Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Contemporary Art Galvanizes Historic Villa Barbaro in the Veneto

Red Line by Doron Gazit - Photo: Cat Bauer 
(with thanks to photographer Manfredi Bellati for designing the composition)
(Venice, Italy) Until September, the first thing you will see when you approach Villa Barbaro is a shocking red tube splashed across the front of the meadow, woven through the branches of dead trees. It is the work of environmental artist David Gazit, who draws red lines, not with a pencil, but with long red tubes.

In November 2018, Northern Italy was ravaged by storms and winds that razed 14 million trees -- trees that once provided the lumber to build the ships of the Republic of Venice. It was a devastating blow to the ecosystem. As a long-term Californian and Israeli, Gazit is on the leading edge of the struggle against environmental degradation, and uses his works as bright exclamation points. "It is the blood of the trees that died."

The installation is the eye-catching intro to Casa di Vita - Armonia del tempo, the first contemporary art show at Villa Barbaro, the historic Palladian masterpiece in Maser designed by Andrea Palladio with frescoes by Paolo Vernonese and sculptures by Alessandro Vittoria, each man working at the top of his game. Part of the ArtLife for the World project, and curated by Simonetta Gorreri Casini in collaboration with Giovanna Poggi Marchesi and Villa di Maser, the contemporary exhibition is a dynamic interaction between past and present

Ancient & Contemporary art meet at Villa Barbaro - Photo: Cat Bauer
The ongoing project of ArtLife for the World is to install great works of environmental art in historical venues throughout the Veneto. The works of 20 different contemporary Italian and international artists are sprinkled throughout the spacious grounds and the interior of the first floor of the 16th-century Villa, truly transforming it into a "Home of Life."

The Nature of the Present by Chicco Margaroli - Photo: Cat Bauer
Leaves that fell last year from the walnut trees behind Villa Barbaro
in transparent treasure chests of protein jelly
The inauguration was uplifting and filled with warmhearted energy -- especially moving as the vibrant heiress of Villa di Maser, Diamante Luling Boschetti, had passed away in April of last year -- you could feel her smiling from the heavens. Diamante was the granddaughter of the wealthy industrialist Count Giuseppe Volpi, who had bought the neglected Villa in 1934 for his daughter, Marina, and restored it to its Renaissance splendor.

Vittorio Dalle Ore & real-life "Little Dog" - Photo: Cat Bauer
Diamante and her husband, Vittorio Dalle Ore, continued the tradition, lovingly caring for the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is also an agricultural estate with its own vineyards and award-winning wines. Vittorio hosted the inauguration followed faithfully by his small pack of Kooikerhondje Spaniels, the famous Veronese "Little Dog" brought to life.

Palladio's Tempietto at Villa Barbaro - Photo: Cat Bauer
In April 2016, I wrote a post entitled Villa Barbaro - Paradise on Earth - Palladio & Veronese in the Veneto after my first visit to Villa Barbaro. Here is an excerpt:

Tradition says that Palladio died in Maser in 1580 while working on the building of the Tempietto, the last structure he designed (along with the Teatro Olimpico, a Renaissance theatre in Vicenza), and the first religious structure to be attached to a Palladian villa. Designing the Tempietto was a dream come true for Palladio, allowing him to combine a circle and a Greek cross, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. The Temple served the Villa Barbaro, and was also the church of Maser, located at the foot of the hill where the villa stands.
Interior of Palladio's Tempietto at Villa Barbaro - Photo: Cat Bauer
On Saturday, I had the rare privilege to enter Palladio's vision, together with a small private group. It was a great honor to witness the sacred structure from the inside and gaze upon the sculptures by Alessandro Vittoria. Palladio and Marcantonio Barbaro both believed that the design was the epitome of the perfect religious building, even though it reflected the Pantheon, a pagan Roman structure. Constructing the Tempietto was the fulfillment of their long-held dream, and seeing it with my own eyes was a deeply emotional experience; I felt as if I were in the presence of divine energy harnessed by humankind.

Contemporary art in ancient Nymphaeum at Villa Barbero - Photo: Cat Bauer
A visit to Villa di Maser should also include a stop at the farmhouse next to the Villa where you can sample the wine and try the tasting menus that feature the best local food from the region. Casa di Vita - Armonia del tempo runs through September 15, 2019. Go to Villa di Maser for more information.


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

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Banksy Crashes Venice and Improves the Neighborhood

Ca' Banksy in Venice - Photo: Cat Bauer
Ca' Banksy - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) The Art World is buzzing because Banksy, that elusive artist, painted a mural on the wall of a building in Venice that has been closed for years. So, yesterday, I went over to Campo San Pantalon to have a look for myself. The mural on the Rio Novo canal is easy to spot. It depicts a migrant child wearing a life jacket, dreadlocks flowing in the breeze, with a hand raised high holding a pink flare.

I stopped in the shop next door to ask who owned the building. First the kindly shopkeeper gave me a lengthy presentation about the hand-painted Russian lacquered papier-mâché boxes on display after I told her someone had given me two of the beautiful boxes as gifts. It was educational, because I had no idea about the history of Russian lacquer art, which was developed from icon painting after the collapse of Imperial Russia. Then I asked her who owned the building.

"Why? Do you want to buy it? It costs 4.5 million euro, and you can talk to the real estate agent in Campo Santa Margherita about it."

Banksy mural in Venice, Italy - Photo: Cat Bauer
Banksy mural in Venice - Photo: Cat Bauer
So, over to Santa Margherita I went and found the office of Engel & Volkers. I asked the woman at the reception desk if what the shopkeeper had told me was true.

"It was 4.5 million euro, but now it is 'price upon request.'"

"You must be happy."

"We are very happy. Banksy just claimed ownership of the mural two hours ago on his Instagram, and we are still trying to understand all the implications..."

Street Artist in Venice on YouTube



On Wednesday, Banksy had uploaded a video on his YouTube channel with the caption:
Setting out my stall at the Venice Biennale.

Despite being the largest and most prestigious art event in the world, for some reason I’ve never been invited.
The video sends an effective message about the cruise ships in Venice.

I just love Banksy...

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

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Let's Talk About that Controversial Boat - “Barca Nostra” at the Venice Art Biennale

Barca Nostra - Christoph Büchel - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Let's talk about that boat.

