Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas in Venice 2015 - Cat Bauer's Favorite Jesus Christ Quotes

Basilica of San Marco
Basilica of San Marco - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Year after year, Christmas in Venice continues to be magical. The few weeks leading up to the holiday are void of tourists, and residents can actually see each other on the street, like a cozy village. In Venice, Christmas feels simple and pure, a holiday celebrated with friends and family. It is a time to remember what life was like before the tidal wave of commercial tourism hit the town.

While much of the planet is experiencing extreme weather for the holidays, Venice has been cloaked in a mystical mist, setting the scene for enchantment.

Venice Mist

Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was flogged and crucified for his dangerous message -- for preaching that the old ""eye for an eye" was out, and the new "love thy neighbor as thyself" was in. Since the point of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of this radical Jew who founded Christianity, here are some of my Jesus Christ favorite quotes:

Midnight Mass in Venice
Midnight Mass Basilica of San Marco - Photo: Cat Bauer
"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

"All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbor as yourself."

Basilica of San Marco
Basilica of San Marco Dome - Photo: Cat Bauer
"I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

"So when you give to someone in need, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others."

"Don't be afraid; just believe."

"A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family."

Madonna Nicopeia Venice Italy
Madonna Nicopeia - Photo: Cat Bauer
"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today has enough trouble of its own."

"And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?"

Happy Holidays from Venice

Happy Holidays from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Four Women Who Dared to Be Different - Winter 2015 at Palazzo Fortuny in Venice

Henriette and the Delphos gown - Photo: Elisa Gagliardi Mangilli
(Venice, Italy) The 13th century Gothic palace, Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, which Mariano and Henriette Fortuny transformed into their own fantastic stage set, is the perfect backdrop for the stories of four women who dared to be different:

Henriette Fortuny, the inspirational wife of Mariano Fortuny;  

Romaine Brooks, the bold American artist;  

Sarah Moon, the groundbreaking French photographer;

Ida Barbarigo, the compelling Venetian artist.
Portrait of Henriette by Mariano Fortuny (1915)

HENRIETTE FORTUNY - Portrait of a Muse

Adèle Henriette Nigrin, born in Fontainebleau in 1877, was Mariano Fortuny's wife, lover, muse, partner and co-creator. Fortuny was already a well-known artist when they met in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. Mariano and Henriette spent 47 years together, living and working inside Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, their home and atelier, filled with those fabulous Fortuny lamps and chandeliers, fabrics, photography and paintings. Today, Palazzo Fortuny is one of the most intriguing palaces in Venice.

Henriette thought up the idea for the iconic Delphos silk gown, a must-have for fashionable women at the turn of the last century. In 1896, the 478 BC statue of a chariot driver was found at the Sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi, clad in a pleated robe. About 10 years later, that statue inspired the Fortunys to create the Delphos gown, which has become a work of art in its own right.

After the death of Mariano in 1949, Henriette dedicated her life to keeping the memory of the great artist alive. She donated Palazzo Fortuny to the city of Venice in 1956.

The Weeping Venus by Romain Brooks (1916-17) - Courtesy Museo Fortuny

ROMAINE BROOKS - Paintings, drawing, photographs

Romaine Brooks was born Beatrice Romaine Goddard in Rome in 1874 to wealthy American parents, whose father deserted the family. After an early life in a foster home in New York City as a "child martyr," and near-starvation as a struggling artist in Paris, Rome and Capri, Romaine inherited a fortune in 1902 after her emotionally abusive mother and mentally ill brother died.

Romaine married the pianist John Ellington Brooks, a gay man who had fled England after the trial of Oscar Wilde. She became part of the non-conformist, cosmopolitan community that jumped from the Belle Epoque in Paris, to the island of Capri, and to Venice, challenging the established order.

Romaine had a simultaneous love affair with two heavy-duty women -- the dancer, Ida Rubinstein and the writer, Natalie Clifford Barney -- as well as a romantic affair with Gabriele D'Annunzio that evolved into a strong friendship.

Influenced by Whistler, Romaine was drawn to the color gray, and was the go-to portrait painter for celebrities and aristocrats.

