Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Sponsor! Venice Haute Couture - Fashion by Emma Gaggio & Romi Loch Davis

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher

(Venice, Italy) For centuries, Venice has been known for its lush textiles. Today, an exciting new collaboration has arrived in town. The combined talents of Venetian Emma Gaggio and South African Romi Loch Davis add a fresh element to the ancient fashions: Venice Haute Couture

Here is the story:

 "The silk craft is a very noble art, worthy of being plied by any true gentleman..."
---16th Century writer

Sumptuous to touch and impressive to behold, velvet is traditionally associated with nobility. As far back as the 800s, Venetians in Constantinople excelled at producing the exquisite cloth. Originating in the East, textiles made of silk and velvet were prized by the European elite as an expression of power, wealth and culture.

Today, Venetian textile diva Emma Gaggio and South African fashion designer Romi Loch Davis have joined forces to bring the ancient Venetian fabrics into the contemporary world of fashion.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Centuries ago, the fabrics traveled along the Silk Road, where the Venetians had strategic bases located in the Byzantine, Persia and the Middle East. Venice itself became a center where skilled craftsmen began to produce the valuable fabrics, achieving such excellence that the trend was reversed -- instead of importing the lush textiles, Venice exported the fine cloth to the markets of Constantinople and beyond. During the Renaissance, significant families incorporated their coat-of-arms and other motifs into bespoke patterns, displaying their importance on their clothing and the furnishings of their homes. By the 15th century, Venice had become one of the world's most renowned centers of the fabric industry.


The Gaggio family has been at the pinnacle of luxurious Venetian fabrics for four generations, adorning official residences, private jets, private villas -- even the La Fenice opera house -- with exquisite brushed velvets and brocades.Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Givenchy are some of the couture clients of Gaggio.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Emma Gaggio grew up surrounded by the lush Venetian tapestries that her relatives upholstered onto furniture and stretched across the walls of the finest houses. While only in her twenties, Emma took the family business a step further, creating her own hand-printed wooden block motifs for the hand-dyed velvet. Her designs are inspired by periods in history, dating back to when Venice was part of the Byzantium Empire, through Art Deco, and up until today. The unique patterns and meticulous workmanship have earned Emma Gaggio international acclaim, and the patronage of a sophisticated, trend-setting clientele.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
These days, Emma has taken the business in a new direction. After a 2012 fire in her Venetian shop, like a phoenix she rose from the ashes, restored, redecorated and added a new branch to the family business -- a collaboration with the Paris-based South African fashion designer, Romi Loch Davis. The restored shop is like a bustling theatrical set, with Emma's fabrics providing a luxurious backdrop for Romi's wood-nymph-with-an-attitude fashion. Then, together, they have developed a line of clothes, accessories, cushions, bags and scarves that combine the hand-printed designs and fabrics of Emma Gaggio with the creative vision of Romi Loch Davis. Designed with elegance and a sense of fun, anyone from grande dames to rock stars can feel comfortable wearing the fashions.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Years ago, Romi Loch Davis fell in love with Venice and the Gaggio fabrics during a family trip for her 25th birthday. She remembers how the shimmering green fabric of a jacket in the Gaggio shop window stopped her in the middle of Calle delle Botteghe -- where today, thanks to synchronicity, her own dazzling fashions stop the passersby.

Photo: Paolo Utimpergher
Romi's line of apparel combines whimsy with sophistication, and is brought to life by the clever hands of  Elizabeth Lutz. Romi often highlights her clothing with intricate Zulu beads from her native South Africa, the handmade jewelry adding an exotic flair. Now, by using Venetian fabrics as the material to spin her magic, Romi adds another element to her repertoire.

CLICK TO CONTINUE READING Venice Haute Couture and view the gorgeous images by Paolo Utimpergher

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, April 7, 2014

Venice Literary Festival - Crossroads of Civilization - Incroci di Civiltà 2014


(Venice, Italy) Crossroads of Civilization, Incroci di Civiltà, Venice's international literary festival wrapped up its seventh edition on Saturday, April 5, 2014. Once again, the writers spoke about how we need good literature more than ever. Caryl Phillips from Great Britain nailed it when he said, "Google is not knowledge. Google is information. ...Our brains are becoming increasingly narcissistic. Literature is needed as a counter-balance."

Reading good literature encourages our brains to process information and transform it into real knowledge. Good writers impart knowledge gathered from deep within themselves, transforming it into a feast that humanity can savor. As the world twitters away, those of us who still make time to read good literature dine on satisfying sentences and sumptuous words, a meal that leaves a lasting impression.

