Books & Art

This Filipino Artist Just Won the Highest Award in the Florence Biennale

His painting won in the event that had over 1,000 other pieces from all over the world. 

There are those who pursue art for the sake of self-expression—the ones who simply cannot help but put into crafted visuals the thoughts that swarm in their heads. Any sort of recognition is just icing on the cake. Still, winning an award (especially a prestigious one) is an outstanding accomplishment. After all, artists deserve to be recognized. 

One such artist is Michael Villagante, who was awarded the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award—the first Filipino to have the honor of receiving the distinction. This is the highest award for the Florence Biennale 2021 exhibit. It’s held every two years and is known as a major international contemporary art and design exhibit.

The exhibit has a rich history that goes back to the '90s, inspired by Florence’s own artistic tradition. Founded by Pasquale and Piero Celona, along with many other artists and critics, the event served as a way for up-and-coming as well as veteran artists to show their pieces in a free and independent way.  


This year, over 1,000 pieces were part of the exhibit, created by more than 500 talented individuals from almost every corner of the globe. There are many categories in the event—from sculptures and mixed media to fabric and jewelry art. The event itself took place on October 23 to 31, in Florence’s Fortezza da Bassco.

The piece that won Villagante the award is entitled Pagtahan. It features a stunning mix of blues and browns that depict faceless figures. There are elements of the natural, such as flowers and spreading fires, that are contrasted with what goes beyond that, such as an angel. Another noticeable detail is the mother holding her child close to the center of it all the different elements. 

"I try to tackle various themes relevant to our everyday occurrence," said Villagante to Florence Biennale. "I take inspirations from snippets of day-to-day happenings and human experiences."

The painting is meant to show the emotions and turmoil that have come with the uncertainty of the current pandemic. It also aims to show the hope for these feelings of anxiety and chaos to come to an end. In order to depict such meaning, Villagante worked on the piece for around three months. 

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