A Tribute to Mariano Fortuny by Sara Moon - Courtesy Museo Fortuny

SARAH MOON - A Tribute to Mariano Fortuny

Sarah Moon started life as Marielle Warin, born into to a Jewish family in occupied France in 1941. Initially a model in the swinging sixties under the name "Marielle Hadengue," Marielle Warin next changed her name to Sarah Moon and transformed into one of the major fashion photographers of all time -- in 1972 she was the first female photographer for the legendary Pirelli calendar.

In 1985, she morphed into a fine art photographer, concentrating on gallery and film work, winning awards like the Grand Prix National del Photographie in 1995, and the Prix Nadar in 2008.

Inspired by the soft light of the Venetian lagoon in the winter, and the swirls and patterns of Fortuny fabrics, Sara Moon's photos capture the mystical grandeur that permeates Palazzo Fortuny.

Erme e Saturni - Ida Barbarigo - Courtesy Museo Fortuny

 IDA BARBARIGO - Herms and Saturns

The Venetian artist, Ida Barbarigo, was born in Venice in 1920. Her husband was the artist, Zoran Music; her mother was the painter and poet, Livia Tivoli; her father was the painter, Guido Cadorin. Erme e Saturni is the result of the last two decades of a lifetime of labor and love. 

An herm is an ancient Greek sculpture for warding off evil, composed of a head, some kind of torso, and strategically-placed male genitals. Herms were often found at crossroads, inscribed with distances-- sort of like well-endowed signposts with magical powers that protected merchants and travelers.

Hermes was an Olympian god in Greek mythology, who morphed into the Roman god Mercury. Hermes was a phallic god who could move freely between the worlds of the mortals and the divine. The impish Hermes was the messenger of the gods, who liked to play practical jokes on god and man alike.

Saturn was an ancient Roman god, supposedly morphed from the Greek god, Cronus. Saturn and Cronus are both associated with time and the harvest, along with other more gruesome things, but one thing they both had in common is that during their "Golden Age" rule, humans enjoyed the beauty of the earth without labor. Imagine!

Saturnalia, the festival in honor of Saturn, was held from December 17 of the Julian calendar until December 23, which is about the end of December, beginning of January these days -- in other words, just about now. Saturnalia was a time to celebrate free speech, role reversals, gift-giving and lots of partying.

It was also the time of the Winter Solstice, which is on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at 5:49 Rome time this year. Get your candles ready!

December 19. 2015 to March 13, 2016

Click for more information.

Happy holidays from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

SPLENDORS OF THE RENAISSANCE IN VENICE - Andrea Schiavone between Parmigianino, Tintoretto and Titian

Schiavone - Holy Family with St. Catherine
Andrea Schiavone Holy Family with St. Catherine & St. John (1552 c.)
(Venice, Italy) There has never been an exhibition dedicated to Andrea Schiavone before, and after 500 years, the artist is finally getting his due here in Venice at the Museo Correr. In addition to 80 works by the Dalmatian artist, some of his more famous contemporaries -- like Titian and Tintoretto -- are also on loan from museums worldwide, including the Louvre, Queen Elizabeth's Royal Collection, and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Born in Zara about 1510, Andrea Meldolla was called "Schiavone," which means "Slav," a term the Venetian Republic used to call their Dalmatian subjects. One of the four historical regions of Croatia, Dalmatia is a narrow coastline region which was under Venetian control for centuries. Dalmatia's strategic location was important to the Queen of the Adriatic.

Not many ordinary people know who Andrea Schiovane was, but he is a big deal in the world of art history. Inspired by the alchemist artist, Parmigianino, and criticized by the father of art history, Giorgio Vasari, Schiavone was an associate of Titian's good buddy, Pietro Aretino, who Wikipedia describes as "an Italian author, playwright, poet, satirist and blackmailer who wielded immense influence on contemporary art and politics and invented modern literate pornography." Schiavone was new and unconventional, and divided the opinion of both the critics and the public.

Titian The Aldobrandini Madonna
Titian The Aldobrandini Madonna (1532 c.)
Schiovane's background is full of mystery. There are only two dates in the life of Andrea Meldolla that can be confirmed: that he died in Venice in 1563, and that he painted the Abduction of Helen in 1547, the only work that he signed and dated. But he associated with the most important artists in Venice at the time, and his work was in the homes of the aristocracy, so he was appreciated in high circles. "Furious with his brush and quick as an arrow," Schiavone was an experimental artist, combining different mediums like drypoint and etching to create his works. Francis L. Richardson, in the Oxford Studies in the History of Art and Architecture, wrote, "Schiavone's role in the development of Titian's ultima maniera perhaps constitutes his greatest contribution to the history of Art." .

Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo, Luigi Brugnaro, Gabriella Belli, Lionello Puppi
Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's controversial new mayor, chose the press conference for Schiavone to announce a major revival of the Civic Museums, saying that few people were aware of the extraordinary quality of art work that was inside the 11 individual museums that are safeguarded by Venice. Brugnaro, who is a wealthy businessman, said that art, if marketed properly, can become an economic resource for the city. The art campaign is to include a massive advertising blitz, as well as educational programs because "art education has to start with the young," and a radical change to the opening hours for the public, including evenings and nights.

I happen to agree with Brugnaro on many of those points, and have been saying the same thing for years -- the museums of Venice have incredible treasures that most people do not know about, and are absolutely in need of a marketing campaign. If another city had just one of Venice's masterpieces, say a Titian, travelers would make a trip just to see it. Venice is bursting with works by Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, to name a few -- and I'd wager that 99% of Americans have no idea who Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese are.

Judith II (Salome) by Gustav Klimt
Gustav Klimt Judith II (Salome) (1909)
If you are a regular reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you know that I have strongly criticized Brugnaro after being personally attacked by him on Twitter, and after he has done things like threaten to sell Gustav Klimt's Judith II (Salome) because it could raise €70 million, and it has "no relation to the artists and cultural history of Venice." Now, that is a flippant thing to say because the reason why the Klimt is here in the first place is because the Venice Biennale made a wise investment and bought it back in 1910 when it was on show during the Venice Biennale, the first Biennale in all the world. But I do agree that we should let people know it is here because just that one Klimt would be enough to draw people into Ca' Pesaro, Venice's International Gallery of Modern Art. When I took that photo of Judith II, there was only one other person in the room. (I do think that many Americans know who Klimt is -- at least they know the images, if not the name.) 

Luigi Brugnaro, Mayor of Venice and Cat Bauer
Luigi Brugnaro and Cat Bauer (iPad)
As I walked around the Schiavone exhibition, I decided that things could not get much worse between me and Luigi Brugnaro, and it was better to make peace. He readily agreed -- he was actually quite charming. We asked someone to snap a few photos with my iPad. The mayor said they were too dark and took a couple of selfies with his cellphone. I am sure he thinks he can change my mind about certain things, and I am just as sure I can change his. So, who knows what will happen in the future, but at least it is start.

Mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro and Cat Bauer
Luigi Brugnaro and Cat Bauer (selfie)
To me, the biggest problem is that Brugnaro does not live here, and does not truly understand the passion the people inside the historic center of Venice feel for their city. The biggest controversy is over the cruise ships. If Brugnaro could understand that the Venetians are trying to protect the lagoon, which has protected Venice for centuries -- that the lagoon is Venice as much as the churches and palazzi, the calli and the campi are -- that would be a step in the right direction. People say the problem with Brugnaro is that he does not listen, and surrounds himself with sycophants who tell him what he wants to hear, rather than listen to people qualified to give opinions. (On Twitter, he also called me, and others, "intellectual hacks.") Venice is like no other city in the world, and the few remaining people who actually live here do so because they truly, deeply love her, and that must be respected.

Schiavone Meeting Between a Man and a Woman
Andrea Schiavone Meeting Between a Man and a Woman (1550 c.)
Brugnaro seemed to enjoy the Schiavone exhibition, and said that the Venice City Council would continue to support similar exhibitions of high caliber, which required detailed research. Splendors of the Renaissance in Venice - Andrea Schiavone between Parmigianino, Tintoretto and Titian runs through April 10, 2016.

Museo Correr
November 28, 2015 - April 10, 2016
CLICK for more information

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Funeral of Valeria Solesin - Venice Transcends Terrorism

(Venice, Italy) Today the sun was brilliant in Piazza San Marco for the funeral of Valeria Solesin, the 28-year-old Venetian doctoral student killed in the Paris attacks on Friday the 13th. Valeria's family and friends have exemplified courage, composure and dignity in the way they have handled the tragedy, embodying the highest human qualities -- in direct contrast to the terrorists who committed the atrocity in which Valeria, and the other 129 victims, were murdered.