Unfortunately, because of schedule conflicts, I was not able to see all the writers I wanted to -- especially Raja Alem from Saudi Arabia, whom I had met back in 2011, but the conversations I was able to attend left me encouraged that Venice's literary festival continues to thrive. Especially heartening was the large number of students in attendance -- the University of Ca' Foscari here in Venice is a valuable contributor to Incroci di Civiltà.


Here are the writers who attended and their countries, stimulating diverse, international conversations about how the world looks from his or her unique point of view:

Naomi Alderman - Great Britain
Raja Alem - Saudi Arabia
Salwa Al-Neimi - Syria
Massimo Carlotto - Italy
Patrizia Cavalli - Italy
Arne Dahl - Sweden
Rita Dove - United States
Abilio Estévez - Cuba
Ge Fei - China
Rhea Galanaki - Greece
Peter Greenaway - Great Britain
Jhumpa Lahiri - United States
Abdolah Kader - Iran/Holland
Daniel Mendelsohn - United States
Carlo Petrini - Italy
Caryl Phillips - Great Britain
Marc Scialom - Tunisia/Italy/France
Sergej Stratanovskij - Russia
Noémi Szécsi - Hungary
Uwe Timm - Germany
Olivier Truc - France/Sweden
Varujan Vosganian - Romania
Binyavanga Wainaina - Kenya (unable to attend)


I did manage to see David Mendelsohn over at the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi (and bumped into Martin Bethenod, Director of the Francois Pinault Foundation, for the second time that day -- earlier in the morning he was at Le Stanze del Vetro on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore presenting I Santillana - Works by Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana, the outstanding exhibition he conceived; everyone is talking about it; it is a MUST SEE). Mendelsohn was interviewed by Pietro Del Soldà, of Radio Rai 3, who spoke in Italian while Mendelsohn responded in English.

Mendelsohn is an American critic, author, essayist and classics professor. His 2006 memoir has a notable title -- The Lost: A Search for Six Among Six Million. With a background in Euripidean tragedy, he applied his talents to search for the phantoms that were haunting his family: six of his relatives that disappeared during the Holocaust.

Mendelsohn said his problem was how to tell a story that everyone already knew. He was a critic sitting in his pajamas, writing reviews, when he decided to delve into his family's history. He kept reminding himself to keep a narrow focus and stick to the story: "There's never been a story about my family before." His six relatives were representative of the six million Jews who disappeared during the Holocaust. Since his background was in Hellenic studies, he called upon his old friends Herodotus and Homer for help, and used Ring Composition for his structure. This fascinated me, and I knew I had to have his book. But Daniel Mendelsohn is such a riveting speaker that his book was sold out both in English and in Italian. (I will have to get my hands on a copy by other means:)


This incredibly educated, well-traveled, enlightened American man said something that struck me as an American woman who has lived in Europe for sixteen years. While doing his research, Mendelsohn realized how remote Europe was to the United States; that Americans are oblique to Europe. I have noticed the same thing. He said every American is haunted by another history... growing up in a small town in New York State, who visited his relatives in Miami for a couple weeks every year, he kept hearing about "the Old Country," "the Old Country." He said, "Even educated Americans like myself don't understand it." Now he is an American who finally has discovered what the Old Country is.

While traveling in Eastern Europe, every town he visited had a mass grave. It was a question he was repeatedly asked: "Do you want to see the mass grave?" Mendelsohn remarked, "Your whole country is a cemetery!" His relatives were from a small town called Bolekhiv in the Ukraine. In 1890, there were over 4,000 Jews living there; only 48 survived World War II.

Mendelsohn's brother, Matt, who did the photography, wanted to see Auschwitz; he did not. He was amazed when they were driving along the highway and saw the signs for "Auschwitz." "Imagine growing up in a country where the names are places of genocide!" His brother responded: "You grew up the same way." Mendolsohn said that where he grew up in New York State, everything was named after Native American tribes. After I processed the enormity of that thought, I was stunned. That is also how I grew up, surrounded by Native American names -- Pompton Lakes, my little hometown in New Jersey, was named after the Pompton tribe. Although the Indians left a deep impression on my childhood, it was a romanticized version of history -- wearing moccasins, walking toe-heel, toe-heel, gathering berries in the forest. But, in reality, it was genocide. An entire people were wiped out according to plan. The definition from Merriam-Webster:

geno·cide

noun \ˈje-nə-ˌsīd\
: the deliberate killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political, or cultural group

Mendelsohn said that 9/11 was the first chance America had to feel like Europe. If you are a regular reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you will know I just wrote the same thing last week when I commented on the book The Hôtel on Place Vendôme:

"Here in Europe, you can still feel the echoes of the World Wars, something that only a handful of today's Americans understand. The wars touched the lives of everyone in Europe, many of whom are still alive today. The pain of 9/11 shook the world, Americans in particular, but the event itself was isolated to a section of New York. The World Wars were anguish ramped up to the umpteenth power as country after country fell under the control of the Nazis and Fascists. It is almost unimaginable that such a short time ago France was under German rule; the Nazis were bombing Great Britain, and the US and the Soviet Union were allies -- the Soviets were the first to liberate the Jews from Auschwitz."