Barca Nostra (Our Boat), an installation by Swiss artist Christoph Büchel at the Venice Art Biennale, is causing all sorts of controversy.

On the night of the 18th of April, 2015, just off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, a fishing boat designed for a maximum crew of 15 set off from Libya with between 700 and 1,100 migrants crammed into its hull when it collided with an enormous Portuguese merchant ship trying to come to its rescue. After it sank, only 28 people survived. It was the largest single loss of life in decades.

Before the shipwreck, the Italian Navy and Air Force had run a search and rescue operation called "Mare Nostrum," which was credited with saving thousands of lives. But it was extremely expensive for one member state of the European Union to handle the overwhelming flow of migrants -- Italy is just a treacherous hop across the Mediterranean from North Africa. Simply put, to reach the EU, and the hope of finding a better way of life, one of the shortest routes is to get on a boat from Africa to Italy. Similar to migrants crossing from Mexico to the United States, they cross from Africa to Italy -- except there is no need for a wall; there is, instead, the harrowing Mediterranean Sea.

Despite Italy's request for additional funds to run the operation, the EU did not offer more support. Instead, it was replaced by Operation Triton, managed by the EU's border agency, Frontex. Triton's area of operation was much more limited in scope than Mare Nostrum, and they called more often on merchant ships to assist with migrant rescues -- huge cargo carriers to save small fishing boats -- according to the normal rules of navigation, which impose the obligation of providing assistance to boats in distress upon which ship is closest.

After the tragedy, the Italian government decided to retrieve the shipwreck at a cost of 9.5 million euros, and began the laborious and distressing work of identifying the bodies to give them some dignity. The fishing boat was transported to the Pontile Marina Militare di Melilli (NATO) in the Port of Augusta, Sicily where an average of 150 people a day -- professionals and volunteers -- worked to extract hundreds of bodies, perform autopsies and attempt to identify the victims so they could inform the families and have a proper burial. Nuns came from all over Sicily to volunteer their services. That operation concluded in 2017 at a cost of 23 million euros.

All sorts of proposals of what to do with the wreck were then put on the table, including sending it to Brussels so the EU could take responsibility for the migrant crisis; putting it in a Human Rights Museum in Milan; or floating it throughout Europe as a human rights symbol. 

This year, on April 18, 2019, the fourth anniversary of the shipwreck, the Italian government handed the boat over to the Commune of Augusta in Sicily, which worked with the Swiss artist Christoph Büchel on the Barca Nostra project. (We can only imagine what negotiations went on behind the scenes to make that happen.) According to a press release:

"The project facilitates a symbolic transfer of the status of the shipwreck that changes its legal status from a former object of court evidence to an artifact, considered “a special vessel to be disposed of” by ministerial decree, to a “bene culturale”, a significant symbol of our “interesting times” and collective complicity and memory, resulting in its first public exhibition at the Arsenale in Venice."

Barca Nostra - Christoph Büchel - Photo: Cat Bauer
And now the wreck is here in Venice as part of the Biennale. Some critics find it outrageous, especially since it is located right next to an outdoor refreshment cafe. But that is not how most people will first encounter it. Most people will come out of the dimly-lit Indonesian pavilion, as I did, and get smacked in the face with the haunting shipwreck looming over them. The shock of the encounter took my breath away. 

One criticism is that because there are no labels informing the visitor what it is, most people will not know what terror took place aboard that boat. I, for one, knew the boat was at Biennale, but did not know exactly where it was, and was certainly not thinking about it when it rattled my bones.

I think Barca Nostra is exactly where it is should be, and where it will stay until La Biennale concludes on November 24. Instead of all those souls dead and forgotten, the shock of actually seeing the boat is deeply emotional and disturbing. With or without a label, the migrant shipwreck has a much higher profile with its appearance at La Biennale than it ever had before.

Whether we will actually do something about it is another debate.

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

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

LIVE! From the 2019 Venice Art Biennale - May You Live in Interesting Times

Robert Henry Lawrance Jr. by Tavares Strachan (2018) Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) I love the way Ralph Rugoff's mind works. He has tamed the humongous Biennale beast by reducing the number of artists and organizing the vast Arsenale space into smaller compartments.

Even though Rugoff says that this year there is no theme, the artists he invited to participate have captured the essence of the title, "May You Live in Interesting Times." That "ancient Chinese curse" seems particularly pertinent today, and has been cited over the past 80 years by authors and politicians ranging from Arthur C. Clarke to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Only one problem: the curse was utter fiction presumably fabricated by a British diplomat -- there was never any such curse in China.

The curator of the 58th Venice Art Biennale is an American who grew up in Greenwich Village, and whose father was a film distributor. Rugoff studied semiotics(!) at Brown University, then moved to Los Angeles to give screenwriting a shot. He switched to journalism and art critcism, then segued into curating, and has been the Director of the Hayward Gallery of London since 2006. According to an April 10, 2019 article in The New York Times "A Playful Curator Takes on a Tough Gig at the Venice Biennale" by Farah Nayeri, "He recalled watching lots of movies as a boy, and being dragged to art galleries by his parents." That colorful background is reflected in the layout of Arsenale and the artists he has chosen. There are signs, symbols and lots of video and film installations, so be prepared to spend time watching a story play out.

No history in a room filled with people with funny names 5 2018, Korakrit Arunanondchai & Alex Gvojic
After making a surprisingly emotional journey from the entrance at Arsenale -- a bombardment of the senses -- until arriving at the press room, one installation completely captivated me: a 31-minute 2018 short film on three screens entitled No history in a room filled with people with funny names 5 by Korakrit Arunanondchai in collaboration with Alex Gvojic, which I think is a masterpiece. There are women playing light beams like strings on a harp... Remember the dramatic Thai Cave Rescue with the soccer boys and their coach trapped in a cave? That has something to do with it, too. And the mesmerizing movements of the performance artist, Boychild... I don't have enough time to adequately describe it, so here is a summary from the International Film Festival Rotterdam:

Opening with the myth of spirits summoning projectionists to initiate an outdoor film projection, artist Korakrit Arunanondchai’s dynamic film is charged with the idea of community – among humans and non-humans – in Thailand’s contemporary moment of instability. Boys trapped in a cave trigger a reflection on the geopolitics of the region and the fragility of its history.
Arunanondchai was born in Thailand in 1986 and lives and works in New York and Bangkok; Alex Gvojic was born in 1984 in the USA and lives and works in New York. Although you can enter in the middle of the film, it is much better to watch it from the beginning. There are plenty of cushions so you can relax in the same "outdoor setting" as the audience seen in the film, but I was so riveted by Boychild's dancing that I stood the entire time. 

