Wednesday, March 27, 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 whose foundation stretched back to Byzantine times.

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.

Ocean Space at the Church of San Lorenzo - Photo courtesy of TBA-21 Academy
Most people know fish only on a plate, and Ocean Space wants to change that. TBA21-Academy was founded by activist art collector Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza and Markus Reymann to connect thought-leaders in the world of art and science to develop solutions for the oceans’ most urgent issues. A deep believer in channeling wealth into philanthropy, Francesca is determined to focus global attention on the state of the seas. “No ocean, no species. People do not realize how much they can do through their network and skill system to make a difference.”

“This is not a museum of the past, but a laboratory for the future,” said Markus Reymann.

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

Thursday, March 7, 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:

Palazzo delle Prigioni, Castello, 4209, San Marco
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: Taipei Fine Arts Museum of Taiwan

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

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

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

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

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

Förg in Venice
Palazzo Contarini Polignac, Dorsoduro, 874
11 May - 23 August
Promoter: Dallas Museum of Art

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

Dorsoduro, 417 (Zattere)
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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;

Scotland + Venice presents Charlotte Prodger
Arsenale Docks, Castello, 40
11 May - 24 November
Promoter: Scotland + Venice

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;;

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

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

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

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, March 6, 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 put an enormous amount of work and research into the piece, and do not appreciate an unethical individual plagiarizing even a section of it as if he wrote it himself. 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.

UPDATE AUGUST 11, 2019: Now, if you search for my article that Filippo Merlo plagiarized, this is the Google result:
In response to a complaint that we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 7 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at

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