On April 20, 2013 Lisa Marie Browne, executive director of Friends of the Uffizi Gallery brought members and special guests to The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum in Miami for a private tour of the exhibit, José Manuel Ballester: Concealed Spaces with the show’s curator, Francine Birbragher, PhD.
Ballester is an internationally recognized Spanish artist. He creates, at the same scale as the originals, large photo reproductions of famous works of art and using photo editing tools he removes the key figures thereby revealing the “concealed spaces” behind them that the show’s title refer to.
One of the reasons Ballester’s show was of such interest to Friends of the Uffizi Gallery is that a few of the works in the exhibit were reproductions of famous works that can be found at the Uffizi Gallery. So, in one of his works, Ballester has removed the key figures from Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. No longer do you see the figure of Venus, or the figures of Zephyrus and Chloris to her right or Pamona to her left. (It’s interesting to note here that in Botticelli’s original work, the position in which Venus stands is very similar to the Friends of the Uffizi Gallery restoration, Aphrodite with Eros, which is based on the Capitoline original and may have inspired Botticelli’s work.)
In another work, Ballester has removed the figures of Mary and the Archangel Gabriel from Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, The Annunciation.
Viewing these iconic works from the Italian Renaissance in this new way at the Frost Museum was intriguing. It was possible to derive stories about the absence of the key and central figures. Without their presence, what does the story become about? It was as though Venus and Mary and their companions had stepped away, but would soon return. Ms. Birbragher was a fascinating host, touring the Frieds group through each of Ballester’s works and providing back stories for each. Friends of the Uffizi Gallery extend their gratitude to her and to the Frost Museum for an opportunity to view Ballester’s work and delve into his art in greater depth.