Venice is its masks. Venice is seductive and fascinating and entices our senses. But above all Venice is art. And not the art of old but rather that of the visionary Peggy Guggenheim who rejuvenated and modernised the most beautiful city in the world. Without doubt one of the most satisfying itineraries the city offers is dedicated to modern art and its most iconic artists. And we’re not only talking about during Venice’s Biennale!
The perfect place to begin an exploration of Venice’s contemporary art is in fact Palazzina with its rooms celebrating the genius of this century’s coolest designer Phillippe Starck. Your first stop should definitely be Palazzo Grassi (Grassi Palace) which is just a short distance from the hotel. The 17th century palace (at Campo San Samuele, 3231) was designed by Giorgio Massari especially for the Grassi family. Over the centuries it changed hands numerous times and then in the 1950s it became a space for various artistic and cultural events. In the 1980s celebrated architect Gae Aulenti restored the palace and later in 2006, it was re-opened by new owner, businessman and collector Francois Pinault. The museum, (together with Punta della Dogana), houses and exhibits PInault’s extraordinary personal collection as well as many other contemporary works. It also has an exceptional theatre space called Teatrino del Palazzo. Both venues will from April present the latest exhibition of English artist Damian Hirst, his first in Italy since the Naples retospective of 2004.
A ten minute walk from Palazzo Grassi and you reach the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a compulsory destination on any pilgrimmage of twentieth century art. The collection of the American heiress is found at the Venier dei Leoni Palace (address is Dorsoduro, 701-704, Venice) which not only was her residence but also home to this incomparable selection of works. In 1948, the collection made its public debut at the first Biennale after World War 2 and soon after it went on permanent show. Brancusi, Picabia, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Giacometti, Ernst, Klee, Picasso, Pollock, Calder, Marini, Giacometti, Mirò… these giants of modern art make up the immense collection and can be enjoyed while strolling through the magnificent rooms of the breathtaking Palace designed by Lorenzo Boschetti.
On the other shore (right on Venice’s Coast) towards Punta della Dogana you’ll find the Magazzini del Sale and Spazio Vedova (address is Fondazione Zattere, 50) which are prized spaces conceived by 20th century artist Emilio Vedova and realised by his foundation, the Emilio and Annabianca Vedova Foundation. Emilio Vedova commissioned world renowned architect Renzo Piano to design the Magazzini del Sale which exhibits Vedova’s work as well as other contmeporary artists’. The Spazio Vedova, a boatyard from the 16th Century, was the artist’s last studio and workspace. It boasts ondulating walls and huge skylights which serve to uniquely capture and promote Vedova’s work while also hosting other artists often in a dialectical dialogue with Vedova.
From there, take a ferry from the Salute wharf and enjoy a leisurely journey along the Grand Canal until you reach San Stae. Once you disembark, head to Ca’ Pesaro (address is Santa Croce, 2079) which is Venice’s International Gallery of Modern Art. Here you’ll find a permanent collection of 20th Century icons with works from Moore, Kandinsky, Klee, Chagall, Klimt, Boccioni, Morandi and De Chirico. At Ca’ Pisaro there’s also the Museum of Oriental Art which hosts visiting exhibitions of exotic works which are also a must see for art enthusiasts.
For those who have a little extra time to spare, the Casa dei Tre Oci, once home to the artist Mario (Marius) di Maria, is worth a visit. It was built on the enchanting island of Giudecca in 1913 and today it’s open to the public primarily as a space to exhibit fine photographic works from names like Helmut Newton, Diane Arbus, Franco Fontana e Sebastiao Salgado. In January Casa dei Tre Oci began a worthy exhibition enitiled “The Arctic – our Last Frontier” with photos by Paolo Solari Bozzi, Ragnar Axelsson e Carsten Egevang.