Tuesday, November 30, 2010

News Flash! The Querini Stampalia wins Prestigious Award

(Venice, Italy) The Querini Stampalia happens to be where I am sitting right now, and this press release just came over the wire, as they say, so I thought I would announce it immediately:

Cesare De Michelis,
Department of Culture of the Veneto region,

University of Warwick and 
ANCI Veneto 
are awarded


"The Venice Prize for Cultural Communication, now in its twelfth edition, which in recent years has recognized journalists, cultural personalities, institutions and major cultural events, returns this year at the XIV Salone dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali, or the 14th Heritage and Culture Fair. 

The prestigious jury is chaired by Luigi Rossi, a businessman and president of the Academy of Fine Arts, and composed of Adriano Donaggio, vice president and curator of the award, Ileana Chiappini Di Sorio from the University of Ca' Foscari of Venice, Philip Rylands, Director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and Bruno Bernardi, also from Ca' Foscari. 

The jury has confirmed the decision to award a prize to a Venetian institution of international importance: la Fondazione Scientifica Querini Stampalia (Scientific Foundation Querini Stampalia), not only for its remarkable library, which is open to the public at times when other libraries are closed (evenings and holidays), but also for the wide range of contemporary books, and up-to-date local, international and foreign newspapers. 

Through the years the Querini has emerged as meeting place for students and young scholars who live in Venice, while also operating as a museum with great works of art inside an ancient Venetian palacePalazzo Querini Stampalia has preserved its history thanks to a historic restoration by the renown Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa with the significant involvement of Mario Botta. Also considered were the important cultural conferences and exhibitions offered by the Querini Stampaglia." 

Since I basically live at the Querini Stampalia these days, I am thrilled that they won this award. I just told some of the staff, and they were thrilled, too. The Querini is truly one of the most unique places on the planet. It is a beautiful, ancient palace, originally built by the Querini family in the early 1500s. A third story was added between 1789 and 1797. It remained in the family until Giovanni Querini, being without an heir, donated it to Venice in 1868, with very unusual instructions: he wanted it open when the other libraries were closed, and that is just how it is today. I think Giovanni must have been quite brilliant because he knew that writers, scholars, students and other people of culture have to do many other things before they get into the library to work, and he gave everyone the time to do it. The Querini is open from 10:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night, and it is open on Sundays from 10:00am to 7:00pm! It is only closed on Mondays.

from Michael Caldwell - Strange Details - MIT Press
Then, from 1961 to 1963, the distinguished Venetian architect Paolo Scarpa came along and restored bits and pieces of the palace in a way that can only be described as genius. Since the water level of Venice is always ebbing and flowing, instead of fighting the water, he allowed it to come inside. I just ran downstairs to take a quick refresher look, and Scarpa's work was so far ahead of the time that we are only now catching up... or perhaps, at the rate the world is going these days, we will never catch up to Scarpa.
I found an excellent description, as well as that image, at a blog called 3six0 where: "At 3six0 the craft of architecture is practiced as an art."

What’s exciting in this work is Scarpa’s understanding of water as an unsettling force – as a medium caught between the solidity of the earth and the volatility of the sky.  Water is at once dependable and volatile – it is present like the earth, but in constant flux like the sky.  And as Cadwell points out, Venice embodies this precariousness.  “In Venice, buildings do not spring from the earth – they tether themselves to the mud below, or they hover above it” (8-9).  This aquatic quality, this precariousness, pervades Querini Stampalia through details that unsettle and keep us on edge. Click HERE to read the entire article.

Next I dashed upstairs and took at look at the older section again. My feelings about both floors, the modern and the ancient, were similar -- that Giovanni Querini and Carlo Scarpa were two men of compassion, intelligence and foresight, influencing humanity with the highest, noblest principles. This description is from the Comune of Venice: 

The Querini Stampalia Museum is on the second floor of a 16th century palace, rich in stucco works and frescoes, which used to be the home of the Venice patriarch.
The museum holds a wide collection of 18th-century Venetian paintings - 100 paintings, 30 of which are genre-scenes by Pietro Longhi and 67 are landscapes by the minor painter Gabriel Bella, an imitator of 17th and 18th-century works.
The Querini Stampalia Museum is conceived as a house-museum, where the visitor is immersed in a typical sumptuous 18th-century scenario.

