VENICE.- The exhibition Carlo Scarpa. Venini 1932–1947, curated by Marino Barovier, opened to the public on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. Consisting of over 300 works, the exhibition reconstructs Carlo Scarpa’s career in the years when he was artistic director of the Venini glassworks, from 1932 to 1947. Due to run until 29 November 2012 and open from 10 am to 7 pm (free admission, closed on Wednesdays), this exhibition is the first public event of Le Stanze del Vetro (Rooms for Glass), a long-term cultural project launched by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in collaboration with Pentagram Stiftung for the purpose of studying and showcasing the art of Venetian glassmaking in the 20th century.
The new exhibition space
The exhibition Carlo Scarpa. Venini 1932–1947 inaugurates a new permanent exhibition space designed to host a series of solo and collective shows featuring international artists, both contemporary and past, who have used glass during their careers as an orginal means of expression and medium for researching their own personal poetics. The aim is to illustrate the numerous potential uses of the medium and put glass back at the centre of attention and discussion on the international art scene.
The building chosen for Le Stanze del Vetro exhibition is the West wing of the ex Convitto (a former nautical boarding school) on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore. With 650 square metres of display floor space, the centre will not only host exhibitions but also conferences, workshops and other events dedicated to glass. The restyling of this long-unutilised building was carried out by Selldorf Architects, a New York firm led by Annabelle Selldorf and specialised in the design of museum spaces and gallery exhibitions. For the Venice project the New York firm relied on the collaboration of architects Fabrizio Cattaruzza and Francesco Millosevich, who in 2008 had refurbished the exhibition spaces of the ex-Convitto in the Fondazione Cini. The design features an itinerary with a visually permeable separation between a corridor and a series of small galleries, equipped with vitrines, stands and other forms of display, to create a logical visual continuity within the space and between the various exhibition areas.
Involvement of expert Venetian artisans
The restoration and interior design of the new exhibition space of Le Stanze del Vetro was carried out with the collaboration of some of the most creative expert Venetian artisans from two excellent family-run firms: Augusto Capovilla and Gino Zanon. The Capovilla joinery, founded by Augusto Capovilla in 1890, and metal carpentry firm of Paolo and Francesco Zanon, founded by their father Gino in 1946. Both firms worked with Carlo Scarpa on major projects in Venice, including those for the Correr Museum, the Accademia, the Venice Biennale and the Querini Stampalia Foundation. By choosing to work with these artisans, architects Selldorf, Cattaruzza and Millosevich established an ideal bridge with Carlo Scarpa’s creative world.
Another important collaborator in the project was the artist Alessandro Diaz de Santillana, who designed the lighting system for Le Stanze del Vetro galleries. The nineteen hanging lights and a ceiling light in the inner entrance door area were specifically designed and constructed for this exhibition space by respecting the renovation logic and the history of the building, which was once a school. The series of hanging lamps arranged to fit in rhythmically with the design by Selldorf, Cattaruzza and Millosevich act as light diffusers with no light bulb in the form: they are made of almost colourless engraved glass, blown in Murano, combined with coated metal on black and blue iron. The inner entrance area only has a glass lens deeply scored on the surface and hanging in a luminous empty space. The glass parts were made on Murano by master craftsman Simone Cenedese and ground by Marino Filippucci.
The large shelves and iron bookcases are based on a design for shelves constructed by Ludovico Diaz de Santillana in 1970. The original design was adapted for a new use in different proportions but the iron has the same calamine blue and black which is its colour after the rolling process. The shelving was constructed by Devis Zanatta, as were the metal parts throughout the lighting system. The illumination engineering project has been realised by OttArt in Venice, under the supervision of Maurizio Torcellan and Giacomo Andrea-Doria, with Fontana Arte.
The exhibition Carlo Scarpa. Venini 1932–1947 is organised around a selection of over 300 works designed by the Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa in the years when he was creative director of the Venini Glassworks (1932-1947); some works are shown for the first time and many are from major world public and private collections.
The works are divided into around thirty types that vary according to execution techniques and glass textures (from sommerso to murrine romane, corrosi and a pennellate glass). The material on show also includes prototypes, one-off items, original drawings and designs, plus period photographs and archive documents.
The exhibition explores the significance and importance of Carlo Scarpa’s glass design experience in his overall work. During his Murano period, Scarpa further developed his interests in experimentation and craftsmanship and the show thus provides a great opportunity to compare his work as a glass and furniture designer and his architecture. The exhibition itinerary includes a video room showing two documentary films on the relationship between the Venini glassworks and Carlo Scarpa. The films were produced by Pentagram Stiftung and made by director Gian Luigi Calderone, who had previously made Casa Venini, a film about the history of the Venini-Santillana family. The first film, a fifteen-minute documentary entitled A Carlo Scarpa e ai suoi infiniti possibili (1984), shows images of glass objects designed by Carlo Scarpa. The images are accompanied by the music of Luigi Nono, composed in 1984 with the same title to commemorate his friend. In the film the musicologist Stefano Bassanese illustrates the structure of the music and the affinities between the designer and the composer. A second documentary Carlo Scarpa, fuori dal paradiso (2012) describes Scarpa and his glass through personal accounts by those who knew him well, such as former students and, especially, his son Tobia. This onehour film will be shown twice a day and is on sale in the exhibition bookshop.