Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sublime Canova - Revival of the Famed Sculptor in Venice

George Washington by Antonio Canova*
(Venice, Italy) I was astonished to learn that Antonio Canova, the renowned sculptor from the Veneto, had been commissioned to create a sculpture of George Washington by the North Carolina General Assembly back in 1816 for their State House when the Carolinians were feeling euphoric after the War of 1812. Thomas Jefferson himself urged that Canova, whom he considered the greatest sculptor in the world, create the neoclassical statue, which was brought to the United States on a war vessel, and arrived in Raleigh on December 24, 1821. Canova's depiction of Washington as an enlightened Roman general became "the pride and glory" of North Carolina, attracting visitors from near and far to their state capitol, including Washington's close friend, Lafayette.

Canova had never met George Washington, so he was sent a bust and a full-length portrait; the portrait never arrived, so Washington's body was left to Canova's imagination. Canova's instructions were that the style should be Roman, the size somewhat larger than life, and the attitude to be left to the artist. According to North Carolina Digital History, Countess Albrizzi described the statue in "The Works of Antonio Canova:"

If to this great man a worthy cause was not wanting, or the means of acquiring the truest and most lasting glory, neither has he been less fortunate after death, when, by the genius of so sublime an artist, he appears again among his admiring countrymen in this dear and venerated form; not as a soldier, though not inferior to the greatest generals, but in his loftier and more benevolent character of the virtuous citizen and enlightened lawgiver.

Unfortunately, the original statue was destroyed in a fire in the State House on June 21, 1831. North Carolina tried to replace it, to no avail. Then, in 1908, it was discovered that the original plaster model that Canova used to create the Cararra marble statue was in excellent condition in the Museum and Gipsoteca Antonio Canova in Canova's hometown of Possagno, a village in the former Republic of Venice, not far from Asolo in the foothills of the Venetian Alps. Diplomatic inquiries were made to see if a copy could be made from the original cast. On March 5, 1908, the Mayor of Possagno replied:

As a special favor, and making an exception to the rule 
that forbids the reproduction, the Administration of this
town has decided to permit the copy of the statue of
George Washington by Canova, of which a very fine
original model exists in this museum. Such concession has
been made with a view to paying a tribute of homage to
the great man who was the first President of the United
States, and to increase the admiration for the genius of
the celebrated artist who is a glory to our country. 

The Italian government itself then got involved, and decided that the King of Italy would present the replica to the North Carolina Historical Commission as a gift.  The replica of the original cast arrived in Raleigh in January, 1910, almost 100 years after the General Assembly decided to commission a statue of the Father of our Country. But it was not until 1970 that a marble replica by the Italian artist Romano Vio was completed, which is what stands in the rotunda of the capitol building in Raleigh, North Carolina today.

Replica of Canova's George Washington statue by Romano Vio
An interesting historical note: when the statue was first commissioned back in 1821, the Veneto was part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, a separate part of the Austrian Empire. However, Canova was then based in Rome, which was part of the Kingdom of Italy. Napoleon had conquered the Veneto in 1805-1806 and made it part of the Kingdom of Italy. But the Veneto refused to live under French-Italian rule, and revolted. The Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815 gave the Veneto to the Austrian Empire. Venice then revolted against Austria in 1848, briefly establishing the Republic of San Marco until it surrendered to the Austrian Empire after 17 months. Finally, after the battle of Vittorio Veneto in 1918 during World War I, the Veneto became part of the Kingdom of Italy. So, there was a lot of diplomacy required to get the statue in the first place, and then again to acquire the plaster cast almost a century later.

I called the Museum and Gipsoteca Antonio Canova to see if the original model is still there. I spoke to Giancarlo Cunial of the Fondazione Canova, and he assured me that not only was the original model there, they also had three smaller plaster molds that Canova had created, one of which was George Washington in the nude! Mr. Cunial informed me that although Canova had created the Washington statue while in Rome, the original models were now in Possagno, and since the marble statues were created from the original models, what they had in their museum was most precious of all.