I looked at the scenes by Pietro Longhi again, which are sort of like contemporary picture postcards from the 18th century, and tumbled back into the 1700s. There was Banco Giro at the foot of the Rialto Bridge, established back in 1587 as the world's first credit bank (after ancient Greece) buzzing with bankers and traders, and there were the masked players at Il Ridotto, Venice's gambling house, which I wrote about HERE.

The Querini also has a very cool gift shop, a dining room, and a bar, and holds contemporary art exhibits up on the third floor, as well as down on the ground floor where Scarpa can be felt; he also designed a very Zen garden. It also holds conferences, and has a good-size auditorium. Yet, funding was cut by 30,000 euro for 2010, and the Querini actually closed its doors for the first time this summer from July 1 through August 26. Opening hours have been reduced (if I remember correctly, they used to stay open until midnight), the entrance ticket to the museum section has been raised by two euro. The four-times-a-week free classical music series has been reduced to one every Saturday afternoon at 5:00pm. 

The Fondazione Scientifica Querini Stampalia provides a necessary function for the jewels of the earth, and hopefully Il Premio Venezia alla Comunicazione Culturale will illuminate this precious gem in the Venetian crown. 

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - Venice Blog

Designed by: Joseph Kosuth

"Talentum tolerate"
The artist godfather of the first edition of Stampalia Querini-FURLA for art is Joseph KosuthHis design is based on the origin of the word talent. The work plays on two aspects: the first is our concept of ability that is linked to its ancient meaning of "a sum of money." The second aspect is "tolerate", "support" in its original Latin.

From the Querini's website:
In the heart of Venice, a stone’s throw from Piazza San Marco, is one of the most interesting cultural complexes in the city of lagoons: Palazzo Querini Stampalia, the home of the Foundation of the same name created in 1868 by Count Giovanni, who died the following year without direct heirs. The Library, Museum and an area for temporary exhibitions are housed there. The Library is of a general nature and provides around 340,000 volumes for public use, including 32,000 directly accessible in the rooms, which are open according to the Founder’s wishes until late at night, including public holidays. An agreement with the City of Venice defines it a Civic Library of the historical centre, in recognition of the role that it plays on behalf of the city which is widely recognised by the Venetians.
Among the collections, the oldest section is composed of manuscripts, incunabula and 16th century printed books, geographical atlases and maps, which together with the private archives of the Querini Stampalia family provide precious historical testimonies
for scholars. In the museum with its eighteenth century and neoclassical furniture, porcelain, bisque, sculpture, globes and paintings from the 14th to the 20th century, most of which are from the Venetian school, an atmosphere of a noble residence is bestowed by mirrors and
lamps of Murano glass and fabrics woven to historical designs. Amongst the works on display are paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Lorenzo di Credi, Jacopo Palma il Vecchio, Bernardo Strozzi, Marco and Sebastiano Ricci, Giambattista Tiepolo, Pietro Longhi, Gabriel Bella and a sketch by Antonio Canova.
A place of many places, of a thousand differences - they can be read in its history, architecture, and the variety of its activities - the Foundation is a field of cultural production based on the study and enhancement of the historical heritage of the museum and attentive reflection in gathering the most advanced contemporary propositions. To this end, with the Conservare il futuro project, future contemporary artists are invited to compare Themselves to and interact with the Foundation’s collections, drawing inspiration from them for new expressions of vital experimentation.
Similar lines of investigation have been opened in the sectors of literature, poetry, theatre, dance, design and graphics. An intense programme of educational activities offers various publics – schools,families, senior citizens- ever new interpretations of the Museum, Library exhibitions and architecture of the building itself, through laboratories and educational courses.
Within the 16th century residence, on the ground floor, is the area that was restored in 1963 by Carlo Scarpa, which has recently undergone rigorous conservation work. The work of the architect from Ticino, Mario Botta, a pupil of the Venetian master who designed the site’s new service area around an evocative covered courtyard, is also nearing completion. The rooms of the Cafeteria open onto it, welcoming the public for a break, snack, working breakfast or dinner in an unusual atmosphere, facing the windows of the Bookshop which, together with a sophisticated choice of design objects and carefully selected volumes on historical and contemporary art, also offers a section dedicated to specialists working in museums, libraries and archives.
The new Auditorium completes the construction of this unique, complex and flexible structure where historical rooms next to areas equipped in a modern fashion offer a stimulating and functional setting for individual study, cultural initiatives and special events.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Week - Salute, bbcc EXPO-Restaura & Bobo

Candles at the Festa della Salute
(Venice, Italy) The American festival of Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November. The Venetian Festa della Salute falls on November 21. The holidays are so close together that sometimes they even fall on the same day. This year, the Festa della Salute was on Sunday, so the entire week has felt like a week of thanks to me, and it's been bustling despite the rain and acqua alta.