48 War Movies by Christian Marclay (2019) Photo: Cat Bauer
From what I've seen so far, this year's Biennale is one of the most accessible and enjoyable that I can remember, and other attendees I've spoken to share my view. At this morning's press conference, President Paolo Baratta spoke about "the visitor as a partner" and said "It's work to encounter a work of art." 

It may be work, but it's also fun. Tomorrow, Giardini!

Ciao from the Venice Art Festival,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Thursday, 18 April 2019

The Battle Between Carnival and Feast - Adrian Ghenie at Palazzo Cini Gallery in Venice

Adrian Ghenie, Figure with Dog, 2019, Oil on canvas, 250×200 cm (98,4 x 78,7 in)
Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London· Paris, Salzburg
© Adrian Ghenie
(Venice, Italy) The new season at Palazzo Cini Gallery kicks off with the celebrated Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie, whose paintings not only engage with the history of painting, but also with "painting the texture of history."

As did painters before him, Ghenie fuses grand themes and narratives with contemporary figures and current events. The Battle Between Carnival and Feast, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, presents nine recent paintings, some painted specifically for this exhibition. The paintings focus on the conflict and turmoil caused by today's geo-political issues united by the theme of water. Here are the titles:

  • The Wall (2019)
  • The Raft (2019)
  • The Drowning (2019)
  • Figure with Dog (2019)
  • Self-Portrait with Animal Mask (2018)
  • Self-Portrait with iPhone (2018)
  • Untitled (2018)
  • Untitled (2019)
  • Untitled (2019)

The Raft by Adrian Ghenie - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Raft, the largest painting in the group, reveals a floating life raft surmounted by a mass of "vulnerable, naked legs and feet, set against a tumultuous sea and sky." It reminds us of the images we see in today's news of the perilous journeys that refugees are forced to make to escape conflict.

The subject of the three Untitled paintings is easily recognizable...

Untitled 2018, 2019, 2019 by Adrian Ghenie - Photos: Cat Bauer
The Palazzo Cini Gallery in Dorsoduro was once the house of the 20th century industrialist and philanthropist Vittorio Cini (1885-1977). The second floor, where you will find Adrian Ghenie, is devoted to exhibitions and cultural events. The first floor recreates the charm of Cini's residence and a glimpse into his private collection.

Adrian Ghenie The Battle Between Carnival and Feast runs from April 19 to November 18, 2019, and is free to residents of Venice on April 25. Please go to the Giorgio Cini Foundation for more information.

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

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Rare Chance to see Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" at Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice 2019

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci (1490)
(Venice, Italy) One of the most famous drawings in the world, Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), whose home is the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice, is rarely put on display because of its fragile nature. Now, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death, the Accademia has mounted an exhibition entitled Leonard da Vinici. Model Man of the World, which features the delicate ink on paper drawing.

Leonardo da Vinici. L'Uomo Modello del Mondo - Photo: Cat Bauer
The exhibition showcases drawings by Leonardo that once belonged to the collection of the artist and writer Giuseppe Bossi (1777-1815), which was purchased in 1822 by the Gallerie dell'Accademia, the owner of the largest public drawing archive in Italy. The Accademia has 25 of Leonardo's folios, ranging from his early pieces made in Florence to his final works in France. The exhibition allows the visitor to get up close and personal with the genius of Leonardo, down to every stroke of his pen.

The focus of the show is Leonardo's study of human proportions, which culminates in the Vitruvian Man, "a superb combination of art and science, the fruit of an unparalleled summary of the harmonious representation that symbolizes the classical perfection of the body and mind, and a human microcosm that reflects the entire universe."

Head of Christ with crown of thorns by da Vinci (1500) - Photo: Cat Bauer
Leonardo came to Venice in March 1500, accompanied by his good friend, the mathematician Luca Pacioli, where they rubbed shoulders with the likes of Giorgione, Jacopo de'Barbari and Albrecht Durer. Putting on his hat as an engineer, Leonardo even created a defense system to ward off the threat of a Turkish invasion, which was never built.

Eleven original drawings are also on loan from the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, as well as seven by Leonardo's students, a sculpture and volumes documenting his research.

LEONARDO DA VINCI. L'UOMO MODELLO DEL MONDO is curated by Annalisa Perissa Rorrini and Valeria Poletto, and runs from April 17 to July 14, 2019. Go to the Gallerie dell'Accademia for more information.

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

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Looking Far to the Future: San Marco - The Basilica of Venice in the Third Millennium

Sala del Maggior Consiglio - Great Council Chamber - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Power. Glory. Wealth. The sheer magnificence of the Great Council Chamber inside Palazzo Ducale is overwhelming. The immense hall was where the noblemen of the Great Council of the Venetian Republic convened, the 1,000 to 2,000 aristocrats who composed the most important political body of Venice and who were the guardians of the laws of State. The Great Council met for the first time in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in 1423.

After a fire on December 20, 1577, the structural damage was quickly restored and the gilded room was decorated by the greatest artists of the time, such as Veronese, Palma il Giovane, Francesco Bassano and Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto, whose gigantic Il Paradiso is one of the world's largest paintings. On the walls, historic battles and triumphs bombard the eyes with the glorification of Venice. Portraits of the first 76 Doges run in the frieze under the ceiling.

Great Council Chamber - "San Marco - The Basilica in the Third Millennium" Photo: Cat Bauer
Yesterday, April 13, 2019, nearly 600 years after the Great Council first met in the Sala del Maggior, a conference was held here to discuss the fate of an even more ancient Venetian structure: "San Marco - The Basilica in the Third Millennium." With the Tintoretto Il Paradiso as the backdrop, the setting for the conference shows the importance that Venice still places today on the condition of St. Mark's Basilica, which was first built in 832, rebuilt in 978 after it was burned in a rebellion, and whose current structure was consecrated on October 8, 1094. When you've got sacred architecture still standing for nearly a thousand years, the challenges that Venice will face far in the future, in the Basilica's third millennium, are not taken lightly.

