Philippe Parreno at Punta della Dogana, Venice

A Spring of Contemporary Art in Venice

A visit to Venice does not just mean Gothic palazzos and Renaissance paintings: the city offers one of the most vibrant contemporary art scenes in Italy.

In anticipation of the opening of the Architecture Biennale on the 28th of May, the main museums in town have recently inaugurated the exhibitions which will remain on view through fall 2016.
For each one of them, we chose the work that we considered the most meaningful and wrote a review. Here they are!


Punta della Dogana: Accrochage

The French word accrochage can be translated as “hanging up (a painting)”, thus a synonym of “exhibition”, or as “clash, bump”.
This second meaning sounded funny to me when I saw a fish-shaped balloon floating around the room and eventually hitting a player piano. It happens in the installation Quasi Objects by Philippe Parreno, which brings together several elements from some of his previous works, thus creating his very personal “accrochage”… completed by a ghost track. Watch the video until the end and you’ll see a girl appearing from behind a door. She is going to play Ann Lee, a manga character purchased by Parreno himself and Pierre Huyghe (also present in the exhibition), then brought to life with a performance by Tino Sehgal: cross references among artists and their works are one of the key elements of many exhibitions in Pinault’s collection.
I was not allowed to film further, so make sure you don’t miss Ann Lee when you visit the show!

Video: QuasiObjects


Palazzo Grassi: Sigmar Polke

A fascination with alchemy, the experimental use of color, the reuse of existing images and the dots technique: all these main elements of Polke’s art can be seen in the series Hermes Trismegistos I-IV, 1995.
Almost all the images used by the artist in his works are taken from ancient art or contemporary advertisements and newspapers: in this case the source is a scene depicted on the floor of the Cathedral of Siena. Polke enlarges and recreates the image using a dotted pattern that gives the idea of a print. Color is then applied to the canvas to create layers, fusions, and explosions. The artist likes to experiment and use the most unusual ingredients, from natural pigments to toxic materials, so what could encapsulate the magic of Sigmar Polke better than this cycle dedicated to the very founder of alchemy?

Sigmar Polke, Ermes Trismegistos, Palazzo Grassi, Fondation Pinault
Hermes Trismegistos III, Sigmar Polke, 1995.
Collection De Pont Museum, Tilburg (NL)


Peggy Guggenheim Collection: Imagine

“To form a mental image of (something not actually present to the senses)”: this is the definition of the verb “imagine” and the aim of the artists presented in this exhibition, some of the leading figures of Italian art in the 1960s.
Standing in front of the big Burnt Rose by Michelangelo Pistoletto, we can visualize the birth of this mental image and its becoming a real object, pervading our senses, its petals blossoming and then burning. It is one of the Minus Objects, a series created in 1965, marking the decision of the artist to return to Italy and its cultural legacy after a period in the United States.
The purpose of the exhibit is, in fact, to focus on something peculiar to Italian art in those years, the creation of a new figurative imagery as a response to the mainstream represented by Pop Art.

Pistoletto, Rosa Bruciata, Burnt Rose, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Imagine
Burnt Rose, Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1965.
Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella


Tre Oci: Helmut Newton

Besides the Big Nudes which were censored by Facebook and fashion models in their dressed and naked versions, in a small room dedicated to the series Sleepless Nights is the portrait Andy Warhol in Paris, 1974. Here, the father of Pop Art is lying down with his eyes closed and hands crossed over his chest, as if in a coffin. Next to him, there is a photo of the statue of Saint Philomène, lying down on her tomb in a Parisian church.
Among women wearing saddles and corsets and nudes displayed next to photos of meat in a butcher shop, this double representation of death is odd and unsettling, forcing the viewer to reflect deeply on the way we look at the human body.

Helmut Newton, Venice, Tre Oci, Andy Warhol
In the Church of St.Merri Sainte Philomène Martyre à Ancyre, 275 A.D. Paris 1970, and Andy Warhol in Paris, Paris 1974.