Month: October 2012

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The Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Capogrossi exhibition, Venice

The Peggy Guggenheim museum is a regular stomping ground for art fanatics doing the rounds of Venice. Forget the bustling St Mark’s Square or the touristy Accademia galleries, the Guggenheim holds an extensive collection of Picassos, Ernsts, and Man Rays, with an enviable view of the Grand Canal, straight off a marble balcony, which not even the relatively new Tadao Ando-designed Punta della Dogana (The Francois Pinault Fondation) can boast. When I visited, the museum was showcasing a Giuseppe Capogrossi (1900-1972) exhibition, who until that point I had never heard of. The show dedicated a retrospective to the key Italian postwar artist, starting with his early figurative works, which I markedly preferred to his later, more abstract work, that centred on a repetitive, almost primitive symbol.

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The Small Utopia Ars Multiplicata at the Fondazione Prada, Venice

Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli founded the Fondazione Prada in 1993, and opened a new exhibition space in the historic palazzo of Ca’ Corner Della Regina on the Grand Canal in May 2011, led under the artistic direction of Germano Celant. Following on from their various symbiotic partnerships, OMA led by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, has since been commissioned to design the intervention and transformation of an early 20th century industrial building to the south of Milan. It was to the former that I paid a visit to today, to see their latest exhibition ‘The Small Utopia Ars Multiplicata’. The title of the exhibition refers to the desire to encourage the spread of art in society through the multiplication of objects- a movement that became popular at the beginning of the 20th century through to the 1970s with the emergence of Surrealism, Op Art, Italian Futurism and Russian Constructivism. The ground floor of the palazzo takes you through a series of cavernous rooms, exploring the different media in which the boundaries of art disperse, from …

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Alvaro Siza: Viagem Sem Programa, disegni e ritratti, at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia

As part of a collateral event for the Venice Biennale this year, the Fondazione Querini Stampalia- whose basement was renovated by Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa in 1959- is exhibiting previously unpublished drawings and portraits by Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza. Once you enter the former Palazzo, be sure to pass by a bookshop carved out by architect Mario Botta and the permeable basement, which was previously rendered unusable by frequent invasion of sea water until Scarpa designed a series of inlets and outlets, with the use of gutters, gulleys and stone steps. The fact that Alvaro Siza recently won the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale- an award Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas won two years ago- makes the exhibition all the more worthwhile to visit, not least because it shows a series of intimate and expressive sketches that take the architect away from the rigid plan and into a “journey without a plan” as Siza explained himself. It is refreshing to see an exhibition capturing the most personal aspects of an architect’s life. …

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The Architects by Stefan Heym

I recently finished reading The Architects by Stefan Heym, which I would thoroughly recommend. Stefan Heym was a German Jew and a Communist who escaped the Nazis as a young man, he obtained American citizenship and fought in the US Army before returning to East Germany in the 1950s to escape anti-Communist purges. Up until his death in 2001, Heym published a succession of novels dedicated to questions of revolution, fascism, anti-Semitism and Stalinism. Once settled in East Germany, despite initial difficulties, Heym was generally celebrated as an important anti fascist author who had chosen a Communist lifestyle over the ‘immorality’ of American capitalism. This turned out to be short-lived and his often outspoken remarks were carefully watched by the government. After being denounced by Erich Honecker at a conference of the Socialist Unity Party in December 1965, Heym’s work was effectively banned in the Republic, the study of his work forbidden in universities and his articles prevented from being published. Although written in 1963, The Architects could not be published until 2000, after Heym …

In Praise of Doubt at Punta Della Dogana gallery renovated by Tadao Ando

In Praise of Doubt at Punta Della Dogana gallery renovated by Tadao Ando

Tadao Ando first met art collector Francois Pinault- France’s own Charles Saatchi- in 2001 when he was selected in an international competition to design the Foundation Francois Pinault pour l’art contemporain, on the bank of the River Seine in Paris. When the project fell through, Pinault again approached Ando to renovate the 18th century Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal of Venice. Though the Palazzo Grassi is beautiful, there were severe preservation guidelines that prevented Pinault creating the contemporary art gallery he so wanted. Beating a proposal to expand their own collection by the Guggenheim Foundation, Pinault and Ando won the proposal to renovate the Punta Della Dogana, further down the canal near Accademia. Ando said of the building, which was completed in 2009: “We were again faced with the theme of how to produce a modern space while drawing out the latent power of the original building. By exposing the bricks of hidden walls and the wooden roof trusses that had been concealed during the frequent renovations, I wanted to further emphasise the charm of the spaces …

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Nicholas Hawksmoor: Methodical Imaginings at the Venice Pavilion

As an architectural history masters student I was bound to like this pavilion. For its own pavilion, Venice commissioned Mohsen Mostafavi, architect and Dean of Harvard University Graduate School of Design, alongside architectural photographer Helene Binet, to exhibit the work of architect Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736). Perhaps an unusual choice for a Biennale that often focuses on contemporary architecture, but such has been the common theme (or should I say common ground) with other pavilions with references to John Soane, Palladio and Piranesi to name but a few. The exhibition at the Venice Pavilion focuses on eight important churches designed by Hawksmoor in London: St Luke, Old Street in Finsbury; St George-in-the-east; St John Horseleydown; St Anne in Limehouse; Christ Church in Spitalfields; St Mary Woolnoth in the City; St Alfege in Greenwich; and St George in Bloomsbury. Organised by Louis Vuitton, the exhibition shows Binet’s black and white photographs alongside small, digitally printed models of the churches’ variety of spires.

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New Forms in Wood, Finland Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

The Finnish Pavilion is a small but perfectly formed space at the Venice Biennale, recently reopened after restoration works. Designed by Alvar Aalto in 1955, it was originally designed to be temporary while the Giardini awaited a pavilion for all of the Nordic countries. The blue and white wooden structure took inspiration partly from Sámi tents- a temporary dwelling used by the Sámi people of northern Scandinavia- and partly from Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel in Florence. Even after Sverre Fehn’s Nordic Pavilion, built a little later in 1962, Aalto’s structure survived for another fifty years, until a tree fell on the pavilion in a storm last year. Since then, architect Gianni Talamini has carefully restored and reassembled the pavilion to its former glory, just in time for this year’s Biennale. To celebrate the reopening of the Aalto Pavilion, the Finns decided to showcase an exhibition celebrating the use of wood in Finnish architecture today. Six young architects were chosen to exhibit a work: ALA Architects, Avanto Architects, Eero Lunden and Markus Wikar, K2S Architects, Lassila Hirvilammi …