Museo Correr
Which brings us to SUBLIME CANOVA, a work in progress. On November 18, 2014, there was a press conference at the Museo Correr to announce the collaboration between the Civic Museums of Venice Foundation, the Venice Foundation, the American Friends of Venice Foundation and the French Committee to Safeguard Venice to shine the spotlight on Antonio Canova, considered to be the greatest neoclassical European artist who ever lived. SUBLIME CANOVA is part of an overall project to transform the Correr Museum in Piazza San Marco into the Great Correr. The works of Canova will be restored, and the rooms of the museum arranged to highlight the celebrated sculptor from the Veneto, who died in Venice in 1822, just shy of his 65th birthday.

Daedulus and Icarus by Canova (1779)
The Comité Français pour la Savegarde de Venise has been around for years; they are responsible for restoring the Salla da Ballo inside the Correr, and the fine restoration of the apartments of my favorite empress, the feisty Elisbeth "Sissi"of Austria, who lived here in Venice when it was under Austrian rule -- as well as many other projects. And the prestigious Venice International Foundation was founded way back in 1966, after Venice's great flood, and is responsible for the restoration and preservation of a long list of works. It is headed by the universally-respected Franca Coin, who was here on behalf of the organization. But I was not aware of the American Friends of Venice, which is new, founded in 2012, and is the New York base of the Venice International Foundation. According to their website, their mission is:

Friends of Venice Italy is a non-profit organization that operates to raise funds for Venice. Founded in 2012, it selects and supports some of the charitable activities proposed by The Venice International Foundation, with particular reference to the Civic Museums Foundation of Venice in its work to preserve and enhance the art of Venice and its cultural heritage. As stated in a declaration signed by the president of the Civic Museums Foundation of Venice, Friends of Venice Italy is in charge of representing and promoting its cultural activities in the United States of America.
Friends of Venice Italy aims to preserve and enhance Venice’s identity, respecting the social and environmental sustainability of the city in order to guarantee the link between past present and future, to promote cultural exchanges, to communicate and share ideas and knowledge, to offer new opportunities for research and cultural production, and to attract new talent and resources.

After learning about Canova's statue of George Washington, it is fitting that the American Friends of Venice focus their efforts on SUBLIME CANOVA. They've got some distinguished people on the Advisory Committee, including Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Bobby Kennedy's oldest daughter and JFK's niece, which makes the project an interesting circle between the Veneto, France and the US. 

Psyché Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Canova
Antonio Canova's work is in nearly every important museum on the planet, from the Louvre to the Hermitage, the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Kunsthistorisches. Even though he was based in Rome, Canova's heart remained in the Veneto; he returned every year to his beloved village of Possagno. He died in Venice in 1822. He is buried in the Temple of Canova in Possagno, but his heart, literally, is here in Venice, in the monument based on the design Canova created for the great Venetian artist, Titian, inside the Frari.

Canova Monument - Frari 
The original plaster model for the Washington statue which is preserved in the Gipsoteca Canova in Possagno bears this inscription:

"Giorgio Washington al Popolo degli Stati Uniti 1796: Amici e concittadini…" which translates to "George Washington to the People of the United States 1796: Friends and fellow citizens…"

Apparently that inscription was not on the marble statue that arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina on Christmas Eve December 24, 1821. I wonder what George Washington would say to the People of the  United States of America today.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

*Top photo of George Washington by Canova from The Life of H. Ernest Chen blog.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

All Saints Day 2014 on the Island of San Michele, Venice

Grave of Ezra Pound & Olga Rudge
(Venice, Italy) That is what the grave of poet Ezra Pound and violinist Olga Rudge looks like on the Isola di San Michele, Venice's cemetery island. Nearly every time I go out there, someone asks me where the grave is, and even when I indicate the general direction, they still can't find it. That photo is from All Saints Day, so normally that many roses and other flowers aren't there. According to their wishes, the grave is embellished only with greenery. Perhaps people are expecting something more flashy and need to look down, not up, to find it.

