Thursday, December 15, 2016

Klimt's Judith II (Salomè) Stars at Centro Culturale Candiani in Mestre (Venice)

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro with
Gustav Klimt Giuditta II (Salomé), 1909
Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Luigi Brugnaro, Venice's mayor, caused quite a stir last year when he threatened to sell the prized Gustav Klimt painting, Judith II (Salomè) conserved at Ca' Pesaro, Venice's International Gallery of Contemporary Art, because it had "no relation to the artists and cultural history of Venice."

Here we are a year later, and thanks to the clever genius of Gabriella Belli, the Director of the Musei Civici, together with President Mariacristina Gribaudi, and Pierluigi Pizzi, the renowned opera director and set designer, we now have Luigi Brugnaro appearing at the opening of an intriguing exhibition entitled, Attorno a Klimt - Giuditta, Eroismo e Seduzione or Around Klimt - Judith, Heroism and Seduction.

Even more interesting, the exhibition is showing at the Centro Culturale Candiani on the mainland in Mestre, and kicks off a program to turn the Candiani into an important cultural center for the whole city.

Gabriella Belli, Luigi Brugnaro, Mariacristina Gribaudi, Pierluigi Pizzi
I was not only impressed by the exhibition, but that Brugnaro strongly supported it, going so far as to pose next to the painting he had dismissed. That he had allowed himself to be persuaded to see Judith II from another point of view illustrated that at least one wealthy businessman-turned-politician on the planet had a sense of humor and an open mind.

And who knew how many Judith-related works Venice had packed away in its treasure chests! By linking the Klimt painting to the wealth of material produced over the centuries about the topic, and by expanding the theme to also include heroism and seduction -- Leda and the Swan is another highlight -- Gabriella Belli illustrated the strong relationship that the Klimt Judith does have to artists and the cultural history of Venice.

Pittore manierista toscano
Leda e il cigno (da Michelangelo), 1530-1540
Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Museo Correr
The mayor expressed his thanks to the many people who organized "an exhibition of the highest level in which the center was the female heroine, Judith, who chooses to be free at the risk of her own security," a theme that is dear to the heart of his Administration. He said that the exhibition represents a positive and concrete response to those who speak of the decadence and decline of the city.

Jacopo Amigoni
Giuditta con la testa di Oloferne, 1739-1752
Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Ca' Rezzonico - Museo del Settecento
Veneziano
The story of Judith comes from the Old Testament. Holofernes, an Assyrian general, is about to destroy Judith's hometown of Bethulia. He allows Judith, a beautiful Hebrew widow, to enter his tent, hoping to seduce her. Holofernes gets drunk, passes out, and Judith cuts off his head, saving her city from destruction.

Over the centuries, this story has fascinated artists, musicians, writers and philosophers -- even Sigmund Freud. At the Candiani, more than 80 works illustrate how the figure of Judith has morphed from a courageous Biblical heroine to a femme fatale to a 20th century demon.

Gustav Klimt
Giuditta II (Salomé), 1909
Ca' Pesaro - Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna
Back in 2012, Gabriella Belli burst on the Venice museum scene with the astonishing GUSTAV KLIMT in the Sign of Hoffmann and the Secession exhibition at Museo Correr that she put together with Agnes Husslein-Arco, the director of the Belvedere in Vienna, so Belli knows her Klimt. With Attorno a Klimt, Belli has united an army of simpatiche women to pull off another thought-provoking exhibition on a topic about which females and males hold distinct points of view.

Edvard Munch
La vanità, 1899
Ca' Pesaro - Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna
I will confess that even though I have lived in Venice for 18 years, I have never been to the Centro Culturale Candiani in Mestre, which also contains movie theaters and eateries, in addition to the cultural center. By holding the exhibition on the mainland, where the majority of Venetians live (264,579 people reside in the Venice Comune, but only an ever-dwindling population of 55,000 of them live in the historic center), it is hoped to expose more Venetians to their heritage.

Salomè by Richard Strauss - Teatro La Fenice program, 1909
I thought the entire project was fantastic, and am happy that instead of selling Judith II, the painting is now the star of the show. Let's hope we can tackle the problem of mass tourism with the same spirit of positive cooperation. In addition to bringing historic art out to Venetians on the mainland, it would be so much better to create livable conditions in the lagoon so that contemporary Venetians can keep themselves, and the soul of Venice, alive.

Attorno a Klimt - Giuditta, Eroismo e Seduzione is at the Centro Culturale Candiani through March 5, 2017. Go to the Musei Civici for more information.

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

1 comment:

  1. I thought the entire project was fantastic, and am happy that instead of selling Judith II, the painting is now the star of the show. Let's hope we can tackle the problem of mass tourism with the same spirit of positive cooperation. In addition to bringing historic art out to Venetians on the mainland, it would be so much better to create livable conditions in the lagoon so that contemporary Venetians can keep themselves, and the soul of Venice, alive.

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