Uffizi Gallery acquires a work of street art from London artist Endless | Street art

The Uffizi Gallery, renowned for its Renaissance collection of Botticellis and Michelangelos, acquired a work from a British street artist who began spray painting in London ten years ago.

The Florence gallery unveiled a self-portrait by British artist Endless on Monday. The montage, a commentary on advertising and consumer culture, will become the first piece by a street artist to be exhibited at the Uffizi.

Endless, who keeps his identity hidden, said he was “excited and honored,” adding: “I had no idea how exactly this would fit into the gallery.” The inclusion of the work “breaks the mold” of street art, he said, and, in a year in which galleries and museums have closed, has showed how important the art form had become.

The self-portrait presents two photographs of the artist stacked one on top of the other. Her face is obscured by an overhaul of a Calvin Klein commercial, in which Mark Wahlberg appeared in his underwear. Endless began painting this ‘crotchless’ image on walls in London in 2014. On either side of the artist are photos of the artist duo Gilbert and George, mentors and early supporters of his work.

Although the piece moves away from the Renaissance canon for which the Uffizi Gallery is renowned, gallery director Eike Schmidt said that it “refers to the works of art that we have in the collection at several levels “.

“The crotch grip refers to the pose of the Venus de Medici [sculpture] and Botticelli’s Venus but the transplant from the female body to the male body. We also have several group portraits; the most famous would be the Four Philosophers by Rubens.

The ad-inspired crotch grip was less provocative than the Uffizi Renaissance pieces, Endless said. “I don’t think it’s more outrageous than the nudes that are already there. He has pants.

Endless said including street artists in museums was one way to “get things done.” “Some street artists would never touch a gallery, but most street artists are full-fledged artists and many would like to do gallery exhibitions. “

Street art was a way for Endless to “advertise” his talent. Trained in fine arts for six years, it took more than five years for the artist to be selected for his first exhibition. He spent his time creating works of art on the walls of east and west London. “At one point I was doing street art four or five times a week, doing it during the day and editing it at night,” he said.

In 2014 and 2015, he started creating street art “prolifically”, and he first participated in exhibitions in 2016. In 2018, Schmidt approached him to ask for a donation.

Endless said the inclusion of his work was the culmination of a decade in which street art had “gained more respect.” “Banksy created the foundation by using the media to push street art in a certain direction. “

The art form gained prominence during the pandemic with the help of social media. Last July, Banksy graffiti a London Underground train with cartoon rats, while telling people to wear masks via his Instagram page.

Endless said: “When everything was shut down during the pandemic, more street art appeared illegally and large murals were planned. People took their daily walks and saw more of the street art.

“The pandemic has shown the strength of works of art in general. People need it. They want to go to museums and galleries, but they can’t, so they went online.

While the British galleries remain closed, the Uffizi Gallery is open to visitors. Schmidt hopes the Italian gallery can bring street art to a new audience when Endless’s piece goes on display this summer. Although removing street art from the streets “changes its character”, he conceded, “if you give us two or three years, there will be more street artists added to our collection.”