Grave of Ezra Pound
By serendipity, I have run into Mary de Rachewiltz, the daughter of Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, on All Saints Day before, and this year was no exception. Mary lives in Brunnenburg Castle up in South Tyrol, and comes down to visit her parent's tomb. I have had the good fortune to visit the castle a few times where Mary continues her father's work in her own elegant fashion. The woman is 89-years-old, and still radiates grace and charm.

Grave of Olga Rudge
Olga Rudge stood by Ezra Pound when he was arrested for being a traitor by the United States government during World War II, declared criminally insane and institutionalized in 1945 in St. Elizabeth's Hospital for more than twelve years. When Ezra Pound was finally released in 1958, he joined Olga here in Venice, where he died on November 1, 1972, All Saints Day. Two weeks before he died, at a reading he clarified his position:

 "re USURY / I was out of focus, taking a symptom for a cause. / The cause is AVARICE."

We can also thank Olga Rudge's advocacy of Antonio Vivaldi for much of his popularity today. I have written about Vivaldi before; here's a post from April 18, 2009:

Antonio Vivaldi - The Flaming Red Priest

Grave of Joseph Brodsky
Another grave I am often asked about is that of the Russian poet, Joseph Brodsky, who was also institutionalized by his government, the Soviet Union. (An amusing aside: After I, myself, had been institutionalized back in 2010 by an over-funded rogue section of the US government here in Italy, the sculptress, Joan Fitzgerald, who carved the headstones of Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, comforted me: "All great writers have been institutionalized," to which I replied, "Well, I'd better write something great. They seem to be taking precautionary measures.")

The Barque of Dante by Georgy Frangulyan Photo: Alloggi Barbaria
Ezra Pound, Olga Rudge and Joseph Brodsky are buried among the cypress trees in the Evangelico section of San Michele, which looks like a graveyard right out of an Washington Irving story -- Ichabod Crane could be buried there. If you stand in the center with your back facing the entrance, turn left. About halfway to the end of the aisle, head into the section there on the left, and you will find Pound and Rudge. If you walk to the end of the aisle, on the right, you will find Brodsky.

I have written about All Saints Day and All Souls Day many times before. But for those of you who missed it, you might enjoy the post about when the Biennale Contemporary Music Festival ended on the Island of San Michele:

Cemetery Party in Venice - Music Amidst the Graves

Gods' aid, let not my bones lie in a public location
With crowds too assiduous in their crossing of it;
For thus are tombs of lovers most desecrated.
May a woody and sequestered place cover me with its foliage
Or may I inter beneath the hummock
of some as yet uncatalogued sand;
At any rate I shall not have my epitaph in a high road.
---from Homage to Sextus Propertius by Ezra Pound

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, October 31, 2014

Dynamic Weekend in Venice - Lunch at Aman Canal Grande, Peace at Palazzo Ducale, Pianist Prizes at La Fenice

Cat Bauer at Aman Canal Grande
(Venice, Italy) The Aman Canal Grande, where George and Amal Clooney were married, would like you to know that you are very welcome to come in for lunch, drinks or dinner. I had heard some local gossip -- that Palazzo Papadopoli was only open to guests of the hotel; that the food was not up to par, etc. That was not the situation when I had visited in August of last year when I featured the Aman Canal Grande in CNN Travel. So when a friend recently expressed an interest in seeing the fabulous palace, I made arrangements for a tour and lunch on Monday so I could see firsthand what the situation was. I am pleased to report that the food was exceptional  -- fresh, delicious and reasonably priced, and the palace was as welcoming as I remembered, elegant and homey.

At the close of the 19th century, Vera Papadopoli Aldobrandini married Count Giberto Arrivabene, with Palazzo Papadopoli as part of her dowry. Today, the palazzo is owned by her grandson, Count Giberto Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga; he and his wife, Bianca di Savoia Aosta, and kids still live on the top floor.