Bobo Ivancich & Mary De Rachewiltz
daughter of Ezra Pound
Friday evening was the vernissage of the aristocratic artist, Bobo Ivancich de la Torriente, and many heavyweights managed to make their way across the weather and into the Primo Piano Venice Art Gallery, which you regular readers will know is one of my sponsors. To give you an idea of how small a town Venice is, I had also mentioned Bobo's aunt, Adriana Ivancich, when I wrote about another sponsor, the Hotel Gritti Palace -- Adriana was the young aristocrat who had inspired Ernest Hemingway's novel Across the River and Into the Trees; the last time the couple had met was on the Gritti Terrace. Bobo's exhibit, New York - Venezia - Cuba - Between Myth & Legend is presented in collaboration with Arte Communications; Paolo de Grandis, the owner, was there in all his splendor. Inspired by the great personalities Bobo grew up with -- as a child, he played chess with the American poet, Ezra Pound, and Peggy Guggenheim was often at his house -- Bobo has paid homage to many of them in his work. (Please click HERE to view the paintings and price list.) In the image you see, Bobo Ivancich is standing in front of a portrait he created of Ezra Pound with Pound's daughter, Mary De Rachewiltz. Which brings me to another strange synchronicity story.

Brunnenburg Castle
You will notice that on October 31, I wrote a blog about Halloween, All Saints Day and the Day of the Dead, starting with a little story about Ezra Pound. Well, the next day, All Saints Day, I went out to the cemetery to tend to some tombs. I've had tea a couple of times up at Brunnenburg Castle, where Mary De Rachewiltz lives in Merano, and I told Mary I would sort of keep my eye on her mother's side of the tomb. Mary's mother, the violinist Olga Rudge, was Pound's lover, and is buried next to him, and doesn't draw as much attention as Pound. I got Olga a purple iris, and went to the tomb. When I arrived, a group of people were standing in front of it. A voice said, "Look. Someone has given my mother a rose." I turned, stunned. I said, "Mary? It's Cat Bauer!" Mary smiled and said, "Well, who else should I meet in Venice but Cat Bauer?" I said, I figured that her father would have plenty of flowers, and had gotten one for her mother, and was happy to see that someone else had had the same idea. And that, dear readers, is the absolute truth. There is no way encounters like that can be planned, and it happens all the time in Venice.

Earlier on Friday morning, I had splashed through the water and over to Palazzo Balbi for a press conference organized by Veneziafiere about the huge bbcc EXPO (il Salone dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali) and Restaura convention that takes place next week on December 2, 3 and 4 at the Venice Passenger Terminal, or Venezia Terminal Passeggeri. For three days you can wander around the terminal and be inspired by a panorama of projects, round tables and conversations that examine new horizons and technologies, all with the theme of encouraging CULTURE. As the speakers were talking, it struck me how I have gotten so used to living immersed in culture, art, music, food, history, etc., and what a rare environment that is these days in other parts of the world. There is so much precious art in Italy; it is a huge national resource which must be developed wisely, with an eye towards the future, and protected, with an eye on the past. Admittance to the Expo is free, and what is even better, if you go over there, you can also get a voucher that will allow you to go inside all of Venice's municipal museums on December 2, 3 & 4 FOR FREE. And another other great thing is that you get to ride the new People Mover to get there! After the press conference, the journalists were given a mysterious burlap bag upon departure. I opened it while waiting for the vaporetto, and discovered it contained coffee, a coffee spoon and sweet coffee beans. This gift from the Venetian company Torrefazione Marchi worked very well with me because I made some coffee immediately, and on such a wet day, it was excellent and they deserve a plug.

On Thanksgiving Eve, I stopped by yet another one of my sponsors, Le Bistrot, for the vernissage of one of my favorite Venetian artists, Fernanda Facciolla. Since I know both the owner of Le Bistrot, Sergio Fragiacomo, and Fernanda, I didn't know which one had invited me, but it turned out to be Fernanda, who didn't know I knew Sergio, and Sergio didn't know I knew Fernanda. The exhibit is entitled, Dioniso e il vino, or Dionysus and Wine, and Fernanda definitely knows her myths. The synchronicity can get overwhelming sometimes, because the next thing I said was, "Fernanda. I have written about this very same topic when Sergio had the wine people here from InOLTRE called Those Who Drink Our Wine Know They Will Never be Betrayed." So, there I was in Le Bistrot back with Dionysus again!

