June 3, 2013
Florence has been on my mind. As the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art draws to a close (June 16), I’ve enjoyed revisiting my days living in this great Tuscan city and its profound influences. Last week, I presented a repeat performance of my illustrated talk on art and cinema. During this presentation I delve into artists who are influenced by cinema. I reminisce about a special place in downtown Firenze called the Apollo Theatre (pictured at night and with Google Streetview). This abandoned film theatre was located next door to the Ontario College of Art studios in downtown at the corner of Via Nazionale and Via Fiume. Through a roof-latch, we’d sneak into the derelict film house. We’d feel the rush and exhilaration of urban explorers–and we had the place to ourselves! The theatre was a sacred palace dedicated to the art of cinema. The projection room still had old 35mm projectors (pictured) and metal canisters of vintage films. This fifty-year-old celluloid became the inspiration for many drawings years after their discovery.
It comes as a surprise to many that these mid-century artefacts were simply abandoned, let alone the shell of this majestic building built during the 1930s. I try to put it in the perspective of Florentine eyes; after all this is the centre of the Renaissance with a thousand year old cultural legacy. Quattrocentro masterpieces adorn the city’s every turn. For locals, the Apollo and all its contents are probably seen as disposable mass-culture of the twentieth century. For me, the Apollo was a rich repository of contents and stories that continue to inspire my art and life.