From September 2006 until March 2015, James was Director General of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Italy’s first autonomous public/private foundation, responsible for the public programming at the Palazzo Strozzi Florence’s largest temporary exhibition space. Since 2006, the Palazzo Strozzi has become a vital cultural centre, and is now recognised as one of Italy’s leading producers of cultural events. The Palazzo Strozzi has a strong focus on the city and its young people, and created the city’s leading institution for contemporary art, the Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina (CCCS) in 2007.
In addition to his work on museums and museum management, James often writes on other subjects. His writings include a series on Gastronomy for the Russian journal Imperial, children’s stories, and occasional essays. These writings not only help to ease the ennui of bleak rainy days and long winter nights, but often add new dimensions to his writings on learning, museums and art.
From September 2006 until March 2015 James M. Bradburne was Director General of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy. From October 2015, James has been Director General of the newly autonomous Pinacoteca di Brera and the Biblioteca nazionale Braidense in Milan.
The Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi is responsible for programming the public spaces of the Palazzo Strozzi - Florence's largest temporary exhibition space. One of the world's finest examples of Renaissance domestic architecture, the Palazzo Strozzi has hosted some of Florence's most famous exhibitions since it was re-opened after the War, including the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (1949), Pontormo (1956) and more recently Botticelli and Filippo Lippi (2003) The current programme is visible online at:
The Fondazione's first exhibition, Cezanne a Firenze (2007) attracted over 250,000 visitors, and the Palazzo Strozzi now has a modern café, a museum shop with reading room for families and exhibition space, a free permanent exhibition on the Palazzo and its history, video information screens in the courtyard to alert visitors to events in the Palazzo Strozzi and in Florence’s other major cultural venues.
The Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina hosts a comprehensive programme of exhibitions, events, lectures and activities throughout the year, as well as organising installations of contemporary art in the Palazzo Strozzi’s magnificent Renaissance courtyard.
Since 2006, the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi aimed to revitalise the Palazzo, which is open year-round and hosts a wide variety of activities including exhibitions, events, lectures and programmes designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of users of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. Its cultural strategy is ‘visible listening’, and it aims to not only respond to, but recognise and support, the widest possible variety of voices at the Palazzo Strozzi. Articles include:
in the coming years James will continue developing a Centre for Experimental Museology, and where possible use the Circles Squared Foundation (a NY-based 501.c.3 non-profit) of which he is a founding Director, to continue exploring the challenges of creating more engaging informal learning settings, a mission in complete harmony with the new challenges he faces at the Brera.
No website can fully capture the breadth of interest of an active professional, nor keep pace with his output.
In addition to his work on exhibitions, museums and learning, James M. Bradburne continues to work on a variety of other projects related to the history of art, science and technology, such as research into the lives of the Dutch alchemist and inventor, Cornelis Drebbel (1572-1633) and the Huguenot garden architect Salomon de Caus (1573-1626). His current research focuses on the convergence of alchemy and antinomian theology in early Jacobean London.
In recognition that museums are still largely short of material for children and young adults, he has written several children’s/young person’s catalogues to accompany exhibitions he has designed. These include The Lost City on the Silk Road (Villa Favorita, 1993), The Merchants of Light (Prague 1997) and Theatre of Reason/Theatre of Desire (Frankfurt, 1999).
James M. Bradburne is a British-Canadian architect, designer and museum specialist who has designed World's Fair pavilions, science centres, and international art exhibitions. Educated in Canada and England, he developed numerous exhibitions, research projects and symposia for UNESCO, UNICEF, national governments, private foundations, and museums worldwide during the course of the past twenty years. In 1994 he was invited to join newMetropolis Science and Technology Center in Amsterdam as Head of Design, Education and Research, and was responsible for the planning of new exhibits, exhibitions, programmes, and products for newMetropolis. From January 1st, 1999 until the end of 2002 he directed the Museum für Angewandte Kunst (mak.frankfurt) in Frankfurt am Main. From 2003 – 2006 he directed the Next Generation Foundation (NGF), an independent foundation to promote innovation in informal learning initiated by the president of LEGO, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. From September 2006 until March 2015, James has been Director General of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Italy’s first autonomous public/private foundation, responsible for the public programming at the Palazzo Strozzi Florence’s largest temporary exhibition space. Since 2006, the Palazzo Strozzi has become a vital cultural centre, and is now recognised as one of Italy’s leading producers of cultural events. The Palazzo Strozzi has a strong focus on the city and its young, and manages the city’s leading institution for contemporary art, the Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina (CCCS).