Alcova Tiepolo Suite - Aman Canal Grande
We were graciously showed around the palace, which was originally built in 1550 by the architect and follower of Sansovino, Gian Giacomo de Grigi, as commissioned by the Coccina Family. The palazzo was sold to the Tiepolo family in 1718 after the death of Francesco Coccina, the last descendant. The Tiepolos were avid art collectors, and also employed the painter Giambattista Tiepolo to decorate rooms with frescoes, which still remain to this day. (Of course, I had to know if the Clooneys had stayed in the famous Tiepolo Suite, which is complete with a genuine Giambattista Tiepolo ceiling, and the answer was: Yes, they did.)

Yellow Dining Room - Aman Canal Grande
There are two piano nobile floors, and one rumor could have started because the fourth level of the palazzo is reserved only for hotel guests. But the public is absolutely welcome to enjoy the dining rooms and bar in the first piano nobile with stunning views of the Grand Canal. Also, there is a new chef from the oldest Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy, so any kitchen concerns have been addressed. My friend and I each ordered the most expensive thing on the menu (€35), grilled fish -- a sea bass and a sole -- which were grilled to perfection and shared for us at the table, and accompanied by a generous assortment of grilled vegetables. There are not many places in Venice on the San Polo side of town where you can have a reasonably-priced lunch in such magnificent surroundings, so don't be shy -- just ring the bell and go on in!

1760, marzo 15. Venezia.
Francesco Loredan, doge di Venezia, rilascia la commissione a Giovanni Domenico Almorò Tiepolo, eletto ambasciatore ordinario a Luigi XV re di Francia.
There is an incredible exhibition over at Palazzo Ducale entitled FOR THE SAKE OF PEACE - The Long Walk from the Peace of Bologna to the Declaration of Human Rights (1530-1789). Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Culture, and Gianpaolo Scarante, the Italian Ambassador to Turkey, were among the luminaries present at the inauguration on October 25th. On show are about 70 documents that illustrate that the quest for peace is the supreme value of European culture.

I have known Alessandra Schiavon of the Archivio di Stato di Venezia for about 15 years, back from the time I first visited the immense Archives next to the Frari when I was writing for the International Herald Tribune's Italy Daily. It was deeply moving to see how hard she had worked to gather such pivotal documents together to illustrate the value Europe places on peace. Schiavon said it used to be that wars had beginnings, and wars had ends, and wars had specific territories -- not like today when we find ourselves constantly at war with enemies who have no borders, in wars against a concept like "terror," in wars that stretch on without limits. Ambassadors and diplomats worked hard for peace -- that was their occupation. (That image above is a March 15, 1760 document issued by Francesco Loredan, the Doge of Venice, commissioning one of those wealthy Tiepolos -- Giovanni Domenico Almorò Tiepolo -- to be the ambassador to Louis XV, King of France.)

1641, 24 gennaio-2 febbraio. Costantinopoli.
Capitolationi rinovate sotto sultan Ibraim, re al presente degli Ottomani.
Archivio di Stato di Venezia
The documents and names involved are riveting, and the captions have been translated into English. Some examples: January 5, 1530: "Emperor Charles V solemly ratifies the peace treaty concluded during the Congress of Bolona with the Pope and the rulers of Europe." March 5, 1684: "The plenipotentiary ministers of Pope Innocent XI, the Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I, King of Poland, John III Sobieski, Doge of Venice, Marc Antonio Giustinian sign a defense treaty." February 8, 1697, "Peter the Great, the Czar of Russia, Leopold I, the Hapsburg Emperor, Frederick Augustus II of Saxony and Silvestro Valier, Doge of Venice stipulate a reciprocal non-aggression and peace accord."

                                                                         1755, marzo 14. Vienna.
Maria Teresa imperatrice e Francesco Loredan doge di Venezia stipulano accordi in materia di confini e servizio postale.
Archivio di Stato di Venezia
Wars over territories. Wars between religions. One side groups up against another side, changes sides, changes back again. After viewing all those documents inside the Doge's Palace, and the many powers behind those documents, and the very serious disagreements and battles that had been hammered into compromises to achieve peace, it really made me wonder why we are having such a difficult time today just getting a moment to catch our breath.