Alberto, father: Luciana, mother; Dario, brother & Andrea Ravagnani, fiancé Photo: La Republicca
The family wanted a civil ceremony, and invited people of all faiths to attend. The ceremony opened with the Italian national anthem, followed by the French, and was attended by Sergio Mattarella, the President of Italy, as well as Roberta Pinotti, the Italian Minister of Defense, who read a message from French President Francois Hollande. Also present were Agnes Renzi, the wife of Italy's Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, who was here yesterday to pay his respects; Luca Zaia, the President of the Veneto Region; and Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's mayor. Gino Strada, the president of Emergency, the Italian NGO dedicated to helping civilian victims of war, an organization for which Valeria Solesin was a long-time volunteer, also attended, as well as much of Venice.

Body of Valeria Solesin arrives by gondola
Even though the ceremony was not religious, three major faiths were represented -- Christians by Francesco Moraglia, the Patriarch of Venice; Jews by Rabbi David Bohbot, and Muslims by Iman Hamad Mahamed. Also attending on behalf of the Islamic community of Venice was the president, Mohamed Amin Al Ahdab, who spoke very strongly, to much applause. He said, "Valeria was like own our daughter. We are here to say that she was not killed in the name of our God, nor in the name of our religion, nor in our name. Ours is a religion of peace."

Valeria Solesin died in the arms of her boyfriend, Andrea Ravagnani. Alberto Solesin, Valeria's father, said he felt it was a duty owed to all the "Valerias and Andreas of the world who work, study, suffer and never give up" to be an example of composure and dignity.

Parents of Valeria Solesin - Photo: La Republicca
It was a deeply moving ceremony that transformed the darkest energy into something sacred, dignified  and bright; it was as if the angels themselves were present overhead. The Solesin family personifies the best of La Serenissima, exhibiting the highest qualities of civilization in a time of chaos and anxiety.

Valeria Solesin
The ceremony closed with Beethoven's Ode to Joy, the national anthem of the European Union. Valeria Solesin's coffin was carried by the gondoliers. She will rest on the Island of San Michele, next to her grandfather.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Candlelight Vigil for Valeria Solesin - Venice Victim of Paris Terrorist Attacks

Candlelight Vigil for Valeria Solesin in Piazza San Marco
(Venice, Italy) Thousands of people gathered in Piazza San Marco last evening to honor Valeria Solesin, a young, beautiful, intelligent Venetian woman, one of Venice's -- and the world's -- brightest stars, who was senselessly murdered by Daesh aka ISIL in Paris on Friday night. We gathered to remember all the Paris victims, but especially Valeria, a hometown girl. About seven thousand residents of Venice, young and old, made the journey to the center of the city to hold aloft twinkling points of light, illuminating the darkness that has descended on the planet. Many Venetians arrived with their children.

Valeria Solesin
Valeria Solesin represented everything good, empowering and compassionate about Europe. She was a brilliant young woman, who deeply believed in peace, not war. Valeria grew up in Venice, graduating in 2006, then got her degree at Trento University. For the last four years she lived in Paris as a PhD candidate at the prestigious Sorbonne University, studying sociology, with an emphasis on family and children. For years, she was a volunteer for Emergency, an Italian NGO that provides assistance to the civilian victims of war -- the extreme opposite of everything ISIL represents. She was killed at the Bataclan concert hall at age 28.

Remembering Valeria Solesin in Piazza San Marco
All monsters who use terror as a weapon must be held accountable. Because, what is ISIL? Who created it? ISIL is a Frankenstein demon out of control, a twisted conglomeration of failed policies in the Middle East, created by extreme greed, outrageous abuse of power, and astonishing stupidity by schemers in different governments and "intelligence" agencies. By turning directionless young people into militants, and deliberately targeting successful young people at a rock concert, ISIL is a mirror that reflects the dark state the world is in today.

Remembering Valeria Solesin in Piazza San Marco
Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's mayor, made a poignant statement. I do hope that he is sincere, and that the death of Valeria has shaken him as much as it has all of Venice, all of Italy, all of Europe. He said, "Tonight, let our city be the basis and example for a new European policy. A melting pot, a crossroads of different cultures, as it always was -- we have to start from here... from this piazza finally full of Venetians. We would like it if the whole city could, once again, become a bridge to the intersection of cultures. In fact, from this evening, we could start building a new political Europe, with and for young people."

