VENICE — Venice is magic to many tourists but the Italian Pavilion of the city’s 57th Art Biennale, sponsored by Fendi, takes the idea a step further with an exhibition titled “Il Mondo Magico,” or “The Magic World.” Curated by Cecilia Alemani, the pavilion presents the work of three artists: Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi and Adelita Husni-Bey.
“The curator’s choice was brave, to focus on three artists,” approved Silvia Venturini Fendi at the dinner thrown by the Rome-based company following the preview of the exhibit on Tuesday evening. “Generally, the pavilions showcase many artists at the same time, possibly to reach out and please different kinds of visitors, but this was tightly edited and influential.”
Ahead of her trip to Tokyo for the opening of a new Omotesando pop-up store, Venturini Fendi was taking a tour of the stunning Scuola Grande di San Rocco, which is a monumental museum of Tintoretto paintings and the location chosen for the dinner. Guests sat at two long tables with mirrored surfaces and under-plates that reflected the stunning series of frescoes on the ceiling.
The mirror was also a reference to Calò’s work at the Italian Pavilion, which is called “Senza Titolo (La fine del mondo)” [“Untitled (The end of the world)”] and is an expansive installation at the Venice Arsenal dividing the huge space in two levels. On the lower floor, in the dark, a forest of scaffolding holds up a wooden platform, evoking the architecture of a church, while on the upper level a pool covers the entire platform under which visitors have walked. The wood beamed ceiling of the pavilion, reflected and inverted in the pool, creates a dizzying illusion of a ship and is reflected by a large mirror placed at the far end on a wall.
“Cecilia’s project is very ambitious, very powerful and polarizing. It’s a very strong point of view,” said Fendi chairman and chief executive officer Pietro Beccari.
“It was really stunning, daring and impressive,” marveled Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli. A friend of the Fendi house, who worked with Venturini Fendi in the past, Piccioli was planning to visit several of the exhibits in town.
While Husni-Bey explored the connection to the environment and to the exploitation of the earth, Cuoghi focused on the changing properties of materials and he transformed the space in a factory that produced devotional figures inspired by the “Imitation of Christ,” an ascetic medieval text, said Alemani. “It’s about identity, evolution and metamorphosis. You can’t control the sculptures, which are made in organic materials and explore decomposition, death and regeneration. The statues evolve and there is never the same outcome. This mirrors our current times.”
Beccari said the company “wants to continue to support this incredible country and all the beauties in it, not only Rome.” Fendi has for years backed the restoration of several famous fountains in the Italian capital, including the Trevi Fountain, as well as the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, which is the company’s headquarters and houses an exhibition space. “We’ve had 31,000 visitors for the “Matrice” exhibition [of works by Giuseppe Penone],” said the executive.
“I’m really happy about this project at the Biennale,” he said. Beccari explained that it stemmed from Alemani being the wife of Massimiliano Gioni, who is the curator of “Matrice.” “Once you start weaving a web of relations, one thing leads to another.”
Each artist’s work covers almost 7,020 square feet of the total 32,400 square feet at the Arsenal.
Beccari said the Biennale attracts many people from the fashion world as it is “another platform for beauty. Like every [fashion] show has a point of view, it’s the same with artists, each can influence the taste and lifestyle of people.” That said, a luxury brand also has to do business and Beccari said he is looking at locations for a new store in Venice. “The existing one is doing well, but it’s small and is not up to our standards and does not represent us.”
Cuoghi’s work was also realized with the help of Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli, presidents of the Fondazione Prada, which, separately, unveiled “The Boat Is Leaking. The Captain Lied.” Conceived by Udo Kittelmann with Thomas Demand, Alexander Kluge and Anna Viebrock, it runs from May 13 until Nov. 26 at Ca’ Corner della Regina, the Venetian site of the Fondazione. The artists criss-cross and associate references between art works, films and theater sets in a new narrative, in a very interactive relation with the public.
“The experimental character of the project mirrors the uncertainty of the present,” said Prada. “It is increasingly necessary to play it by ear.”
Fondation Louis Vuitton unveiled a Pierre Huyghe exhibit at its Espace. Part of the foundation’s program “Beyond the Walls,” the exhibition revolves around the 2005 “A Journey That Wasn’t,” a film that is the result of an expedition with scientists and artists in Antarctica, on board the antique sailing boat Tara looking for a new island and an albino penguin. The second part of the film shows a concert in Central Park inspired by the trip, juxtaposing the unspoiled natural scenery with an urban one. On display is a penguin that Huyghe re-created, “Creature,” in glass fiber and synthetic fur.
“We felt Huyghe would be very well-represented as the exhibit comes in relation with the identity of Venice, its sense of discovery, adventure and myth,” said curator Beatrice Parent.