Later that evening, some Venetians gave me a proper Thanksgiving dinner, just like the American Indians gave the pilgrims -- only I was the only American there -- complete with a 6.2 kilo female turkey and some good red wine. I made the stuffing, and found two tiny jars of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce for 3 euro each over at Antica Drogheria Mascari. There were even roasted chestnuts afterwards, roasted right on the spot!

On Tuesday, I dashed to Jolefilm in Padua for a press conference for a film-in-progress called Shun Li e il Poeta, or Shun Li and the Poet, directed by Andrea Segre, a co-production between Jolefilm and Aeternam Films in Paris. Here's the synopsis:


"Shun Li and the Poet" relates the romantic and difficult friendship between a Chinese illegal immigrant and an old Italian fisherman, on an island of the Venetian lagoon facing economic changes.

After working in a textile factory in the suburbs of Rome, Shun Li, a woman in her forties, moves to the small provincial town of Chioggia; she works as a waitress in an "osteria" to pay for her freedom. Bepi, also called "the Poet" by his friends, has been coming to the little bar for years...

The film tells the encounter between two worlds in a crisis: the world of Shun Li who has been forced to abandon her own roots and the world of Bepi who sees his roots transforming deeply because of the social changes of the region.

Both exiled in their own ways, Shun Li and Bepi try to save each other trusting on poetry more than on reality. But their unexpected dreamlike salvation will be hampered by the conflict between the local Italian community and the local Chinese people.

I haven't spent time in Chioggia for a very long time, but the fishermen there are so tough that when NATO denied dropping bombs into the Adriatic Sea back in 1999 during the war in the Balkans -- NATO scoffed at the accusation and fabricated a story that the bombs were left over from WWII -- the Chioggia fishermen actually fished up the bombs, proving they were real, severely injuring themselves. Click HERE to read the Washington Post story from long ago.

Now, to start back at the beginning: on Sunday, again through the wind, rain and acqua alta, I went to the Salute Church for the Festa della Salute to light my candles of gratitude for health for the year and get a dose of high energy from the Black Madonna. I couldn't find a single photo of her dressed in all her finery on the net, and I began to think that no photos of her are allowed. Someone did take a photo, however, of the postcard that you can buy at the Salute Church; that is the image you see.

From Italy Heaven:

This is a very busy day, and is very important to local people. Fur-wrapped and scarf-muffled, they walk through the lanes of Venice towards the bridge and the church, shepherded at times by 'traffic' police enforcing one-way routes. In front of the church is an array of little stalls selling candles for the worshippers: it's mildly amusing to see the solemn Venetians, heirs of traders, shopping around for the best deal ("Three for five euros"). After their stately progress through the church, where masses are said throughout the day, they re-emerge with more greeting of friends, to the sound of the ringing church bells.

Click HERE to read the entire article.

Theories about Black Madonnas from Wikipedia:

Interest in studying Black Madonnas revived in the late 20th century. Some scholars of comparative religion, particularly those with Afrocentristfeminist, or neo-pagan backgrounds, have suggested that Black Madonnas are descendants of pre-Christian mother or earth goddesses (Moss, Benko), often highlighting Isis as the key ancestor-goddess (Redd, McKinney-Johnson). Some psychologists have discussed maternal and female archetypes, often from a Jungian perspective, as well as themes of feminine power, as they find them expressed in the Black Madonnas (Gustafson, Begg). 

Whatever the Black Madonna stands for, I always find her inspiring, and joining the throngs and the ceremony and celebration of the Festa della Salute, always fills me with gratitude and joy.

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Andrea Segre
Directed by : Andrea Segre
Screenplay : Andrea Segre and Marco Pettenello
Cinematographer : Luca Bigazzi
Sound : Alessandro Zanon
Production Design : Leonardo Scarpa
Costumes : Maria Rita Barbera
Produced by Francis Bonsembiante, JOLEFILM (Italy)
co-produced by Francesca Feder, æternam FILMS (France)
in collaboration with Rai Cinema and Arte France
with the support of Eurimages and the Veneto Region

Zhao Tao, Rade Serbedzija 
Marco Paolini, Roberto Citran, Giuseppe Battiston

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