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.

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