Per il bene della Pace
Il lungo cammino verso l’Europa dalla pace di Bologna alla Dichiarazione dei diritti dell’uomo (1530-1789)
Venezia, Palazzo Ducale, Sala dello Scrutinio
25 ottobre 2014 – 12 gennaio 2015

Alessandro Marchetti - winner Premio Venezia
One of my favorite annual events is the PREMIO VENEZIA, a national pianist competition held by the Fondazione Amici Della Fenice at La Fenice. Every year, young pianists throughout Italy compete for the top prize, which includes substantial sums of money to continue their studies, as well as concerts in prestigious venues. The Premio Venezia is funded entirely with private money, and is one of the most important events of the season, always drawing a full-house invitation-only crowd. This year the Premio Venezia was won by Alessandro Marchetti, who was born in Pavia, Italy in 1998, the year I arrived in Venice, which makes him, astonishingly, only 16-years-old. Adrian Nicodim, who was born in Galati, Romania in 1992, won second place, which also includes a good chunk of money and concerts. Both young men exhibited composure, grace and talent, and performed admirably.

In a planet filled with chaos and strife, it is an honor to have the privilege of living in La Serenissima, a city that still focuses on the highest principles the civilized world has to offer.

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Friday, October 17, 2014

Top International Museum Directors Meet in Palazzo Ducale, Venice

Palazzo Ducale - Sala dello Scrutinio
(Venice, Italy) The directors of some of the most prestigious museums in the world met at Palazzo Ducale, the former headquarters of the Venetian Republic, on Monday, October 13, 2014 to compare notes about how they ran their institutions -- how they are funded, where their focus lies, and the responsibilities of museums in today's changing world -- in a conference entitled, CULTURAL HERITAGE: INTERNATIONAL EXCELLENCE AND THE CHALLENGE FOR ITALY. All agreed that museums belonged to the people, places where visitors come looking for answers. In addition to our own Gabriella Belli, the Director of the Fondazione Musei Civici here in Venice, present were Michail Piotrovskij, Director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia; Martin Roth, Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, UK; Gabriele Finaldi, Associate Director of the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain, and Paolo Baratta, the President of Fondazione La Biennale in Venice. It was fascinating to learn how museums are organized in different parts of the world, and how tangled the bureaucracy can become.

Up from Rome was Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage himself, who recently changed a bunch of laws about how State museums in Italy are run -- for example, they are now free the first Sunday of each month; the major museums are open until 10:00PM on Friday nights; you can now take photos; people over 65 now must pay; there are new tax credits, and more.

State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Museums around the world have acquired their treasures by different means. Russian Empress Catherine the Great laid the foundation for the State Hermitage Museum, purchasing a huge amount of Western European works of art in 1764, seeking to bridge the gap between Russia and the West. The Victoria & Albert Museum had its origins in the first World Expo, "The Great Exhibition of 1851" in London, an idea of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. The beginnings of Prado in Madrid were due to Queen Maria Isabel's passion for art; she died in 1818, a year before Museo Nacianal del Prado opened. And when it comes to Italy... well, Italy was not even a united kingdom until 1861, and Venice itself was not annexed into the Kingdom of Italy until 1866, and add to that the Vatican... so Italy, as usual, is complicated. 

Back in the days when I wrote for the International Herald Tribune's Italian supplement, Italy Daily, about 15 years ago, I had to navigate between the different museums and cultural centers here in Venice, and sometimes it was baffling. Back then, each museum had its own bureaucracy, and just finding the person who had the power to streamline my mission was a labyrinth. However, in 2008, a foundation was created called Fondazione Musei Civici with just one founding member, the Comune of Venice, which has made an unbelievable difference in the ability of the immense artistic wealth of Venice to become more accessible.

