Precious transparencies at St. George’s island, Venice
The visitors wishing to move away from the center of the city and to discover an unknown Venice can get on vaporetto number 2 right after the monument to Victor Emmanuel II, on the Schiavoni quay: within five minutes they reach St. George’s island, seat of the former Benedictine monastery, which, founded in 982, became eventually quite an important spiritual and cultural center in our city. No longer a religious institution, the complex is now run by the Cini Foundation, which from 1951 has organized several cultural and scientific projects, and has created a relevant library specialized in Art History.
It is definitely worth a visit to the monumental buildings of the Foundation together with the marvelous church projected by Andrea Palladio. If the guests walk around the former monastery on the left hand side, along the boathouse, past the café and its terrace with a magnificent view on Venice, they can reach the new permanent exhibit area of the Glass Rooms, that the BestVeniceGuides invite you to admire. This exhibit area was opened in 2012, in a former warehouse which was initially transformed in a boarding school and eventually restored for the new purpose by the New York Architectural Study Selldorf, together with Fabrizio Cattaruzza and Francesco Millosevich.
The Cini Foundation, with the organization Pentagram Stiftung, is trying to study and cast better light on the Venetian artistic glass production of the 20th century. For this reason, it has organized a series of exhibits dedicated to both Venetian and international artists who have created during their careers masterpieces made out of glass. The main interest has been so far focused on those designers who cooperated as artistic directors with the Murano Glass Factory Venini, one of the most prestigious of the island, such as the Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa, or artists such as Napoleone Martinuzzi or Tommaso Buzzi, who created their glass works of art between the two World Wars.
In these days, and up to January 8, 2017, the Glass Rooms host an exhibit dedicated to the founder of the glass factory, Paolo Venini (1895-1959), who was also its director up to his death, and who contributed to the creation of important series of glass art works. The visitors will find here, for example, the famous crystal Diamond vases. These vases are created with thick laths of glass with a triangular cross-section and are obtained with a complex technique, involving heat work and special moulds.
Paolo Venini then revisited in an absolutely original way the traditional Murano techniques, such as the filigrana a retortoli glass (obtained by joining under heat the characteristic transparent glass rods interwoven with different threads incorporated in them), or the famous Murrine (obtained with transversal sections of previously prepared rods, joined under heat) which are also displayed in these rooms.
Quite a few of the objects in the exhibit come from private collections: the marvelous pieces created and produced by Paolo Venini can be frequently found in the Venetian houses, where they are appreciated as important decorative elements, since they perfectly match both antique and modern furniture, thanks to their peculiar forms, essential and precious at the same time.
In the Glass Rooms in these days it is also possible to find works of art by artists who cooperated with Paolo Venini between the 30’s and the 50’s of the past century, as the ceramist Tyra Lundgren, the painter and mosaic artist Riccardo Licata and the architect and designer Gio Ponti.
The opening hours of this exhibit are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except on Wednesdays, and it is free of charge.
Walking out of the Glass Rooms it is worth to take a look at the Glass Tea House “Mondrian”, a pavilion created by the Japanese artist and photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and inspired by the Japanese tradition of the Tea Ceremony. This pavilion, located right opposite the Glass Rooms, was used for the tea ceremony in 2014, but it can still be visited. It consists of two elements: a long pool full of water, decorated with mosaics made out of glass tiles of different shades of blue, and a glass cube where tea used to be offered by a master of ceremonies when the pavilion was active. The Japanese tradition of the Tea Ceremony acquires then new life in a typical Venetian dimension: mosaics and water are essential elements of the atmosphere of this magical city. Once again Venice shows its versatility, once again it proves to be the theater where the Eastern culture and the Western one meet and merge. The external structure of the Glass Tea House is quite singular, consisting of Japanese cedar wood.
It is now time for the guests to end their visit with a relaxing break in the nearby Rosa Salva café and to taste their gastronomic and pastry specialties, quite famous in our city. From the terrace of the café the view on St. Mark’s Basin is spectacular: suddenly we can recognize the transparency of Venini’s glass in the transparency of both the air and the water with their different shades of blue, in the lightness and preciosity of the decorations on the façades of the buildings. The blue color, the air, the water bring then to mind the exquisite Glass Tea House “Mondrian”: which other European city could have been more suitable than Venice to host this magical installation by Hiroshi Sugimoto?
Venice is History and Art. Venice is also modernity. Venice is atmosphere. These are the peculiarities that we BestVeniceGuides, with our professionalism and our love for our city, desire to unveil to all those guests who would like to see Venice from a different perspective, with a subtle sensibility.
Special thanks to Josh Wakeford for revising the translation.
Monica Gambarotto and Paola Giuriati