Navigating Venice’s Modern And Contemporary Art
Dazzling, timeless, and wonderfully entwined with the sea, Venice has been admired worldwide as a prominent center for art and aesthetics for centuries. Artists of all kinds are captivated by Venice’s deep-rooted and seemingly everlasting beauty, as well as drawn by the many esteemed art museums, galleries, and collections and the famed city-wide arts initiative, the Biennale. Because of these factors, Venice has grown into a major hub for both modern and contemporary art. Modern art, which was almost always experimental and abstract, dates from the 1860s to the 1970s, while contemporary art is the “art of today,” encompassing radical creations from the 1960s to present day.
Most of Venice’s modern and contemporary art is found in the ‘Dorsoduro’ neighborhood, which is west of the iconic Piazza San Marco and on the opposite side of the majestic Grand Canal. Dorsoduro includes Guidecca, the largest of the islands in the Venetian Lagoon. Many local Venetians, who want to escape the crowds near popular tourist attractions, along with artists and art curators and collectors base themselves on this progressive, more secluded island. The people who inhabit and frequent Giudecca are imaginative, innovative, and expressive, so staying on or visiting this island is the ideal way to experience the authentic, artistic side of Venice.
Art lovers should plan on exploring Venice’s art, as well as take tours of Venice’s grandest square, Piazza San Marco, which oversaw years of trade and exchanging ideas, and the glorious Rialto Bridge, which is often packed with market stalls and strolling pedestrians, admiring the boats below. Reserve a boat tour and soar around the couples in gondolas, while admiring the immensity of the Grand Canal. Then walk alongside the smaller, winding canals throughout Venice that are crossed with charming pedestrian bridges and flanked by refined Venetian apartments. After some tours, sightseeing, and a more complete sense of Venice’s history and essence, then it is time to explore the magnificent collection of modern and contemporary art.
The Renowned Museums and Galleries
In an impressive, white-columned Baroque palace along Venice’s bustling Grand Canal, the Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Artwas originally built by the aristocratic Pesaro family in the mid-seventeenth century. It was not until 1898, when the Duchess of the Bevilacaqua family, who were the new owners, ordered the ornate building become the city’s museum of modern art that it became an art gallery. Now, Ca’ Pesaro specializes in modern and contemporary paintings and sculptures ranging from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first floor of the museum has rooms dedicated to modern Venetian, Italian, and international artists, graphic art, and contemporary mixed media. Temporary exhibitions are on the second floor, which in the past have included David Hockney’s portrait work and William Merritt Chase’s impressionist paintings. The top floor is the Museum of Oriental Art, which displays objects from Asia, China, and Indonesia.
Ca’ Pesaro Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays 10am to 6pm
Lapped by the waters of the Grand Canal, the construction of the classical, Venetian-style ‘Palazzo Grassi’ was funded by the Grassi family in the late eighteenth century. After changing hands a number of times, it was taken over by French billionaire and art collector, François Pinault in 2005 and remodeled into an exhibition space. The museum displays ever-changing modern and contemporary art collections, which most often include paintings, photography, and installations from all over the world. Many pieces of art from Pinault’s personal collection have been exhibited. Some prominent works displayed at Grassi Palace have included the self-portraits of American photographer, Cindy Sherman, as well as Pablo Picasso’s paintings, drawings, and ceramics.
Palazzo Grassi Opening Hours: Wednesdays to Mondays 10am to 7pm
François Pinault’s second exhibition space that also showcases temporary modern and contemporary art exhibitions is ‘Punta della Dogana.’ In the fifteenth century, the building was ideally located on the triangle-shaped piece of land in Dorsoduro, where the Grand Canal and Giudecca Canal meet. Back then, it was a busy customs house where the paperwork for all imported and exported goods was processed. The modernized space, which has been open since 2009, is beautifully airy and bright, with high ceilings, wooden beams, exposed brick, and large windows overlooking the canal. Punta della Dogana has displayed the works of talented twentieth and twenty-first century artists, such as Jeff Koons and Rachel Whiteread.
Punta della Dogana Opening Hours: Wednesdays to Mondays 10am to 7pm
The Peggy Guggenheim Collectionis housed in the grand eighteenth century, ‘Palazzo Venier dei Leoni,’ near the humming waters of the Grand Canal. American heiress and art collector, Peggy Guggenheim lived in the large palace on the edge of the canal for thirty years. In 1951, she started exhibiting her twentieth century modern art collection during the summers. After her death in 1979, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation made her collection permanently available year round. Her impressive collection includes many of the modern art greats, including Salvador Dalí, Jackson Pollock, and Max Ernst, whom she was married to for five years. In 2012, the gallery added modern and contemporary pieces, all made after 1945, from celebrated American, Italian, and European artists.
Guggenheim Collection Opening Hours: Wednesdays to Mondays 10am to 6pm
The Smaller Spaces
Nestled in Venice’s expansive Piazza San Marco, near the elaborate, gold-tinted, turreted church, ‘Basilica di San Marco’ is the small, but highly respected Ravagnan Art Gallery. Founded in 1967 by Luciano Ravagnan, the esteemed gallery continues to be family run. The Ravagnan family exhibits talented modern and contemporary Italian, as well as international, artists. Often the work of local Venetian artists, like Ludovico De Luigi and Vincenzo Eulisse, are celebrated at this gallery, which is fitting as it is one of Venice’s oldest.
Ravagnan Gallery Opening Hours: Daily 10am to 7pm
Opened in 1991, Bugno Art Gallery is a haven for contemporary art enthusiasts who prefer the intimacy of small gallery spaces. Bugno Gallery has a diverse collection of Venetian, Italian, and international contemporary artists. In 2004, the gallery began to focus on photography, so there also is a space dedicated to gifted contemporary Italian and international photographers. This perceptive gallery has a solid reputation for kick-starting the careers of up-and-coming artists.
Bugno Gallery Opening Hours:
Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays 9:30am to 6:30pm
Wednesdays 9:30am to 7:30pm
Thursdays 10:30am to 6:30pm
Fridays 10:30am to 7:30pm
Sundays 4pm to 6:30pm
Similar to the Bugno Gallery, the L’Occhio Gallery opened in 1991 and showcases the brilliant work of budding Italian and international artists. The white-walled, bright gallery consists of two spaces that display contemporary art. The spaces are two doors apart from one other and very close to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice’s art-centric Dorsoduro neighborhood.
L’Occhio Gallery Opening Hours: Wednesdays to Mondays 10am to 6pm
The exclusive Giudecca 795 Art Gallery, which opened in 2007 on Guidecca, is renowned for showcasing new Italian and international painters, photographers, sculptors, designers, and video specialists. Giudecca 795 is located in two rooms of a warm-colored, sixteenth century ‘palazzetto,’ or small palace, called ‘Palazzo Foscari.’ Focused on fresh contemporary art, this gallery frequently scouts for young talent by offering competitions that give rising artists the chance to be discovered. One is a young photographers competition and another an achievement award in mosaics. Visits to Giudecca 795 must be scheduled with the gallery.
Giudecca 795 Opening Hours: By appointment only
Another small art space on Guidecca that exhibits both Italian and international contemporary artists is Michela Rizzo’s Gallery. Founded in 2004 by Rizzo, this expertly curated gallery often has performances and live events, as well as cutting edge, rotating exhibitions with art by young creators as well as established artists.
Michela Rizzo Opening Hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays 11am to 6pm
Built and designed by painter Mario de Maria in 1913, the Casa dei Tre Oci sits elegantly on the island of Giudecca. The painter’s Neo-gothic style building was originally intended to be his family home. During the design process, De Maria declared that the three large windows on the building’s face represented his son, his wife, and himself. Over the years, it was often used as a vibrant cultural meeting spot for intellectuals, artists, and community members to meet, discuss, and debate current topics and revolutionary ideas. In 2012, it finally became Tre Oci, a public exhibition space dedicated to contemporary art. The gallery specializes in contemporary photography.
Tre Oci Opening Hours: Daily 10am to 7pm
The Art and Film Festivals
‘La Biennale di Venezia,’ also known as the Venice Biennale, is Venice’s 120-year-old art and cultural organization. The Biennale is dedicated to exhibiting international contemporary visual art. The original piece was the International Art Exhibition, which since 1895, has showcased the most inspiring contemporary art of the time. Now, the Biennale includes contemporary music, theater, film, and dance festivals and an architecture exhibition, as well as the art exhibition.
The Biennale’s art exhibition has always been held every two years, so visit the contemporary exhibitions during odd-numbered years. Look out for modern installation pieces throughout the sea water canals and medieval streets of Venice. The contemporary and modern pieces that both weave into and stand out against such a gorgeous, ancient backdrop is a mesmerizing juxtaposition. During the Biennale, the influx of futuristic art and ideas helps breathe new life into Venice, which is often brought to a standstill in time.
Arguably, the most well-known part of the Venice Biennale is the Venice Film Festival, officially named, ‘Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia,’ or the Venice Biennale’s International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art. It is recognized throughout the world as one of the “Big Three” film festivals along with the Cannes Film Festival in France and Berlin International Film Festivalin Germany. 2018 marks the seventy-fifth Venice Film Festival. The festival is held annually for roughly one month late in the summer, usually from August to September. The main aim of the festival is to highlight great talent and achievements in contemporary, international cinema. The Venice Film Festival treats cinema as both art and entertainment, as well as a way to provoke thought and promote discussions throughout the world.
All of us at Roman Candle Tours, advise you to choose a few of these modern and contemporary art experiences. We promise that your inner creative spirit will be absolutely enthralled and inspired for years to come.
If you liked this article, read also “VENICE BY BOAT: SPENDING A SERENE DAY OUT ON THE WATER”