Basilica of San Marco

According to John Julius Norwich:
"Nowhere in the Western world, not in Ravenna or Aachen or even in Rome itself, had so sumptuous a monument been raised to the Christian God..."
"La Basilica di San Marco di Venezia. Arte, storia, conservazione," a beautiful three-volume book published by Marsilio, was presented at the conference. It includes essays by more than 60 different experts written in a language accessible to a wide audience about "the splendor of a basilica suspended halfway between East and West which contains priceless treasures of faith and art." If the expert wrote their essay in Italian, as did most of the experts, Marsilio published it Italian. However, if the expert wrote in English, it was published in English, so you will find both languages in the books, in addition to exclusive photos.

With images that peek into the most secret corners of the Basilica, the book covers the history of thirty years of restorations, and is also a starting point for new ideas.  


Pala D'Oro & tomb of St. Mark on high altar of Basilica - Photo: Cat Bauer
The office of the Procurator, whose duties were to attend to St. Mark's Basilica, was established in the ninth century. These days the Procurators are still in charge of administering the Basilica under the authority of the Patriarch of Venice. Carlo Alberto Tesserin, the highest Procurator, was on the opening panel, as was Mons. Francesco Moraglia, the Patriarch of Venice, as well as representatives from the State -- Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's mayor, Gianluca Forcolin, the Vice-President of the Veneto Region, and Vincenzo Zoccano, the Undersecretary of State.

Climate change and the increasing frequency of acqua alta (high water) is one of the greatest challenges that the conservation of the Basilica faces. Another is mass tourism. In 2018, a whopping 5.5 million visitors entered the Basilica. Zoccano said, "Politics cannot divide such important issues. The government wants to be close to the Venetians and their city, which is a world heritage. We will not draw back from this responsibility." They also want to make it easier for private donations to receive greater tax deductions.

To me, one of the most fascinating speakers was the Byzantine scholar, Peter Schreiner, from the University of Cologne and Munich, who was on the round table held after the refreshing coffee break in the Sala dello Scrutinio. He spoke about the origins of the Basilica, and how Venice was influenced by Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. He said that it was important to remember that the Roman Empire in the East was Greek and pagan, not Latin, as in the West. I wrote an extensive post about Istanbul aka Constantinople in 2016, which gives more details about the long, complex history:

From Venice to Istanbul and Back



La Cappella Marciana - Photo: Cat Bauer
After an excellent Cocktail Dînatoire by Venetian stalwart Rosa Salva, again in the Sala dello Scrutinio, we went down to the courtyard and through the door that connects Palazzo Ducale to the Basilica of San Marco. Inside, we were treated to the heavenly voices of La Cappella Marciana conducted by Marco Gemmani, a vocal chorus directly descended from the more than five-century-old cappella of the Doge. It is considered the oldest professional music group that is still active. Here is a taste. Listen:



On the evening before Palm Sunday, the voices of the chorus filled the Basilica with the music of the angels. The Pala D'Oro beamed its golden wisdom. The mosaics on the walls and the domes and the apses whispered their ancient stories. The deep spirituality of the Republic of Venice washed over me, and lifted my spirits.

Afterwards, I said to a Venetian friend, "I feel... clean."

"Purified," she replied in English.

"Yes. Purified is the word."

For the sake of the planet, the Basilica of San Marco must prepare for its Third Millennium. 

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

Monday, 8 April 2019

La Biennale Dance 2019 & Paolo Baratta's Profound Remarks

President Paolo Baratta & Director Marie Chouinard - Photo by Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) ON BEcCOMING A SmArT GOd-dESS is the title of the 2019 La Biennale di Venezia International Festival of Contemporary Dance, directed by the effervescent Marie Chouinard. It runs for 10 days, from June 21-30, with 29 shows by 22 choreographers and companies from all over the world in venues throughout Venice.

Towards the end of the press conference today, President Paolo Baratta made some profound remarks about the nature of La Biennale itself, which I will attempt to paraphrase.

This institution, La Biennale, is relevant for the life of a society. We are all challenged to have have an existence between the order that is necessary and the undisciplined part of us that art represents. The arts can have a radical impact when the established order becomes too hardened. Art challenges excessive order.

The World of Art is the inner voice, the undisciplined part of us. It might be seen from time to time as an enemy. In fact, it is an enemy that fights against the established order.

This is our job.

It is very interesting that La Biennale is a public institution created by the State. We are part of the establishment. This is, perhaps, European.

We are here... this permanent revolution... this permanent remembrance...

That is just the gist of what I could compile together from my scribbled notes -- President Baratta was much more eloquent. But if you think about it, how astonishing is it that a governmental organization of the Arts is in place to constantly challenge the established Order of society?

In 1893, the Venice City Council passed a resolution to establish a biennial exhibition of Italian art to celebrate the silver anniversary of the Italian King and Queen, Umberto I and Margherita di Savoia. The First International Art Exhibition of the City of Venice opened on April 30, 1895. Throughout the decades, two World Wars, student revolutions and other disruptions, the organization constantly evolved to arrive at what it is today, a thriving cultural institution. These days, the president of La Biennale is appointed by the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Italy. Paolo Baratta has been its President since 2008, and before that from 1998 to 2001.

For a general overview of the different sectors of this "cultural colossus with a conscience," you can read my LUXOS article, A Biennale for all the Senses.

And for more information about the exciting Dance program that was presented in Venice today, please go to Biennale Danza 2019.

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

Friday, 5 April 2019

Food, Glorious Food! San Giorgio Café with Filippo La Mantia opens in Venice

San Giorgio Café with Filippo La Mantia - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) The Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, one of the loveliest, most peaceful and spiritual islands on the globe, now adds great cuisine to its offerings with the opening of the San Giorgio Café and food created by one of Italy's most renowned cooks, Filippo La Mantia.

With origins that date back to the ninth century, the Benedictine monastery on San Giorgio hosted Cosimo de' Medici when he was exiled from Florence in 1433. The Gothic church, Refectory and second Cloister were designed by the great architect Andrea Palladio himself. It hosted the Papal Conclave in 1799. After being transformed by Count Vittorio Cini as an homage to his son, Giorgio, who died tragically in a plane crash, it hosted the G7 summit twice, in 1980 and 1987.