Daniel Mendelsohn said that the ancient Greeks were alert to the terror in the world, and that Americans have an infantile desire for closure, packaging everything to feel good. He said that there is not always a redemption, and instead we should ask, "How can we heal? What if there is healing?"

Mendelsohn was inspired by Marcel Proust, and closed with these thoughts: "Without pain, life is tasteless. Pain is the salt that gives life flavor. Pain is a necessary ingredient in the soup of life."

Click for The Lost by Daniel Mandelsohn on Amazon

Click for Incroci di Civiltà on Facebook.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog



Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ritzy Books! The Hotel on Place Vendôme, Arrigo Cipriani's latest, and The Garden of Eden in Venice Revealed


(Venice, Italy) The Hotel Ritz is in the heart of Paris, not Venice, but when Harper Collins offered me a review copy of The Hôtel on Place Vendôme by Tilar J. Mazzeo, I readily agreed. If you are a longtime reader of Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog, you will know that I have written about many of the fascinating denizens of the Hotel Ritz, who also made Venice part of their theatrical production. The Ritz was the glamorous setting for many of the major players of the time, who lived, loved and betrayed one another during the Second World War.

Ernest Hemingway and a couple of his wives, journalist Mary Welsh and war correspondent Martha Gellhorn were there; Gellhorn's rival, Marlene Dietrich, was there, peeved when another star, Ingrid Bergman, entered the scene and fell in love with Hemingway's friend and rival, Robert Capa -- whom Gellhorn considered to be "her real brother." Pablo Picasso and his surrealist lover, Dora Maar, Coco Chanel and her younger German lover, Hans von Dincklage, and an abundance of glitterati and literati made the Ritz their living room. Aristocrats and politicians, movie stars and celebrity writers played a deadly game of intrigue while carrying on illicit affairs under the eyes of the hotel staff, who added a deeper dimension to the schemes.

Before delving into WWII, Mazzeo starts with a pivotal event before the First World War: The Dreyfus Affair. Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish artillery officer, had been falsely charged with passing secrets to the German embassy in Paris. The Hotel Ritz opened its doors on June 1, 1898, a week after Emile Zola went on trial for writing his scathing letter-to-the-editor in support of Alfred Dreyfus, directed to President of France. Zola accused the French government of framing an innocent man, forcing them to put Zola on trial for libel "...literary and intellectual France broke ranks with the aristocracy, and came to the aid of Alfred Dreyfus." The story is told from Marcel Proust's point of view, touching upon how Sarah Bernhardt, the longtime lover of Aguste Escoffier, legendary chef and one of the partners in the Hotel Ritz enterprise, dined together every year on her birthday.

Ritz regular, Luisa, the Marquise Casati "a living work of art" then makes an appearance -- when Picasso attended a party at her palazzo on the Grand Canal here in Venice (the next grande dame to move in would be Peggy Guggenheim) he was astonished, and we can imagine he was not easily surprised. Luisa wore a drugged, gold-painted snake around her neck as a living necklace, and dyed her hair the color of flames. Her naked, gilded footmen tossed copper filings into the fires so they burned green and blue while the guests smoked opium, as she openly carried on with her lover, Gabriele D'Annunzio. (The 2014 Autumn at Palazzo Fortuny exhibition will be devoted to Luisa and the atmosphere of fin-de-siècle Venice, so mark your calendars -- October 3, 2014 to March 8, 2015.)

I devoured the book in two days, and think it is an excellent history lesson told in terms of giant personalities and the personal relationships they had under one roof during one of the most devastating challenges this planet has ever faced. Told in a series of vignettes with gossipy titles -- "The French Actress and Her Nazi Lover," "The Jewish Bartender and the German Resistance," "The American Wife and the Swiss Director," "Coco's War and Other Dirty Linen," "The Blond Bombshell and the Nuclear Scientists" -- Mazzeo uses a format that indulges the reader's thirst for scandal while imparting well-researched information that has been suppressed for too many years. 

During World War II, when the Germans occupied Paris, many high-ranking officers, such as Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Adolf Hitler's second-in-command, made the Ritz their home, causing many of the famous residents -- like Coco Chanel -- to change their suites.The image of Chanel dramatically descending into an air raid shelter, a servant trailing behind, carrying her gas mask on a satin pillow, is priceless. When challenged about her German lover, Hans von Dincklage, Chanel quipped, "at my age you don't ask to see the gentleman's passport."

