Thursday, April 18, 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, the "darling of international curators and auction houses," whose paintings not only engage with the history of painting, but also with "painting the texture of history."

Ghenie's rise in the art world has been meteoric. Born on August 13, 1977, the son of a dentist had his first group show in 2006. Ten years later, in February 2016, his "Sunflowers of 1937" sold at a Sotheby's auction in London for a whopping £3,177,000. In October 2016, his "Nickelodeon" sold at Christie's for £7.1 million(!).

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, April 16, 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, April 14, 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, April 8, 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, April 5, 2019

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

VENICE, ITALY BLOG - San Giorgio Café with Filippo La Mantia - Photo: Cat Bauer
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

Venice, Italy Blog - Filippo La Mantia at San Giorgio Café - Photo: Cat Bauer
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