He currently sits on numerous international advisory committees and museum boards, and recently curated and designed exhibitions including Rudolph II and Prague (Prague Castle 1997), Blood: perspectives on art, power, politics and pathology (mak.frankfurt/Schirn Kunsthalle 2001) and Money & Beauty. The Bankers, Botticelli and the Bonfire of the Vanities (with Tim Parks and Ludovica Sebregondi, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, 2011). He lectures internationally about new approaches to informal learning, and has published extensively. James continues to work with the Centro Internationale Loris Malaguzzi in Reggio Emilia, and with institutions in London, Germany and Holland. From 2006 - 2010 he was a member of the International Advisory Committee for the new Chinese National Science and Technology Museum (opened Fall 2009), and continues to teach and work extensively in China.
"the museum has to function as an institution for the prevention of blindness in order to make works work. And making works work is the museum's major mission. Works work when, by stimulating inquisitive looking, sharpening perception, raising visual intelligence, widening perspectives, and marking off neglected significant kinds, they participate in the organisation and reorganisation of experience, in the making and re-making of our worlds"
The institutions of informal learning – museums, science centres, exhibitions, libraries – have been the core of James’s public and private activities for over twenty years. In addition to consulting for UNESCO, UNICEF, national governments and private foundations, James and his business partner Drew Ann Wake played a key role in encouraging the debate about the effectiveness of hands-on science centres in the 1990s. Their critical approach to the interactive science centre resulted in a series of exhibitions for the newly founded Science Alberta Foundation in 1991, and the Mine Games exhibition at Science World in Vancouver in 1993 (see exhibitions), which called into question the conventional approach to hands-on exhibits based on the model of the San Francisco Exploratorium.
From 1994 James was Head of Design, Education and Research for newMetropolis, where he led a team of over thirty young Dutch designers and educators to realise a ‘science centre for the 21st century’, based in large part on a rejection of many of the prevailing practices in the science centre field. Opened in 1997, newMetropolis’s exhibitions set new standards for engagement and visitor interaction. James’s approach to informal learning, culminating in the newMetropolis experiment, can be found in his book,
Interaction in the museum: observing supporting learning
ISBN: 3-89811-635-2 EAN: 9783898116350 Libri: 5095247
In 1999, James left newMetropolis to become Director General of the Museum for Applied Art in Frankfurt, Germany (mak.frankfurt). There he re-launched the museum in 2000, with a new emphasis on learning, design and interaction. Of particular importance was the new emphasis on the collection and exhibition of digital ‘artefacts’, which was the focus of a three-year project Digital Craft, headed by Franziska Nori. As of 2000, the museum offered bilingual interpretation, a first-rate restaurant, a shop featuring contemporary design, and was Europe’s first museum with wireless internet throughout the museum. Open until 8pm daily, the result was to double the attendance, and attract a large number of new private sector partners to the museum. Despite the public success, it was hindered by its legal status as a municipal museum and by a cumbersome cultural bureaucracy, which made it impossible to manage effectively. The experience of managing change at the Frankfurt museum generated a number of key insights into how best to create sustainable institutions, which form the basis of Bradburne’s extensive lectures and seminars on museum management and governance.
Recent papers include the following:
As Director General of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi 2006 – 2015 he was responsible for the transformation of the Palazzo Strozzi. In addition to the palazzo becoming a lively urban piazza with over a million users every year, the Palazzo Strozzi has changed from being a container for third parties to a producer of cultural events in its own right. Every major exhibition since 2007 has followed an explicit cultural strategy—‘visible listening’—that has attracted widespread international acclaim. Cézanne in Florence (2007) had labels written by an 11 year-old and a 13 year-old; ControModa (2007)ad the curators’ texts glossed by fashion experts; At the Court of the Emperors (2008) had labels written by the Chinese themselves; Painting Light (2008) was designed as a murder mystery for visitors to solve; Women in Power (2008) had rhyming riddles by Italy’s leading children’s poet; Art and Illusions (2009) provided interactive experiences for all five senses; De Chirico, Max Ernst, Magritte, Balthus (2010) included interactive exhibits on human psychology; Money and Beauty (2011) had labels signed by their author/curators and an interactive computer game as an integral part of the exhibition. The exhibition Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. Diverging Paths of Mannerism won the Apollo Magazoine exhibition of the Year award in 2014. In eight years the Palazzo Strozzi became the city’s laboratory for cultural innovation, and its projects touch every part of the city of Florence and the surrounding territory.
James M. Bradburne is now the Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship, one of the world’s leading forums for discussion and debate about museum practice. James M. Bradburne continues to consult to museums and foundations around the world, including China, the Middle East, Europe and North America, and is currently working on exhibitions including Loot: spoils of war 1618-2003 and Death and Dying: the experience of death from the Renaissance to the present.