Gabriella Belli, Director Museo Civici in Venice
According to their site: "The Foundation manages and promotes a museum system that is detailed, complex, but rich and financially sound; it enjoys total administrative and managerial independence – under the control of the Steering Commitee – thus allowing operational and planning agility, considerable transparent entrepreneurial motivation, an efficient and rational corporate structure, and the ability to unite and recruit resources."

I think Gabriella Belli, the Director of the Musei Civici, is terrific. She seems to be everywhere all the time, with an energy that is indefatigable. Venice has a whopping 11 civic museums, each with their own unique treasures and personalities: the Palazzo Ducale, the Correr, Ca' Pesaro, Palazzo Mocenigo, Palazzo Fortuny, Ca' Rezzonico, the Clock Tower, Carlo Goldoni's House, the Natural History Museum, the Glass Museum on Murano, and the Lace Museum on Burano. Overseeing all those institutions takes an enormous effort, and Belli does it with grace and efficiency. In addition, Venice has private foundations and museums with its own collections, as well as museums run by the State and the Church, and after a period of adjustment, most of the cultural institutions in the city now have a genuine spirit of cooperation and comradeship.

The conference opened with greetings from Walter Hartsarich, the President of the Fondazione Musei Civici. He spoke about how it was a crucial time for cultural heritage in Italy, and how courage was necessary to meet the new pace, and new needs. Next up was Vittorio Zappalorto, who was appointed Special Commissioner to Venice after our mayor was arrested for corruption. Zappalorto said that now that the division of labor between the comune, province, region and state is clear, there are no more excuses to perform badly, and that Venice wants to provide an example to the world for sustainable tourism.

Doge's Palace - Venice
Gabriella Belli said that Venice is really different from any other city. Its very beauty is caused by its frailty. There are more than 500,000 works of art in its collection, a huge concentration in a small area. Belli said that they wanted to get away from the approach that exhibitions are the same for years -- Venice's visitors are visitors of the world, and they compare Venice to museums all over the world. Venice now has the capability to change its headline exhibitions quickly, and has reorganized the permanent collections. Belli stressed that the Civic Museums belonged to Venetians; that it was their heritage, and they were encouraging more visits from residents in Venice and the mainland.

The Winter Palace - State Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia
Michail Piotrovskij, the Director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in Russia spoke next. Venice is the new headquarters for "Ermitage Italy" located right in Piazza San Marco, the result of a cultural exchange between State Hermitage and Italy. Piotrovskij said he was glad they were in Venice. He said, "We are in St. Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great. We are not in the center of Europe, but we are part of European culture."

We should remember that St. Petersburg was the imperial capital from 1713-1728 and again from 1732-1918, created by Peter the Great beginning in 1703 on barren marshland (much like Venice) to integrate Russia into Western Europe and seize a Baltic port, his "Window on the West." So, for more than 200 years St. Petersburg was the capital of Russia, until the communist revolution. Then, the  Bolsheviks, lead by Vladimir Lenin, stormed the Winter Palace -- which is now part of the State Hermitage Museum -- during the October Revolution of 1917, moved the capital to Moscow, and changed the name of the city to Leningrad after Lenin's death in 1924. It was not until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 that Leningrad changed back to St. Petersburg, which is still recognized as the cultural capital of Russia.

Piotrovskij said he was concerned that there was a new Iron Curtain being erected between Russia and other countries. He said that museums need to be defended from conflicts, and they were building bridges even if all other bridges are destroyed. They have a good relationship with Venice, and he wished that the UK and France would follow suit -- that we needed to maintain bridges of friendship. He said, "The government tells me, 'You can't live in a museum.'" Piotrovskij replied, "Better to live in a museum than a shipyard." He said he loved living in a museum. "Living in a museum is beautiful."

Museo Nacional del Prado - Madrid, Spain
The Museo Nacional de Prado is Spain's national art museum, and has spent the last 15 years in transformation, expanding its structure and the number of employees, according to Gabriele Finaldi, the Associate Director. In the early half of the 1990s it was the "Inferno of Europe," and now is a sleeping lion ready to wake up. It contains the royal collection -- Titian's works purchased by the Spanish crown are housed there, in addition to the finest collection of Spanish art on the planet. In the mid 1990s it changed its legal status; all its officers became direct employees, and it now can participate in business, similar to the Bank of Spain. Finaldi said that 60% of foreigners visit the permanent collection as opposed to 40% locals, whereas a temporary exhibit attracts 60% locals and 40% foreigners. He said it is also a contemporary museum. "Goya was still alive when his work was put into the museum."

Victoria & Albert Museum - London, UK
Martin Roth, the Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, declared, "I believe in museums." He said a museum is never the same, and changes with the culture and politics. He said the V&A was a brilliant idea by Prince Albert, an ongoing World's Fair, and that a museum is an open institution for everyone; it belongs to us all -- from the taxi drivers, to the Queen, to the green grocer. Since the UK has had such a huge influx of refugees, they have created exhibits to reflect those cultures -- "If you are a refugee, come to the V&A." He said their Board of Trustees is completely independent, and he didn't like the US system where you buy yourself onto the Board. He said he had a friend in the US who was going to retire from a Board because it was "too dangerous." Roth said, "It's not supposed to be that way!" He said the V&A was a local museum for a global audience, and that it attacted a lot of young people who came just to hang out. All museums in the UK are free. He said, "A museum is never a business, but you can run it business-like."

La Biennale - Venice, Italy
Paolo Baratta, the President of La Biennale, Venice's Contemporary Art Festival, said "No monarch left me a legacy." He said that Italy's history was completely different. Italy was once composed of many city-states, and the various monarchs collected art. When the small states fell, there was widespread pillage. Unlike the V& A and the Hermitage, which were aimed at creating museums, in Italy, the goal was to keep the objects safe.The government appointed superintendents who had prefecture-like powers. They protected assets owned by third parties, and the focus was on the monetary value of the work.

The Venice Biennale was the first Biennale in the world, created by a group of farsighted thinkers in 1893. There are now 157 Biennales worldwide. The focus is on research and discovery, and the relationship with the past -- to read the present with historical depth. Baratta calls La Biennale a "Wind Machine," a machine of desire whose primary urge is to give form to the curtain that has been thrown over us. The focus is not on the monetary value of the work, but on cultural research.

Dario Franceschini at Palazzo Ducale, Venice
Dario Franceschini is the Minister of Cultural Heritage under Italy's newest, and youngest, Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, who is set on making sweeping changes to a country wracked with corruption and stifled by bureaucracy. Former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was forced to resign over numerous scandals in 2011; his Minister of Culture, Giancarlo Galan, was just sentenced yesterday, October 16, to 34 months in prison and a €2.6 million fine for charges of corruption linked to MOSES, Venice's flood barrier.

Franceschini said there needs to be a central role for culture, which, at the present, does not exist. He said there must be a common European identity that can only take place through culture. He said we must build a union, an institute for dialogue, when politics can't talk and borders are difficult. He said we must convince the decision makers that investment in creative institutions can overcome the crisis. Art collections are closely linked to territory, and investments need to be made in their unique nature.

He said we should adopt sustainable tourism, and that we are temporary owners of a heritage that belongs to humanity. He said that before businesses had no incentives to invest in art and museums -- now they do.

The conference continued all afternoon with speakers on the local level. Pierpaolo Forte, the President of the Museum of Contemporary Art Donnaregina in Madre, Naples summed it up: "We are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants. There is a danger to worship our history more than our future."

As it has throughout the centuries, Europe needs to stand firmly and courageously on its rich cultural heritage as the foundation in moving toward the future. The future is now.

Beni Culturali: le eccellenze internazionali e la scommessa italiana
Venice, Palazzo Ducale
Sala dello Scrutinio
Monday, October 13, 2014

Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog