Factum Arte recreating Piranesi

Reinvigorating past Masters in Venice

From the 24th – 28th August, Renaissance Online went to Venice for the Vernissage period of the Venice Architecture Biennale. As Publisher of Renaissance Online I was also there with my Flint PR hat on, promoting an iPhone app created especially for the Biennale.

Whilst most of the architectural pavilions were not necessarily directly relevant to Renaissance’s mission to illustrate the collecting and investing sideĀ of the art world, one particular exhibition stood out, and represented a general trend in the arts world which cannot be overlooked.

From 28 August to 21 November 2010, the Sale del Convitto exhibition centre on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore is hosting The Arts of Piranesi. Architect, etcher, antiquarian, vedutista, designer. As well as showing 300 original prints, the exhibition has been designed to highlight the polymath’s interests, style and remarkable modernity of the Venetian artist. To do so, a number of contemporary creations inspired by his work are also on show. These include a 3D video installation of the Carceri d’Invenzione and seven original objects made by Factum Arte from Piranesi prints. These objects were designed by Piranese but never previously actually made.

Giambattista Piranesi (Venice 1720 – Rome 1778) was a crucial figure in the formation of 18th century taste, while his working methods anticipated the role of today’s architects and designers. In fact the accent on Piranesi’s modernity and contemporary relevance is the keynote in The Arts of Piranesi, as designed by Michele De Lucchi: “We have considered Piranesi as a man of our time and we have interpreted his work using the latest technology to explore the wealth of his eclecticism and his eccentric, inspired creative vein.

The exhibition sets out not only to refute the oft-made criticism that Piranesi’s projects were unrealisable but also to demonstrate the extraordinary modernity of his thinking. As De Lucchi explains: “the prints, connected to various specific design and decorative series, have been used here as real designs. Thanks to the collaboration with Factum Arte, we have been able to show models, prototypes, objects and photographs of an extraordinary instensity. They demonstrate yet again Piranesi’s greatness as an artist and provide more grist to the ongoing debate on the imporance and value of fine art facisimiles and the use of modern technology in the analysis and critical study of historical works of art.”

This was a theme echoed in much of the architectural exhibitions seen throughout Venice at that time for the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale. In the Arsenale Wim Wenders’ impressive 3D filmic portrait guides the viewer on a surreal and uber-modern tour around SANAA’s Rolex Learning Center. In the Giardini you again have to don the 3D specs in the Australian pavilion, for a presentation that makes wonderful use of the latest technology for John Gollings and Ivan Rijavec’s utopian vision ‘Now + When.

The striking thing about the use of this technology is that it allows the viewer to experience art, architecture and design in an entirely new and arguably more engrossing way. To see a 250-year-old 2D Piranesi design brought, for the first time ever, into 3D reality is quite something; and the Australians’ slick night-time 3D photography presenting a Melbourne skyline more akin to Hong Kong or Las Vegas than a land down under, was another example of the transformative experience that modern technology can provide.

The Australians had a busy Biennale, but their enterprises were not all dependent on the latest innovations in technical design. On Friday 27th, the day before the public opening, The Queensland Government hosted a breakfast on the Peggy Guggenheim Roof Terrace in Dorsoduro to showcase Queensland Architecture to international media and the international architectural industry. A magnificent platform, literally, from which to present their vision to the world, one cannot forget the heritage upon which the biennale, both art and architecture, rests. In this particular case it was the wonderful collection of Peggy Guggenheim directly underfoot. As Sir Isaac Newton might say, if the artistic output of today is great, it is because it stands upon the shoulders of giants.

See Renaissance Online’s interview with the Director of The Guggenheim Philip Rylands

WOL BALSTON

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