I have been writing about happenings on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore and the Giorgio Cini Foundation for more than a decade. Here's an article I wrote for Luxos Magazine which will give you an overview:

San Giorgio Maggiore: A Heavenly Island in Venice - where Humanism meets heaven



Filippo La Mantia at San Giorgio Café - Photo: Cat Bauer
The only thing missing from the island was some good food. Now, with the opening of San Giorgio Café, it is practically perfect. This "gastronomical project" was conceived by the Giorgio Cini Foundation "to optimize the reception services of the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore," and was designed and created by D'Uva, a digital interpretation laboratory that offers interactive experiences and collaborates with museums and churches with Ilaria D'Uva at the helm, together with the dynamic Sicilian cook, Filippo La Mantia.

Filippo La Mantia was born in Palermo in 1960, and used to be a press photographer for crime columns, documenting the mafia war in the Sicilian capital in the 1980s. At age 42, he flipped his life around by moving to Rome and becoming a cook. He calls himself a "oste e cuoco" -- a "host and cook" and serves up traditional food with a Sicilian approach -- but there are some Venetian dishes, like risi e bisi (rice and peas) on the menu, which also includes Mantia's specialty, caponata di melanzane (eggplant 'caponata') that was so good I had two portions. And I learned what it really means to eat pasta "al dente."

Filippo La Mantia in the kitchen of San Giorgio Café - Photo: Cat Bauer
In Filippo's own words:

...I've tried to make it simple, captivating and traditional. I've played around with my own tradition and the Venetian one because I respect all the regions of Italy even though I always give precedence to my own Sicily, starting from Palermo. For example, I've read that rice was brought to Venice by the Arabs, and in fact a typical dish will be risi e bisi, or rice and peas. It will always be on the menu along with spaghetti with tomato and spaghetti with clams.
In my opinion, people coming to Italy must absolutely eat Italian. The menu will vary continuously; it must be a kind of prolongation of home, like "I'm going shopping, then I'll cook," and that's it.
I hope to be able to make frequent use of the kitchen garden of the Benedictine monks, our neighbors, and use all their produce which is grown with such care and love. In the end every project to do with hospitality and food is an act of love. I want everyone sharing this adventure with me always to have a smile on their lips. Hospitality, art and food are the elements which best represent Italians all over the world...

Personally, I think Pasquale Gagliardi, General Secretary of the Giorgio Cini Foundation, is a genius. Over the past 20 years, he has overseen the enhancement of the island, including Le Stanze del Vetro (Rooms of Glass), where you can visit a continually revolving, rich program featuring blown glass, and the new Lo Squero auditorium, where you can enjoy concerts with a stupendous view of the lagoon in the background.

Upstairs interior San Giorgio Café - Photo: Cat Bauer
The new San Girogio Café with Filippo La Mantia is the only refreshment place on the Island of San Giorgio with 80 place settings (about 50 outdoor) where you can enjoy a decent meal from morning to evening, or simply relax with a cocktail and watch the sunset. The interior is warm and friendly, with décor by Studio Architetto Paolo Richelli, and especially welcoming when the weather is not fine.

The kitchen is open all day every day except Wednesday, starting with breakfast at 10 AM. For now, dinner is available on Fridays and Saturdays or on request for special events. There will also be a €25 Buffet (not including drinks) with about 12-15 different offerings -- vegetarian cous cous, fish, chicken, pastas, rice, vegetable dishes, salads, etc.

The San Giorgio Café opens to the public on April 6, 2019. Go to San Giorgio Café, the café/restaurant of the Island of San Giorgio for more information.

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

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Ocean Space throws Open the Doors of the Ancient Church of San Lorenzo in Venice

Ocean Space - Moving Off the Land by Joan Jonas
(Venice, Italy) The Church of San Lorenzo, a towering structure with exposed bricks and no elaborate facade, sat alone and closed for more than a century except for a few temporary installations. For years, stray cats were its only friends. Its roof was leaking and there was a gaping hole in the floor. The current church was built in 1592-1602, and deconsecrated in 1810 after the invasion of Napoleon's troops and the fall of the Venetian Republic.

In the early 20th century, a series of archaeological excavations were conducted to search for the remains of the great Venetian explorer, Marco Polo, who was rumored to have been buried in the church. They didn't find Marco Polo, but they did find remnants of an original 9th century church.

The Church of San Lorenzo has been the site for temporary installations over the past few decades, most notably Renzo Piano's architectural intervention for the presentation of Luigi Nono's opera Prometheus as part of the Biennale di Venezia International Music Festival in 1984, and a sonic intervention by artist Ariel Guzik for the 2012 Mexican Pavilion of La Biennale International Art Festival. Then it was closed again.

Enter TBA21-Academy, who, in 2016, took out a long-term lease and has been working to make repairs in order to transform the enormous space into an embassy for the oceans. 

Inauguration of Ocean Space at Church of San Lorenzo - Photo: Cat Bauer
On March 23, 2019, the ancient doors of the Church of San Lorenzo were thrown open to the public for the inauguration of "Moving Off the Land II," a video installation by the celebrated American artist, Joan Jonas and the opening of Ocean Space.

If that piques your curiosity, I wrote an article for LUXOS Magazine, which will give you a lot more information:

Ocean Space - The Wisdom of Science Unites with the Magic of Art

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Venice Biennale Art Exhibition 2019 "May You Live in Interesting Times" - The Press Conference + List of Collateral Events


(Venice, Italy) At the press conference today, March 7, at Ca' Giustinian, La Biennale's headquarters, Ralph Rugoff, the curator of the 58th International Art Exhibition, said that in the age of Twitter we are actually getting less information. People group up and follow like-minded people, and block those who have another point of view. Rugoff gave his presentation with a twinkle in his eye.

The title of this year's exhibition is "May You Live in Interesting Times," which had been described as an ancient Chinese curse, and used by prominent individuals like Winston Churchill, Bobby Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. But the phrase is "fake news." In reality, there is no such curse, which Rugoff thought was an apt title for the times in which we live.

The feeling that we are living in a period of crisis is always with us. There are no alternative facts, but there are alternative points of view. Artists have alternative perspectives. In his written statement, Rugoff said, "Let us acknowledge at the outset that art does not exercise its forces in the domain of politics. Art cannot stem the rise of nationalist movements and authoritarian governments in different parts of the world, for instance, nor can it alleviate the tragic fate of displaced peoples across the globe... But in an indirect fashion, perhaps art can be a kind of guide for how to live and think in 'interesting times.'"