As in life, Ernest Hemingway and his outrageous antics dominate the story as he races to be the first writer to "liberate" the Ritz -- and its wine cellar -- from the occupation. He leaves a immense imprint -- as he did here in Venice when he lived at the Hotel Gritti Palace and frequented Harry's Bar; the bar in the Ritz is now named Bar Hemingway.

In the prologue, Mazzeo writes that "we live in the long shadow of this history," and I agree. Here in Europe, you can still feel the echoes of the World Wars, something that only a handful of today's Americans understand. The wars touched the lives of everyone in Europe, many of whom are still alive today. The pain of 9/11 shook the world, Americans in particular, but the event itself was isolated to a section of New York. The World Wars were anguish ramped up to the umpteenth power as country after country fell under the control of the Nazis and Fascists. It is almost unimaginable that such a short time ago France was under German rule; the Nazis were bombing Great Britain, and the US and the Soviet Union were allies -- the Soviets were the first to liberate the Jews from Auschwitz. A fascinating bit of history, not in the book, is that Hitler and Mussolini first met each other in Venice

Mazzeo writes: 'On at least one occasion, I was warned that I should not attempt to tell this story. The warning came from an elderly Frenchwoman... she said, ..."The truth you are looking for, it was lost to history the moment the war ended. Perhaps it was lost even before that. The questions you are asking are more treacherous than you think. This book about the Hotel Ritz and the story of the occupation, you should not write it. I am sorry."'

Thankfully, Mazzeo ignored that advice, and wrote The Hôtel on Place Vendôme. Read it, and bring yourself up to speed.

Review from the New York Journal of Books

Review from The Toronto Star

Review from Book Reporter 

Amazon: The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris



Arrigo Cipriani, the owner of Harry's Bar in Venice and many other exclusive properties around the globe, has written a new book -- not about Ernest Hemingway -- called Stupdt. O l'arte di rialzarsi da terra, which translates to Stupdt. Or the Art of Getting up off the Ground. It is the third of a trilogy, where Cipriani, a man with a vivid and wonderful imagination, leaves the world of Harry's Bar and brings us to a whimsical universe where a sleep-walking wife has sex with her neighbor, returns to bed, and complains about her husband's snoring, and God argues with Buddha, takes it out on Adam, who, in turn, takes it out on Cain. The always-entertaining Marino Folin, who has gone back to his long-haired style, presented Arrigo's novel.

For those of you who are wondering what happened to the book launches that were formerly on the top floor of Mondadori bookstore by Piazza San Marco -- which is now Louis Vuitton -- you can find them at the Casinò in the elegant piano nobile on Wednesdays at 6:00 PM, still hosted by the delightful
Giovanni Pelizzato. 

If you're in Venice, you can find the Italian edition at Giovanni's bookstore La Toletta over in Dorsoduro. And I'm sure they have some copies over at Harry's Bar:)

Amazon: Stupdt: o l'arte di rialzarsi da terra (Varia) (Italian Edition)



Completely closed to the public, everybody in Venice wants to know what is behind the immense walls of the Garden of Eden on the island of Giudecca, and Annemette Fogh finally takes us behind the that solitary gate. Bought by an English couple, Frederic and Caroline Eden in 1884, the nine-acre garden was the hub for some of the international elite that we will find later at the Hotel Ritz in Paris. Marcel Proust was there in the garden, as were Rilke, Henry James, John Singer Sargent, Robert Browning and Claude Monet, along with members of the Anglo-American colony living in Venice. During the presentation at the Bauer Hotel, Fogh spoke about the secrecy surrounding the Eden family, and how difficult it had been to gather information.

Frederic Eden, a great-uncle of Sir Anthony Eden, the future prime minister, and Caroline, the elder sister of the well-known garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll, lived in Venice for 50 years. After wearying of life on the Grand Canal, Eden purchased the huge plot of land on the Giudecca, and created an English garden complete with milk cow. "What scope for planting," Eden declared when he first saw the plot, "what an escape from constant idleness, what a relief from my lately loved mistress the lagoon, from whom my soul now turned in the ungrateful satiety of too long possession."

In 1928 the garden was sold to Major James Horlick, who gave it to Aspasia Manos, the ex-Princess of Greece and Denmark. For the rest of her life she lived in the small palazzina in the garden, often together with her daughter, Alexandra, the former Queen of Yugoslavia. 