Now, that statement is nothing new. There are many residents of Venice who have been working for years to do exactly that -- make Venice the crossroads of civilization and cultures, as it always was. But one does not accomplish that by banning books about tolerance immediately after taking office, as Brugnaro did, or by canceling art exhibitions, or by declaring there will never be a gay pride parade in town, or by publicly insulting individuals with whom he disagrees. A future working for the cruise ship industry, which Brugnaro supports, or for massive tourism, does not appeal to Venice's finest, brightest youth, causing them to search elsewhere for opportunities.

If one wants to be a shining example for a new Europe -- which Venice does have the capacity to do -- one must start by building a dignified bridge within one's own community, not take actions that divide it.

Remembering Valeria Solesin in Piazzo San Marco
Let us hope that the harsh reality of Valeria Solesin's murder acts as a catalyst for change, and that we can all work together to bring about hopeful a world for our youth. Rest with the angels, Valeria.

Il Gazzettino
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

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Monday, November 9, 2015

From Venice to Treviso - Escher at the Santa Caterina Museum & Re-Opening of the Bailo Museum

Relativity by Escher (1953)
(Venice, Italy) M.C. Escher, the extraordinary Dutch graphic artist, saw the world with a geometric eye, creating impossible objects like staircases with different gravity sources in the same space. Escher was fascinated by nature and crystals, and enchanted by the Italian landscape, which inspired him to invent worlds where reptiles and birds morphed into the Italian coastal town of Atrani, which linked to a tower in the water, which was actually a rook on a chess board.

Escher flipped reality on its head.

Metamorphosis II by Escher (1939-40)
An Escher exhibition is currently running in Treviso, a small town in the Veneto that packs a powerful punch. Only about 35 minutes from Venice by train, Treviso is the headquarters of several major Italian brands -- like Benetton, De Longhi and Pinarello -- and is definitely worth the trip.

The world of Escher is a fantastic playground for both grownups and children. In addition to three floors of Escher's works, there are interactive games and optical illusions sprinkled throughout the exhibition, as well as clips from movies and commercials inspired by Escher. Even album covers like Mott The Hoople were zapped by Escher.

The curators of the exhibition, Marco Bussagli and Federico Giudiceandrea, are not your typical museum types. Federico Giudiceandrea is the CEO of Microtec, a company that specializes in imaging and machine vision, the ability of a computer to "see." Giudiceandrea is from South Tyrol, and uses artificial vision to inspect wood, important to the local timber industry. Marco Bussagli is an art history professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, and has written a lot about angels, nudes, and Michelangelo, in addition to Escher. This unique partnership has added a dash of magic to mathematics, and has captured the soul of Escher.

Hand with Reflecting Sphere by Escher (1935)
Traveling to Treviso is simple, quick and inexpensive (€3.30 each way). The stroll to the Santa Caterina Museum is about 15 minutes -- longer if you pause along the way to enjoy the specialty shops and eateries that line the cobbled streets and Renaissance squares. The town is full of people who actually live there, and would like it if some of Venice's millions of tourists headed their way.

Dario Franceschini and Cat Bauer Venice Blog
Dario Franceschini and Cat Bauer
I initially went out to Treviso on October 29 for the re-opening of one of their civic museums, the Bailo, a 15th century monastery building which had been closed for 12 years, which now hosts the town's 20th-century art collection. After an extensive restoration, the museum re-opened with much pomp and ceremony: throngs of residents, a baroque orchestra, the mayor -- even Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Culture and Tourism -- appeared. The works of the Treviso-born artist, Arturo Martini (1889-1947) are featured in the beautifully refurbished structure, which also got a new facade and a skylight, transforming the ancient monastery into a contemporary work of art.

Bond of Union by Escher (1956)
The M.C. Escher exhibition came to Treviso by way of Rome and Bologna, and can be seen at the Santa Caterina Museum until April 3, 2015.

October 31, 2015 to April 3, 2016

Museo di Santa Caterina
Tuesday - Sunday 10am - 8pm
Monday - 2:30pm - 8pm
Tickets: €13.00
Info: +39 0422 184 7103
Directions: Take the train to Treviso, walk out the front, and ask how to get to Santa Caterina
More Info (in Italian)
Borgo Cavour, 24

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Island of the Dead - San Michele, Venice - All the Saints and All the Souls

Mary de Rachewiltz at the tomb of parents Ezra Pound & Olga Rudge, Venice, Italy - Photo: Cat Bauer
Mary de Rachewiltz at the tomb of her parents,
Ezra Pound & Olga Rudge
(Venice, Blog) It is uncanny how often I run into Mary de Rachewiltz on All Saints Day on the Isola di San Michele, Venice's cemetery island. This year, I was far away from the tomb of her famous parents, Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, when Mary arrived in the afternoon -- usually I get there earlier, and so does she. I was in a completely different section of the cemetery at the tomb of my Venetian nonni trying to light a candle that the wind kept blowing out. After about ten attempts, I decided to go to the florist at the front of the island and buy a wind-resistant candle. I literally almost ran into Mary as she was heading in.

"Mary!" I cried. "I'm so happy to see you!"

"Cat Bauer!" she exclaimed. "I'm running into everybody today."

Tomb of Ezra Pound, November 1, 2015 - Photo: Cat Bauer - San Michele Cemetery, Venice, Italy
Tomb of Ezra Pound, November 1, 2015 - Photo: Cat Bauer
I told Mary there had been rumors that she was dead, which I had not believed, since I thought I would have heard about it. I had googled her, and saw she was most certainly alive, still going strong at 90 years of age.

We decided to take a photo to document that she was, indeed, alive -- not only alive, but I can attest that she is as witty, feisty and delightful as ever. When I made a remark about her father, she jousted me, jokingly using her cane as a sword.

Tomb of Olga Rudge, November 1, 2015 - Photo: Cat Bauer - San Michele Cemetery, Venice, Italy
Tomb of Olga Rudge, November 1, 2015 - Photo: Cat Bauer
I thought it would be appropriate to shoot the photo in front of her parents' tomb, and off we went; I can also attest she is as spry as ever. Every year Mary comes down from Schloss Brunnenburg, her 13th-century castle up in South Tyrol, to pay respects to her parents: her father, the influential poet Ezra Pound, who died on All Saints Day here in Venice 43 years ago today, two days after his 87th birthday, and her mother, the concert violinist, Olga Rudge, who died at age 101 up at Brunnenburg Castle.

Brunnenburg Castle
I have written about Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day often in the past, because it is a time that holds great personal significance. They say that the dead return to earth at this time, and this I believe. Before my father died, we made an agreement to explore life after death. We agreed on a code word that he would communicate to me if there were life after death. On November 2, 2006, ten years after my father had died, I was about to take an afternoon nap. In that hazy period between wake and sleep, I heard the code word! I said, "Pop! Is that you?" He had been cremated, and apparently there was a problem with the location of his ashes.... which turned out to be true.

Remembering the ancestors is something that should be highlighted in every culture, whether the emotions they bring up are good or bad, happy or sad. The celebration here in Venice of those who have gone before us is a tradition I deeply respect.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Google Cultural Institute and Venice Art Biennale Team Up

Google Cultural Institute at Venice Biennale
(Venice, Italy) The Google Cultural Institute and the Venice Biennale believe in sharing knowledge. Launched in 2011, the Google Cultural Institute is google-izing the world of art and culture in order "to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspired future generations."

Reps from the Google Cultural Institute were here in Venice on October 22, 2015 to open their space over by Ca' Giustinian, La Biennale Headquarters on Calle del Ridotto, and to announce that you can enjoy the 2015 Venice Art Biennale, All the World's Futures, by cyberspace. 

Those of you who have visited the Venice Art Biennale can see it again; those who are still planning to come can get an idea of what you can expect. And those of you who cannot make it to Venice will be able to digitally experience the world's oldest Biennale, which was first held in 1895 -- you can watch it even after it's over.

I am posting the press release below, slightly edited -- the text is tiny; I have tried to reformat it, but am unable. In any event, you can follow the links to wander around the exhibitions of 80 different countries -- almost as good as being in Venice!
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
La Biennale di Venezia and the Google Cultural Institute announced that they are making a selection of artworks and pavilions from the Biennale Arte 2015, curated by Okwui Enwezor, available online on the Google Cultural Institute. The collaboration was announced in Rome on October 21, 2015 at the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, in the presence of the Minister Dario Franceschini, by the President of La Biennale di Venezia Paolo Baratta and the Director of the Google Cultural Institute, Amit Sood.

The project, thanks to the cutting edge technology developed by the Google Cultural Institute, is a first experiment aimed at expanding the possibilities of bringing people closer to the Biennale Arte 2015. On the one hand, it will encourage those who want to explore the exhibition before setting off for Venice, while on the other, it will allow to capture highlight of the exhibition so people can experience the artworks online after the closure of the Biennale Arte on November 22, 2015.
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
Starting from October 21, in the final month of the Biennale Arte, the International Exhibition and the exhibits of 80 Countries in 70 National Pavilions will be accessible online on and Viewers will be able to browse a diverse collection of more than 4,000 artworks and photos in multiple digital exhibitions. Users will also be able to see 360 degree panoramic views of the internal and external exhibitions at Giardini and the Arsenale thanks to more than 80 sites photographed with Street View technology.
The Google Cultural Institute, alongside La Biennale di Venezia, has also created an app for mobile devices which can be downloaded from the Google Play store which grants access to the digital exhibition and allows users to explore two virtual tours using Google Cardboard, a simple virtual reality viewer.
"The collaboration between La Biennale di Venezia and the Google Cultural Institute confirms just how much of a great ally technology can be in appreciating our cultural heritage," said the Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, who also underlined "the importance of technical innovation in broadening cultural communication, in creating new ways of use and overcoming distances, as well as encouraging greater dialogue."
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
“This collaboration with Google is the first and a very important experiment, which I believe can be further developed in the future in a variety of possible, if yet still unknown ways,” said Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia. “We’ll do our best! With more technological abilities we’ll be able to better link them with a stronger editorial ability, making better use of technology both for our documentation as well as to support the public. This bet on using modern technologies is most definitely not aimed to substitute the experience in person with virtual viewing, but, on the contrary, to compliment and enrich the direct viewing experience.
A peek backstage - Google in Venice

“We are proud to work with La Biennale di Venezia, a world-leading exhibition that brings many countries, cultures and their approaches to art to the center of the cultural debate" said Amit Sood, Director of the Google Cultural Institute. "The Internet is a powerful tool for the democratization of art and culture, a force that helps cultural institutions to extend their impact. It empowers cultural institutions to make their artworks and treasures accessible to a greater number of people in the world and preserve them for the future”.
A peek backstage - Google in Venice
La Biennale di Venezia, founded in 1865, stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends and organizes exhibitions and researches in all its specific sectors: Art (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.
The Google Cultural Institute and its partners are putting the world’s cultural treasures at the fingertips of Internet users and are building tools that allow the cultural sector to share more of its diverse heritage online. The Google Cultural Institute has partnered with more than 800 institutions giving a platform to over 170 thousand artworks and a total of 6 million photos, videos, manuscripts and other documents of art, culture and history.

Happy exploring!

Ciao from Venezia,

Friday, October 23, 2015

Venice and the Cruise Ships - Blocked Gianni Berengo Gardin Exhibition Opens in Piazza San Marco

Venice and the Cruise Ships by Gianni Berengo Gardin - Courtesy Fondazione Forma
(Venice, Italy) Gianni Berengo Gardin, whom The Telegraph called "Italy's Greatest Photographer," was supposed to have an exhibition opening at Palazzo Ducale on September 19, 2015 about the cruise ships in Venice entitled, Monsters in Venice. Luigi Brugnaro, the controversial new mayor of Venice, and a strong supporter of the cruise ship industry, postponed the exhibition to coincide with an exhibit about his own plans for the lagoon. Berengo Gardin would not accept those conditions, and the show was cancelled.

In addition, Brugnaro accused Berengo Gardin of "distorting" the photos to make the cruise ships appear larger by using a telephoto lens, prompting all sorts of ordinary citizens to display their own photos and professional photographers to challenge what he said. Even further, Mayor Brugnaro accused Berengo Gardin of "denigrating" Venice -- the mayor used the same word to publicly attack me, Cat Bauer, on Twitter, as well as other people who care deeply about the welfare of La Serenissima. .

Gianni Berengo Gardin courtesy of Forma Foundation
Yesterday, October 22, 2015, the Gianni Berengo Gardin VENEZIA E LE GRANDI NAVI exhibition opened 200 meters away from Palazzo Ducale in the Olivetti Showroom designed by the renowned architect, Carlo Scarpa, in Piazza San Marco. The line waiting outside the door proved that banning an exhibition is sure to draw a crowd.