This year's Biennale has no theme. The exhibition will let the audience have a conversation, and they will decide the thesis.

There are 79 invited artists, less than previous years. The same artists will have works both at Arsenale and Giardini, but these works will be completely different in each venue. You will have no idea that they are made by the same group of artists.

Venice Biennale President Paolo Baratta - Photo: Cat Bauer
President Paolo Baratta said that twenty years have passed since, in this same location, he presented his first Exhibition as President after the Biennale underwent major reform in 1998. "Let me tell you, they have been very interesting times."

During these years, the number of visitors has increased, and La Biennale found a new partner, Swatch. The increase in numbers has allowed La Biennale to cut back on the need for partners. "Our visitors have become our main partner; more than half of them are under 26 years of age. Calling notice to this result seems to me the best way to celebrate the twenty years which have passed since 1999."

President Baratta asked Curator Rugoff what the reaction of the artists was when they were invited to participate in the Venice Biennale. Rugoff said that there are so many Biennales these days that many of the artists have become jaded -- but not when it comes to the Venice Biennale. When they learn they are invited to participate, they are excited.

Ralph Rugoff, Curator 2019 Venice Art Biennale - Photo: Cat Bauer
There are also 90 National Pavilions that will participate this year, and 21 Collateral Events. Someone asked me to post what the Collateral Events will be, which are often just as interesting the main shows at Arsenale and Giardini. Here they are:

Collateral Events:

3x3x6
Palazzo delle Prigioni, Castello, 4209, San Marco
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: Taipei Fine Arts Museum of Taiwan
www.tfam.museum


AFRICOBRA: Nation Time
Ca' Faccanon, San Marco, 5016 (Poste Centrali)
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: bardoLA
http://www.bardoLA.org


Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy: Mare Nostrum
Complesso della Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Penitenti, Fondamenta di Cannaregio, 910
8 May - 24 November
Promoter: The Brooklyn Rail
www.brooklynrail.org


Baselitz – Academy
Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia, Dorsoduro, 1050 (Campo della Carità)
8 May - 8 September
Promoter: Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia
www.gallerieaccademia.it


Beverly Pepper – Art in the Open
Spazio Thetis, Arsenale Novissimo, Castello, 2737/f
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: Fondazione Progetti Beverly Pepper
www.fondazioneprogettibeverlypepper.com


Catalonia in Venice_to lose your head (idols)
Cantieri Navali, Castello, 40 (Fondamenta Quintavalle)
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: Institut Ramon Llull
www.llull.cat; www.toloseyourhead.llull.cat


Förg in Venice
Palazzo Contarini Polignac, Dorsoduro, 874
11 May - 23 August
Promoter: Dallas Museum of Art
https://www.dma.org/


Future Generation Art Prize 2019 @ Venice
Università IUAV di Venezia, Ca' Tron, Santa Croce, 1957
11 May – 18 August
Promoter: PinchukArtCentre; Victor Pinchuk Foundation
www.pinchukartcentre.org; www.pinchukfund.org


FutuRoma
Dorsoduro, 417 (Zattere)
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC)
https://eriac.org/


Heidi Lau: Apparition
Arsenale, Castello, 2126/A (Campo della Tana)
11 May - 10 November
Promoter: The Macao Museum of Art
http://www.mam.gov.mo/


Ichich – Ichihr – Ichwir / We All Have to Die
Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Castello, 5252 (Campo Santa Maria Formosa)
8 May - 24 November
Promoter: Fondazione Querini Stampalia
www.querinistampalia.org


Living Rocks: A Fragment of the Universe
Magazzino del Sale n. 5, Dorsoduro, 262 (Fondamenta Zattere ai Saloni)
8 May - 24 November
Promoter: Art Gallery of South Australia
https://www.artgallery.sa.gov.au


Philippe Parreno - Displacing Realities
Espace Louis Vuitton Venezia, San Marco, 1353 (Calle del Ridotto)
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: Fondation Louis Vuitton
www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr


Pino Pascali. Dall'immagine alla forma
Palazzo Cavanis, Dorsoduro, 920 (Fondamenta Zattere ai Gesuati)
10 May - 24 November
Promoter: Fondazione Pino Pascali
www.museopinopascali.it


Processional, an Installation by Todd Williamson
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pietà, Castello 3701 (Riva degli Schiavoni)
8 May - 24 November
Promoter: MAK Center for Art and Architecture
makcenter.org


Salon Suisse: s l o w
Palazzo Trevisan degli Ulivi, Dorsoduro, 810 (Campo Sant' Agnese)
11 May; 19-20-21 September; 17-18-19 October; 21-22-23 November
Promoter: Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia
www.prohelvetia.ch; www.biennials.ch


Scotland + Venice presents Charlotte Prodger
Arsenale Docks, Castello, 40
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: Scotland + Venice
https://scotlandandvenice.com/


Shirley Tse: Stakeholders, Hong Kong in Venice
Arsenale,Castello, 2126 (Campo della Tana)
11 May - 24 November
Promoters: M+ and Hong Kong Arts Development Council
www.westkowloon.hk/en/mplus; www.hkadc.org.hk; www.vbexhibitions.hk


The Death of James Lee Byars
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione, Fondamenta Zattere ai Gesuati
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: Vanhaerents Art Collection
www.vanhaerentsartcollection.com


The Spark Is You: Parasol unit in Venice
Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello di Venezia, San Marco, 2810 (Campo Santo Stefano)
9 May - 23 November
Promoter: Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art
http://parasol-unit.org/


Wales in Venice: Sean Edwards
Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, Castello, 450 (Fondamenta San Gioacchin)
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: Cymru yn Fenis / Wales in Venice
www.arts.wales


There are also Special Projects, Biennale Sessions (the project for Universities), Educational, Publications and more. Go to La Biennale for more information.

Ciao from Venezia
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

THE ORIGINAL: "Making a Good Impressionist - Going Undercover as Van Gogh, a Mask Maker Rediscovers Anonymity in Venice" by Cat Bauer

Mask Maker Sergio Boldrin leads parade
in Piazza San Marco for "Beheading of the Bull"
during Venice Carnival 2019
Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) After discovering that my article "Venice Carnival 2017 and a Brief History of Mask-Making" that I had first published on this blog in 2008 had been plagiarized, we have finally dug up the original print newspaper article. I had written a feature entitled "Making a Good Impressionist - Going Undercover as Van Gogh, a Mask Maker Rediscovers Anonymity in Venice" for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily, way back on Tuesday, February 27, 2001, and am the copyright holder. I had published an edited version of that article on this blog in 2008 and again in 2017, and had re-titled it. Here is the original article in its entirety, with photos from the 2019 Venice Carnival. Enjoy.

Sergio Boldrin leads parade Shrove Thursday 2019 - Photo: Cat Bauer
Making a Good Impressionist

Going Undercover as Van Gogh, a Mask Maker Rediscovers Anonymity in Venice

Italy Daily
February 27, 2001
by Cat Bauer 
©Cat Bauer

Vincent Van Gogh carried his latest masterpiece through Piazza San Marco, careful to avoid the crushing throngs of revelers garbed in costumes and masks. When delighted tourists stopped and begged for a photograph, he willingly posed for a snapshot or two. An apparition from the 19th Century? Not quite This is how mask maker Sergio Boldrin has rediscovered the nearly forgotten pleasure of anonymity at Venice's carnival in recent years.

"I've always loved Van Gogh," Mr. Boldrin said. "In addition to making masks, I dabble a bit myself with painting. A couple years ago, I had an idea to beceom Van Gogh for Carnival."

He created the costume right down to the Impressionist's trademark baggy jacket and pants. "I imagined what Van Gogh would do with an undocumented week of his life. I decided he could have come to Venice" Every day, Mr. Boldrin would don his costume and wander through Venice, sketching and painting. "I really felt as if I were Van Gogh. People were amazed. They told me it looked almost life-like."

Ruth Edenbaum, an American writer and photographer who spends three months each year in Venice with her husband, agreed. "When I saw the Van Gogh mask in the shop window, it drew me inside. I was completely fascinated and enthralled by it, and took photos to show our son's girfriend back in the States. She's a scenic artist and makes masks herself. She thought it was spectacular."

Oversize Van Gogh mask in Bottega dei Mascareri 2019 - Photo: Cat Bauer
In a city where there seems to be a mask shop on every corner, it's surprising to learn that the ancient Venetian craft of mask making was only revived about 20 years ago. By the turn of the last century, the masks had all but disappeared.

At age 43, Sergio Boldrin is one of the senior mask makers in Venice, as well as an accomplished artist. Several of his oil paintings are presently on exhibit at the well-respected Venetian gallery, Centro D'Arte San Vidal. "When I was a child, there wasn't a single mask shop in the entire city," Mr. Boldrin said. "There was no Carnival. Growing up, we had little parties in the primary school, but nothing like it is today. And there were no masks." During the terrorism and political upheavals in Italy in the 1970s, the wearing of masks was discouraged.

Mask making in Venice can be documented back to the 13th century, though it probably existed much earlier. On April 10, 1436, the ancient profession of mascareri was founded under the jurisdiction of the Painter's Guild. Over the years, masks were used for a variety of reasons -- in the government, the theater, and as a means of disguise. "Venice is a very small town," said Mr. Boldrin. "Everybody knows each other. Even today, it's almost impossible to walk down the street and not run into someone you know. We don't use them anymore, but masks provided the ancient Venetians a degree of anonymity."

Venice Carnival 2019 - Photo: Cat Bauer
The wearing of a mask put everyone on the same level: rich and poor, nobleman and citizen, beautiful and ordinary, young and old. It permitted confidences to be exchanged anonymously -- everything from accusations before papier-mâché Inquisitors, to a potpourri of sexual indiscretions. Prostitutes practiced their trade without fear of retribution; homosexuals hid their illicit lifestyle. In 1458, it was decreed that men were forbidden to dress up as women and enter convents to commit indecent acts.

Over the years, the festivities grew more decadent until it evolved into a 250-day event of non-stop parties, gambling and dancing. Social and class distinctions were flipped on their heads, with servants dressing up as masters and vice versa. It was difficult to distinguish a housewife wearing a traditional mask, cape and three corner hat from a nobleman dressed in the same outfit, allowing both to move freely through the city without fear of recognition.

Venice Carnival 2019 - Photo: Cat Bauer
As far back as the 11th Century, the mattaccino costume was worn by mischievous young men, who, dressed as clowns, would bombard noblewomen with eggs filled with rosewater, inspiring the first official documentation regarding masks: a 1268 law prohibiting the throwing of eggs while disguised. The Venetian government apparently gave up trying to enforce it, however, and resorted to putting up nets along the Procuratie in St. Mark's Square to protect the ladies and their rich clothing. Even in Mr. Boldrin's day, young Venetian men opened fire on expensively dressed women with the yolky bombs. "I did throw an egg or two myself as a kid," smiled Mr. Boldrin. "Talk about an ancient tradition! Venetian boys have been throwing eggs for more than 700 years."

Not all masks were used for indelicacies, however. The bauta was worn by both men and women, and was not considered a costume but a form of dress -- required wearing if a woman wanted to go to the theater. Il medico della peste had a long, beak-like nose stuffed with disinfectants, and, as its name implies, was used to ward off the plague.

Venice Carnival 2019 - Photo: Cat Bauer
Another ingredient in this colorful mix was the Italian theater, Commedia dell'arte. In the 18th Century, the Venetian playwright, Carlo Goldoni, brought theatrical masks to the forefront. Pantalone, Harlequin, Colombina, and Pulcinella were among the many masks that found their way into the Carnival. The Venetian painter, Giandomenico Tiepolo was so fond of Pulcinella that he painted his version of the lovable buffoon from Naples all over the walls and ceilings of Villa Zianigo.

In fact, Pulcinella was partially responsible for Mr. Boldrin's choice of careers. "One night, when I was about 20 years old, I was walking home from Carnival. It was new and exciting in those days, not as commercialized as it seems to be now. I heard music in a campo, so I wandered by. There were about 100 Pulcinella reenacting a scene from Tiepolo's frescoes! They had stretched a rope high across the campo, and were all swinging together. It was an incredible sight." Mr. Boldrin paused. "Back then, people celebrated the Carnival. You felt foolish if you weren't wearing a mask. Now you feel foolish if you do. I wish they would either do it right, a real extravaganza, or just forget about the whole thing."

Venice Carnival 2019 - Photo: Cat Bauer
Masks did disappear, along with Carnival, when Napoleon's troops brought an end to the Venetian Republic in 1797. Since then, they've resurfaced and submerged again throughout the decades until being vanquished to the pages of history books by the 20th Century. However, they staged a spectacular comeback in the late 1970s when a group of young people, then in their 20s, brought them once again into the forefront.

Mr. Boldrin has been a major force in reviving this early art form. Together with his brother, Massimo, he owns La Bottega dei Mascareri. The original shop at the foot of the Rialto Bridge on the San Polo side is not much bigger than a closet, and shares a wall with one of the oldest churches in Venice, the 11th Century San Giacomo di Rialto. The Boldrin brother's masks have been used for layouts in fashion magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, and can be seen in the movie, "Eyes Wide Shut."

James McNamara, a writer and producer from Florida and his wife, Angie, have been coming to Venice for the past 20 years. "We have an entire wall of our home in Palm Beach covered with Sergio's masks. We think he's the most creative mask maker we've ever seen." La Bottega's creations are completely handmade the traditional way, from papier-mâché.

"Our focus now is more on masks as a work of art, not necessarily for wearing," said Mr. Boldrin. "Like the Van Gogh masik -- I recently made one for a Frenchman from Arles to hang on his wall. After his little Venetian adventure, Vincent Van Gogh is finally back where he belongs."

***

Original Italy Daily article by Cat Bauer on Feb. 27, 2001
That is a scan of the original newspaper article. Although there are many sites who write about Venetian masks these days, when I first wrote the article 18 years ago, Wikipedia, Google and TripAdvisor were start-ups, and there was very little information in English about the history of mask making. I had to actually take photos with a camera, not a phone, get them developed, and send them to Milan. As you have read, I an enormous amount of work and research into the piece, and do not appreciate unethical individuals plagiarizing even a section of it as if they wrote it themselves. However, I would be delighted if those with genuine interest would like to quote a portion of this article. Please give correct credit to Cat Bauer as the author, and link back to this post. Thank you.

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

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Francesco Morosini - The Great Venetian Naval Commander and His Cat Who Went to War

Venice Campanile from Palazzo Ducale - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Happy Birthday to Francesco Morosini! One of Venice's greatest heroes is 400 years old today, and many of the most important institutions in town will be celebrating throughout the year. Morosini is known for his military campaigns in Greece against the Turks, especially for his victories in the Peloponnese peninsula, and was called Il Peloponnesiaco. He was the Doge of Venice from 1688 until he died on January 16, 1694. Today at Palazzo Ducale the celebratory program was announced to a room full of illustrious folks.

Portrait of Francesco Morosini by Bartomeo Nazari (detail) - Photo: Cat Bauer
Francesco Morosini was born on February 26, 1619 into a noble Venetian family, full of prestigious ancestors, including Giovanni Morosini, who founded the Benedictine Monastery on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in 982, as well as doges and dogaressas.

Francesco's mother died under suspicious circumstances when he was an infant by drowning in the Brenta river while trying to save her husband, who was placed under investigation and eventually absolved. If we want to play armchair psychiatrist, perhaps this is why he was said to be a misogynist who never married. Instead, he fell in love with his cat, who was always by his side, including when he went into battle, which was much of the time. He loved his cat so much that he had her embalmed with a mouse between her legs when she died. We know this because the cat still exists. You can see her at Venice's Museum of Natural History.

Doge Francesco Morosini's Cat - Google Art & Culture
Athens had been under the control of the Ottoman Turks since 1458. As time went on, they began storing gunpowder in the Parthenon and the Propylaea on top of the Acropolis. In 1640, a lightning bolt struck the Propylaea and destroyed it, which should have been a warning that storing gunpowder in sacred structures displeases the gods. On September 26, 1687, when Francesco Morosini and his troops besieged the Acropolis during the Morean War, what Morosini described as a "fortunate shot" hit a powder keg and caused the Parthenon to explode.

Piraeus Lion at Arsenale - Photo: Didier Descouens
Morosini is also famous for looting the ancient (c. 360 BC) Piraeus Lion from the harbor of Athens, which you can see today in front of the Arsenale here in Venice.

Andrea Bellieni, Bruno Buratti, Luigi Brugnaro, Luca Zaia, 
Emanuela Carpani, 
Andrea Romani, Giuseppe Gullino
Photo: Cat Bauer
Many high officials were at the official presentation of the program at Palazzo Ducale today, including President Luca Zaia, Governor of the Veneto Region; General Bruno Buratti, Commander of the Triveneto Guardia di Finanza; Rear Admiral Andrea Romani, Commander of the Istituto di Studi Militari Marittimi e del Presidio Marina Militare di Venezia; and Sindaco Luigi Brugnaro, Mayor of Venice, along with many others.

There will be events celebrating Morosini 400 from now through next year, including concerts, lectures and exhibitions, etc. at the following institutions:

- the Civic Museums Foundation;
- the State Archives, Venice;
- The Veneto Regional Command of the Guardia di Finanza;
- the Military Maritime Studies Institute (Naval Museum in Venice) of the Navy;
- the Military Naval School "Francesco Morosini";
- the Marciana National Library;
- Fondazione Giorgio Cini;
- Querini Stampalia Foundation;
- the Institute of Sciences, Letters and Arts;
- the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine Studies and Post;
- the Italian Castle Institute - Section of the Veneto;
- the Conservatory of Music "Benedetto Marcello";
- French Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice.

General Bruno Buratti & President Luca Zaia - Photo: Cat Bauer
One of the most interesting events sounds like it will be an exhibition at Palazzo Corner Mocenigo, Headquarters of the Veneto Regional Command of the Guardia di Finanza in Campo San Polo. Francesco Morosini  in the Wars of Candia and the Morea opens to the public from June to October, when paintings, maps, historical documents and more will be on show.

General Bruno Buratti is the coordinator of the organizing committee, and he gave an amusing and fascinating rundown about Morosini (and his cat) and all the projects at today's ceremony. After his presentation, I had a new appreciation for the enormous amount of power the Republic of Venice once had, and how the decisions of a single man impacted history.

Francesco Morosini commemorative stamp
If you go to the Francesco Morosini 1619 - 2019 site there is a category called "Eventi," which tells you (in Italian) the entire program broken down by categories. For his 400th anniversary, Francesco Morosini even gets his own commemorative stamp!

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