In 1979 Friedensreich Hundertwasser, one of the best-known contemporary Austrian artists, took over the garden. During WWII, he and his Jewish mother posed as Christians; he went so far as to join the Hitler Youth. His experience under the Nazi regime made him yearn for rule by a constitutional monarchy: 

"...While the rationalist way of thinking has given us in this century an ephemeral, higher American standard of living at the expense of nature and creation, which has now come to an end, but our heart, our quality of life destroyed, our desires, without which an Austrian does not want to live. It is outrageous that Austria has an emperor who did no evil to anyone, but is still treated like a leper. Austria needs a crown! Long live Austria! Long live the constitutional monarchy! Long live Otto von Habsburg!"

Hundertwasser had his own ideas about gardening, which was to let nature take its course. The Garden of Eden is now owned by the Hundertwasser Foundation in Vienna and is completely closed to the public. Hundertwasser's possessions are still there, just as he left them when he died at sea in 2000, and the Garden of Eden is now growing wild, as nature, true to his wishes, takes its course. 

In May 2012, the Danish author, Annemette Fogh, was granted exclusive admission to the garden to take photos with the help of Mimmo Fabrizi. Her pricey paperback (€45) is the only opportunity we have to get a glimpse into this garden where phantoms of the past still roam.

If you're in Venice, you can find the book at the new Wellington Books English-language bookshop over by the new Rossini cinema complex.

The Garden of Eden at Saxo.com

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Venice International ARTE LAGUNA ART PRIZE - 2014 - The Winners

Interior Arsenale Novissimo
(Venice, Italy) The Arte Laguna Art Prize, now in its eighth year, continues to evolve, growing more international and prestigious every year. With strong support from Veneto Region, the Provinces of Venice and Treviso, as well as the Comune of Venice, the Arte Laguna Art Prize has built a network of collaborations with foundations, museums, galleries, art residencies and private companies all over the world to invest in emerging contemporary artists, helping to launch their professional careers.

PAINTING - The Four Seasons by Bianca De Gier (Netherlands)
The exhibition space for Arte Laguna is the immense Arsenale Novissimo. It is a fun adventure to go down there -- the vaporetto stop is at Celestia -- and see a part of Venice way off the beaten track. Last night at the opening reception, the space was lit with a very cool light show, with very cool music playing in the background, and, as usual, the place was packed. I've known Beatrice Susa, co-founder of the Prize, along with Laura Gallon, since the beginning, and these two ladies continue to impress.

SCULPTURE: Raum by Elaine Byrne (Ireland)
The works of the 105 finalists selected among thousands of entries in Painting, Sculpture & Installation, Photographic Art, Video Art, and Performance are on display through April 6, 2014. The finalists come from all over the planet, from the United States, Brazil, Mexico and all of Europe to Hong Kong, Israel, Russia and the Republic of Korea. In addition to zipping to the top of the heap in terms of international recognition, each winner receives €7,000, a nice bit of change that can really make a difference in an emerging artist's life.

The winners of the five Insitutional Prizes are:

Section: Painting
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros

Selected artist: Bianca De Gier
Gouda | Netherlands 1966

Selected Artwork:
The Four Seasons (nr.56), 2013
Mixed media on canvas


VIDEO ART & PERFORMANCE - Not Swiss Made by Apiyo Amolo (Kenya)
Sezione: Video Arte e Performance
Premio Vincitore Assoluto: 7.000,00 Euros
 
Selected artist: Apiyo Amolo
Kenya, 1978

Selected Artwork:
Not Swiss Made, 2012
SONY HVR-Z5E HDV and Adobe Premium Pro, 3'


Section: Sculpture and Installation
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros

Selected artist: Elaine Byrne
Dublin | Ireland 1970

Selected Artwork:
Raum, 2013
Wooden construction bolted together, sound, text and found objects


PHOTOGRAPHY - Gardens by Victoria Campillo (Spain)
Section: Photographic Art
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros
Selected artist: Victoria Campillo
Barcelona | Spain 1957

Selected Artwork:
Gardens, 2013
Lambda print on aluminium




VIRTURAL ART - Dérives by Emilie Brout & Maxime Marion (France)
Section: Virtual Art - iFOPE
Overall winner prize: 7.000,00 Euros

Selected artist: Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion
Nancy | France 1984 – Forbach | France 1982

Selected artwork:
Dérives, 2011-2013
Algorithmic cinema installation


It's interesting that all five winners happen to be women this year. There are all sorts of other prizes, such as artist residencies and collaborations with galleries, and different categories, including under-25, so please visit the Arte Laguna Art Prize for all the details.

Congratulation to all the finalists and winners!

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog 


ARTE LAGUNA ART PRIZE
March 22 to April 6, 2014
Arsenale Novissimo
Vaporetto: Celestia (Line 52)
Daily 10AM to 6PM
Entrance: free
 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

FUNDAMENTALS - Rem Koolhaas Transforms Architecture by Going Back to Basics

Paolo Baratta & Rem Koolhaas - Photo: La Biennale
(Venice, Italy) Rem Koolhaas, the dynamic Director of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition has come up with a scheme to rattle architecture on a global scale by going back to the fundamentals, the theme of the 2014 program, and a subject that Paolo Baratta, the President of La Biennale, is passionate about. With esteemed Rolex as the exclusive partner, and a list of prestigious donors, this year's exhibition promises to be exciting, educational and innovative on a premier level.

Yesterday, March 10th, more details about the project were presented in a conference held in the elegant Sala delle Colonne at Ca' Giustinian, La Biennale headquaters. Koolhaas said that when he was approached to head the exhibition, he would do it under two conditions: first, he wanted to take more time, and second, he wanted it to be based on research, rather than display.

His wishes were granted. This year, instead of opening at the end of August or in September, the Architecture Exhibition will open on June 7th (previews June 5 & 6) and run through November 23, 2014. There will be 65 nations participating, 11 countries for the first time. Normally, the curator decides a theme and creates "his own" exhibition, leaving the individual nations to follow his lead or not. This year, a specific topic -- Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014 -- has been offered to all of them.

Koolhaas states: "Fundamentals consists of three interlocking exhibitions - Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014, Elements of Architecture and Monditalia - that together illuminate the past, present and future of our discipline. After several architecture Biennales dedicated to the celebration of the contemporary, Fundamentals will look at histories, attempt to reconstruct how architecture finds itself in its current situation, and speculate on its future." It sounds like an enormous lesson for all of us, not only architects, about how the planet arrived at its present state, and what the outlook is for the future.

In 1914 -Photo: courtesy La Biennale
In Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014, the 65 different nations contribute to tell a single story about architecture in the last century. Koolhaas asked: "Is the lens of a nation-state appropriate?" His research showed an enormous and critical relationship between architecture and the turbulence of history, wars and politics, and that most nations have abandoned their national identity. Each country is invited to show, in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language.

In 2014 -Photo: courtesy La Biennale
Here are the titles of the offerings by the nations of the G8:

CANADA - Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15
FRANCE - Modernity: promise or menace?
GERMANY - Bungalow Germania
GREAT BRITAIN - A Clockwork Jerusalem
ITALY - (details below)
JAPAN - In the real world
RUSSIA - Fair Enough
USA - OFFICEUS


Stair - Models at the Friedrich Mielke Institute of Scalology
The Elements of Architecture will be in the Central Pavilion, and will pay close attention to the fundamentals of our buildings, used by any architect, anywhere, anytime: the floor, wall, ceiling, roof, door, window, façade, corridor, fireplace, toilet, stairs, escalator, elevator, ramp... the balcony... Koolhaas said history would be entirely different if not for balconies, and he became fascinated about how people use them. (I could offer my own input about the creative use of balconies...) He hopes the public will be drawn by the topic. For instance, he learned that during the last fifteen years the elements have become more comfortable. We are not as robust, and steps have become flatter. Windows used to have aesthetic value, now they are all the same.

President Baratta said, "With great courage and ambition, after having traced the history of modernity over the past 100 years to the present, [Koolhaas] identifies and presents the elements that should act as references for a generated relationship between us and architecture."

Corderie Map - Arsenale
Monditalia will be dedicated to Italy, which is emblematic for what is happening in the world, and it will take over the enormous Corderie inside Arsenale, where Venice once made its naval rope. We will look at Italy as a "fundamental" country, completely unique but showing certain features -- particularly the coexistence of immense riches, creativity, competences and potential, combined with political turbulence -- that also make it a prototype of the current moment. Koolhaas said that Italy suffers from a "narcissism of difficulty," and that it believes everything is more difficult in Italy than anywhere else, which is not true. From south to north, all of Italy will be examined. In addition, all the other festivals of La Biennale will be involved -- Film, Dance, Music, Theater -- to collectively represent a comprehensive portrait of the host country.

Arnaud Boetsch from Rolex announced the major new partnership, becoming exclusive Partner and Official Timepiece of "the world's premier architectural forum." The sponsorship will run over the next three editions of the Biennale Architettura, from 2014 to 2018. Boetsch said, "Rolex is immensely proud to be lead sponsor of the Biennale Architettura. This reflects the brand's long-standing commitment to world-class architecture.Whether it is through the architecture of our own buildings or supporting the work of great architects, Rolex will continue its dedication to technological and aesthetic innovation -- a clear refection of the spirit that guides our approach to our watches."

Koolhaas writes:

Architecture, not architects...
An umbrella theme for the national pavilions from national to universal...
The Arsenale as performance space...

For more information, please go to La Biennale.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dora Maar - DESPITE PICASSO - Women Artists Welcome Spring at Palazzo Fortuny


Dora Maar 
Picasso debout travaillant à Guernica dans son atelier des Grands-Augustins, 1937
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
© Dora Maar, by SIAE 2013
photo credit: Archivo Fotografico Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
(Venice, Italy) Only Dora Maar, the beautiful, enigmatic photographer, was allowed to document the progression of Pablo Picasso's masterpiece, Guernica, which he painted in response to the bombing of the Basque village during the Spanish Civil war in 1937. Maar was 28-years-old and established as an artist in her own right when she met the 54-year-old Picasso in 1936, and became his lover, muse, confidante and artistic companion. When their nine-year relationship ended, the sensitive soul underwent years of intense psychotherapy, recovered and lived to the age of 89, always haunted by the memory of Picasso.


Assia by Dora Maar, 1934 
Parigi, Centre Pompidou,
Musée national d'art moderne/Centre de création industrielle
© Dora Maar by SIAE 2014
Dora Maar - Despite Picasso at the Fortuny Museum spotlights the work of the extraordinary artist who captured images of the poor in Paris, endowing them with dignity, and whose mystical Surrealistic photographs earned her a special place among the artists in Paris at the time.


Dora Maar 
Vendeuses et vendeur riant derrière leur étal de charcuterie, 1933
© Dora Maar, by SIAE 2014
© Joan Marques
Henriette Theodora Markovitch, who shortened her name to Dora Maar, was born in Paris on November 22, 1907, and grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her father was a well-known Croatian architect, and her mother was French. She returned to Paris with her family at the age of 19, and joined the Academy of André Lhoteein Paris in 1927, where she met and formed a friendship with Henri Cartier-Bresson. She studied at the École de Photographie de la Ville de Paris, but it was the photographer Emmanuel Sougez who taught her the technical aspects of the medium. She earned her first commissioned works in 1928 at the age of 20, and worked as assistant to Harry Ossip Meerson in 1930.


Dora Maar 
No Dole, Work wanted (Pas d´aumône. Je veux du travail), Londres, 1934
Parigi, collezione privata
© Dora Maar, by SIAE 2014
Photo credit: Xavier GRANDSART
Maar was deeply moved by the Great Depression of 1929, and the effect it had on the poor. Her gaze is sometimes compassionate, and sometimes ironic, as in the photo of an impeccable gentleman selling matches and holding a card that reads: "I lost everything in business."


Dora Maar 
29, rue d´Astorg, 1936 circa
Parigi, Centre Pompidou,
Musée national d'art moderne/Centre de création industrielle
© Dora Maar by SIAE 2014
Daar's political involvement coincided with her joining the Surrealist group; in addition to taking the side of the deprived, she was fascinated by the magical and the supernatural, and attracted by the Surrealists' focus on automatic thinking, folly, children's art, the primitive world and eroticism. Her talent was "revealing the strangeness of everyday life." Maar alternated experimental photography with commercial work, producing portraits, nudes, landscapes, fashion and advertising photographs, and street scenes in Paris, Barcelona and London.


Man Ray 
Ady Fidelin, Marie Cuttoli et son mari, Man Ray, Picasso et Dora Maar assis sur les marches d'un parc, 1937
© Man Ray Trust/ Adagp, Paris
© RMN – Grand Palais / Franck Raux
Maar was stunning, passionate and intensely intelligent; in the intellectual and artistic circles she traveled in Paris, it was inevitable that her path would cross with Pablo Picasso's. They had friends in common, including Man Ray, who photographed her, Andre Bréton, the founder of the Surrealist Movement, and Paul Eluard, the poet.

On January 7, 1936 Paul Eluard introduced Dora Maar to to the legendary Pablo Picasso at the Café les Deux Magots. Picasso was married, but estranged from his wife, the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova, and had a new-born daughter with his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, who would later hang herself four years after his death.

Portrait de Dora Maar aux petites mains, by Man Ray, 1936
New York, Collezione Debra e Jean Bensadoun
Photo credit: Alister Alexander /Camerarts
Picasso was fascinated by Maar, who was not only a brilliant photographer, a creative thinker and a beautiful woman, her Argentinian youth also made her fluent in Spanish. In 1935 and 1936, her work appeared in a succession of exhibitions: at the Surrealist exhibition of Tenerife, the Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism exhibition in New York, the Objets Surréalistes exhibition at the Charles Ratton gallery and the International Surrealist exhibition in London. Maar's photography and the experimental techniques she used were a source of inspiration to Picasso. They began an artistic collaboration and passionate love affair that would last until 1945.