The exhibition was presented by FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the Italian Environment Fund, sort of like an Italian National Trust, in collaboration with Forma per la Fotografia e Contrasto, and was curated by Alessandra Mauro.

Andrea Carandini, the President of FAI stated, "The aim of this exhibition is not alimentary improvisations and controversy, but to open a new phase for Venice, even with opponents, which is, finally, not based on gossip, closed minds and partial studies, but on as much research as possible about the miraculous, complicated and fragile natural system, and the social and cultural development of the lagoon city, viewed as a wonderful complex." FAI hopes to ignite a discussion about excessive tourism all throughout Italy. 

Venezia e le Grandi Navi by Gianni Berengo Gardin - courtesy Fondazione Forma
The 85-year-old Gianni Berengo Gardin wrote a letter to Mayor Luigi Brugnaro -- a wealthy, conservative businessman who made his money with a temp agency called "Umana Holding," or "Human Holding," who was born on the mainland and does not live in Venice, is a father of five children by two different wives who yanked books about tolerance and different kinds of families from Venice's pre-schools, and whose Beat-poet father was the leader of the factory workers in Marghera. Berengo Gardin's letter expresses how it feels to come under personal attack by the new mayor. 

I have translated the letter into American English (for example, Italians don't say "shoot yourself in the foot," it's more like, "hit yourself in the foot with a hoe"), below:


by Gianni Berengo Gardin

I'm very sorry when someone shoots themselves in the foot; therefore, I'm sorry for the mayor of Venice. I'm also very grateful because blocking my exhibit at Palazzo Ducale did me a big favor: all the Italian newspapers and foreign press (Le Monde, The Guardian, El Pais, The New York Times, and many others) have written about it extensively. And probably, if it were not for all this attention from the press, the exhibition would be seen by far fewer people.

I must also be grateful to Celentano (the best-selling Italian singer Adriano Celentano, who strongly supported Berengo Gardin) and all artists, architects, intellectuals and ordinary citizens who have stood up for me. I must also thank Roberto Koch and Alessandra Mauro of the Forma Foundation, who curated the exhibition and the book; without their commitment this exhibition would not be possible. And naturally, FAI.

I am doubly happy that FAI invited me to display my photos at the Olivetti Store in Piazza San Marco: I photographed several works for the designs of the architect Carlo Scarpa, and for over 15 years worked for Olivetti. 

Mayor Brugnaro insulted me several times: he called me a "loser", an "intellectual hack" and a "Solone." He said that I denigrated Venice. He called me an "untouchable" -- I didn't know that, and I thank him for educating me -- and he attacked me for having a double last name.  

My family has been Venetian for five generations. We had a store of Venetian crafts and glass pearls in Calle Larga San Marco. The Berengo Gardin store was cited in 1905 by the writer Frederick Rolfe Baron Corvo in his book about Venice, The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole (1909, Cassell, London, 1934). My grandparents' house overlooked Piazzetta dei Leoncini; my father was practically born in Piazza San Marco; and, as for me, even if I was born in S. Margherita Ligure, I lived in Venice for 30 years. My wife is Venetian and my children were born in Venice. 

For this reason, the problem of the cruise ships passing through the Venice lagoon is particularly close to my heart: because I feel venezianissimo (Venetian to the extreme).

Maybe the mayor does not know that I also dedicated as many as 10 books to Venice, exalting in every way her beauty, starting with one of my first, Venise de Saison, published in 1965.

Next, regarding the accusation that I used some kind of "telephoto lens" to create artificial effects, I would stress the fact that I even had to use a wide-angle lens because the ships were so big they did not fit into the viewfinder of the camera. Only in some cases did I use a 90 millimeter lens, which is not telephoto. 

To conclude, Mayor Brugnaro must know that the Italian Constitution, Article 21, says: "Everyone has the right to freely express their thoughts in speech, writing or any other means of communication." 

Venezia e Le Grandi Navi by Gianni Berengo Gardin - courtesy Fondazione Forma
The photo exhibition of Gianni Berengo Gardin Venezia e Le Grandi Navi runs from October 22, 2015 until January 6, 2016.

Gianni Berengo Gardin
Venezia e le grandi navi
October 22, 2015 to January 6, 2016

Olivetti Showroom
Piazza San Marco 101
Tel. 041 5228387

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog