“Amerigo’s America”

An interesting exhibition dedicated to Vespucci, 500 years after his death, has been inaugurated in New York and will then go to Florence and Tokyo.
It is organized by the Florentines Around the World Association and the European School of Economics in Florence

by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

The image chosen as the logo for the exhibition “Amerigo’s America 1512-2012”, in progress in New York at St. John’s University Manhattan campus, organized by the Florentines Around the World Association and the European School of Economics in Firenze

      The most obvious observation one can make, while visiting New York, is that not much, if anything at all, is named after the famed Amerigo Vespucci, other than America itself. No statues of him adorn the parks or the vast avenues; no bridges or main thoroughfares carry his name. It seems at times that he has been forgotten. Has he, really? No, Vespucci has not been forgotten by Newyorkers, although he has never conquered the eyes and the hearts and the imagination of the public as Columbus or Verrazano did. As a matter of fact, the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York, realizing that in 2012 befalls the 500th anniversary of his death, decided to dedicate this year’s Italian Culture Month (October) to him, and honor all his achievements in a special way.

      First and foremost among the many New York celebrations is an exhibition which opened at the Manhattan campus of St. John’s University on February 22nd, the exact day of his death.

      The bilingual exhibition, named appropriately “Amerigo’s America (1512-2012), Florence and the Merchants of the New World”, was planned and prepared by the Florentines Around the World Association and by the European School of Economics in Florence.

      The theme of the exhibition is the philosophy, beliefs and culture of the Florentine merchants in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with an emphasis on Amerigo Vespucci and his relevance both as merchant and explorer. Through an historical and iconographic presentation, his feats are illustrated in an interesting manner, focusing both on his courage as an explorer and his strong commercial acuity and intuition. A video, created by Tommaso Conforti, narrates his life through the images of the most significant of Vespucci’s ancestral locales.

      A volume, containing essays on Vespucci and the Florentine merchants, and a preface by Elio D’Anna, was published by Gallorosso Editrice concurrently with the start of the exhibit. The essayists are Andrea Claudio Galluzzo, Stefano Rosi Galli, Luciano Artusi, Tommaso Conforti, Stefano Guelfi Camaiani, Oleg Sisi, Massimo Cecchi and Stefano Cordero di Montezemolo.

      A commemorative bronze medal, crafted by Alessandro Luzzi, was also minted on this occasion.

      New York’s inauguration of the exhibit was preceded by a conference, which featured, as guest speakers, the Madrid and New York delegates of the Florentines Around the World Association, Stefano Rosi Galli and Francesco Bardazzi respectively, their President Andrea Galluzzo and the Academic Director of European School of Economics, Stefano Cordero di Montezemolo. The conference was moderated by the Dean of the Calandra Italian American Institute, Anthony Julian Tamburri, and was graced by the presence of the Consul General of Italy in New York, Natalia Quintavalle.

      Joseph Sciame, Vice President for Community Relations at St. John’s University, described this as a once in a lifetime exhibition, and expressed his belief that many people will visit the exhibition, Italian Americans in particular, and through this experience they will be able to understand the contribution of the Florentine world to the greater world in which we live today.

      Francesco Bardazzi reminded the audience that Florence in those two centuries was the financial capital of the world, the New York of that time, and that today it offers a special appeal to Americans, who flock there in large numbers, both for tourism and for study purposes.

      Andrea Claudio Galluzzo commented that this biographical exhibition wanted to detach itself from the Vespucci stereotypes, defining the professional path of Amerigo Vespucci, first as a capable merchant and then as an astute and gifted explorer. He added that it’s an event dedicated to one of the symbols of all the Florentines dispersed around the world: the celebration of one of the most important Florentines of all times.

      Following New York’s event, organized by Francesco Bardazzi, New York’s delegate for the Florentines Around the World, the exhibit will move to Florence, to the splendid Palazzo Rosselli del Turco, where a second inauguration will take place on Sunday, March 25th 2012, in concurrence with the traditional Florentine New Year. In October 2012, the exhibition will journey to Tokyo, where it will be displayed in the Italian Cultural Center.