cultural elements (for example, those of Western culture) with aspects peculiar to Chinese tradition: through references to globalization, Ruowang depicts the multiplication of various identities, both real and virtual, denouncing the risks caused by the loss of human values, mortified by the oppressive system of contemporary life, a theater of pain and violence. The installation Incoming Wolves is the result of the production of the last decade, which should be considered fully Liu Ruowang’s artistic maturity. “The works are presented in groups,” says the artist, “because ’plurality’ is the kind of form and force I need when I am intent on exploring the relationship between human beings and the environment, also in light of the fact that China has long been a country that carries on a collectivist spirit. Creating my works in series or groups corresponds for me to a structural language of my art making that exceeds the language of sculpture.” Behind the monumentality of the installation, moreover, is an aspect as dear to the East as to the West, a central pivot of all Liu Ruowang’s production, namely the ability to polarize theenvironment and space through a simple narrative that seeks to adapt the epic tones of myth to today’s civilization, dominated by scientific and technological progress, which is increasingly in conflict with the natural order.

“In Piazza Pitti,” says Uffizi Director Eike Schmidt, “the pack of wolves about to enter the palace through the central doorway immediately reminds us of nature’s grim counterattack in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic ’The Birds,’ but it also calls to our minds the very recent experience of so many wild species re-entering our city during the lockdown. It is a metaphor for the human/nature relationship. With the presence of Liu Ruowang’s wolves in our squares (elegant wolves, with chiseled hair as in ancient Chinese bronzes) we will have many months to think about how we can contribute to respecting the planet’s balance.”

“Are the wolves attacking us, or are we rather attacking them?” wonder the mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, and the councilor for culture, Tommaso Sacchi. “Can there instead be a lasting balance between us and them and between man and nature in general? This imposing installation that invades two of Florence’s most evocative and characterizing squares induces us on the one hand to reflect on the ancestral relationship that binds us to the most animalistic part of man, and on the other confirms Florence as the city of choice in Italy for public art: for us it is an honor and a duty, even at an economically difficult time due to the burdensome effects of the pandemic that has hit us, to continue in the groove traced in recent years of the exhibition of the best contemporary art in dialogue with the Renaissance soul of the city.”

“Migrating to Florence are the extraordinary wolves of Chinese artist Liu Ruowang,” says Naples Mayor Luigi de Magistris, who was present at the opening for an ideal handover between the Campania city and the Tuscan capital. “They came to us in late autumn and we welcomed them to the large Piazza Municipio, ready to urge the moral duty to protect the environment and keep it in good health for generations to come. Despite their seemingly threatening appearance , they were approached by tens of thousands of citizens and tourists, who wanted to take pictures with them. They then watched us throughout this bitter spring, urging us to seek a more balanced relationship with nature. Safe travels to these raging wolves, with the hope that they will no longer have to fear humans.”

Pictured is a photo of the installation.

Florence, Liu Ruowang's wolves invade Tuscan city squares
Florence, Liu Ruowang's wolves invade Tuscan city squares

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