The Weeping Woman by Picasso, 1937, Tate Collection
In addition to working with Picasso as he began Guernica and through its completion -- Maar's step-by-step photographic documentation of the masterpiece is part of the current exhibition -- Dora Maar was the model for Picasso's renowned Weeping Woman, an image which he obsessed over; it would appear in about 60 drawings, prints and paintings throughout 1937. (That image above is not part of the exhibition; I am including it for illustrative purposes.) Picasso said:

"For me she's the weeping woman. For years I've painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either; just obeying a vision that forced itself on me. It was the deep reality, not the superficial one."
 

Tête de Femme (Dora Maar) by Pablo Picasso, 1939
Artemundi Group, courtesy of Javier Lumbreras
Photo credit: Jorge Parra
© Pablo Picasso by SIAE 2014

Dora Maar had a nervous breakdown when the relationship ended, and became a recluse who delved into the Catholic religion. In 1958, she traveled to Venice in the company of the American author, James Lord. She died in 1997 at the age of 89. According to the National Gallery of Victoria, after her death:

"... it was discovered that Dora Maar had kept everything connected to her relationship with Picasso, such as her Rolleiflex camera that was central to her commercial photographic practice, and therefore instrumental in Picasso's dynamic experiments with photography. Other objects included a fragment of stained paper labelled Picasso's blood, a magical sculpture of her beloved terrier torn from a napkin by her lover, and a copy of L'Humanite from 5 October 1944 announcing Picasso's allegiance to the French Communist Party. The personalised nature of these precious objects provided new and intriguing insights into Picasso's inventive art practice, as well as one of the most artistically inspiring relationships of the 20th century."


Ritsue Mishima, 
Argo, 2013
Photo credit: Francesco Barasciutti
In addition to the Dora Maar exhibition, included in this year's Spring at Palazzo Fortuny are three other female artists, as well as the all-woman Amazons of photography from the collection of Mario Trevisan.

The works of the Japanese glass artist, Ritsue Mishima, are scattered throughout the Dora Maar - Despite Picasso exhibition, which, itself, is on the first floor, and entwined with the permanent Fortuny pieces on display, creating an exciting environment. Tras Forma presents Ritsue Mishima's latest creations based on the thousand-year-old tradition of making glass in Venice, and after a careful analysis of the modus operandi of Mariano Fortuny.


Barbara Paganin 
Spilla n.12, 2011 – 2013
Argento ossidato, ritratto smaltato su rame, vetro, porcellana, quarzo di luna, oro
Fotografia di Alice Pavesi Fiori
Also on the first floor, inside the long glass cabinet near the back, is Open Memory by Barbara Paganin, an exhibition that presents "brooches" which draw their inspiration from the past. After searching through the antique shops of Venice to find whimsical objects such as good luck charms, 19th-century miniatures, ivory elephants and other tiny treasures, Paganin then arranged the memorabilia to create 25 different stories.


Anne-Karin Furunes 
Crystal Images VII, 2013
Archivio Fortuny, 1910 ca.
tela dipinta e perforata
With Shadows, the Norwegian artist, Anne-Karin Furunes, has the second floor all to herself, spotlighting the enormous painted-canvas-and-perforated images of anonymous faces she found in archival photos that are her inspiration. From a distance, the images are almost solid, but as you approach, the faces dissolve into a mass of pointillistic dots. At Palazzo Fortuny, Furunes had the opportunity to dig through the photo archives stored in the palace, and became fascinated by Fortuny's interest in the effect of light. 


Diane Arbu
Patriotic Young Man with a Flag, N.Y.C., N.Y.C. 1967
Mart, Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto
Collezione M. Trevisan
The Amazons of photography from the collection of Mario Trevisan claims the ground floor of Palazzo Fortuny, showcasing some of the top female photographers the world has known. If women have excelled in one artistic medium in particular, it is photography. Their unique vision captures an image in startling contrast to the traditional male approach. Italo Zannier, the curator of the show, writes: 

"...photography has also liberated [women] from some difficult manual aspects that for a long time were considered the prerogative of men, offering itself above all as an abstract, conceptual poetic language."

The Venetian Mario Trevisan has collected many of the great gals, from the contemporary Diane Arbus, Nan Golden and Cindy Sherman, to Julia Margaret Cameron working in the 1870s. Also on display are photographs by Lisette Model, a Jewish Austrian who moved to the United States at the outbreak of the Second World War where she opened her famous school of photography, and whose best known pupil was Diane Arbus.

Spring at Palazzo Fortuny opened today, International Women's Day, and is a MUST SEE.

SPRING AT PALAZZO FORTUNY

Doro Maar
DESPITE PICASSO

Anne-Karin Furunes
SHADOWS

Ritsue Mishima
TRAS FORMA

Barbara Paganin
OPEN MEMORY

From the Collection of Mario Trevisan
THE AMAZONS OF PHOTOGRAPHY

March 8 to July 14, 2014

Please click Palazzo Fortuny for more information.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog