Glasstress by Fondazione Berengo
Adriano Berengo continues his legacy of introducing contemporary artists to Murano glass at the 57th Venice Biennale.
Ai Weiwei, Laure Prouvost, Ugo Rondinone, Paul McCarthy, Halim Al-Karim and Monira Al Qadiri are just some of the artists participating in Glasstress for the first time at the 57th Venice Biennale, until November 26. A project of Fondazione Berengo, Glasstress has since the 2009 Venice Biennale revived the Murano glassblowing tradition through alliances with high-profile contemporary artists.
“I think what [Adriano Berengo] did is exceptionally brilliant. The idea, the concept is so strong,” says Weiwei. Adriano Berengo has been nominated as a 2017 Visionary by the Telegraph newspaper for continuing the legacy of Egidio Costantini and Peggy Guggenheim, who familiarised the likes of Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall with Murano glass.
“He believes in contemporary expression, but at the same time tries to develop this old technique into a new language,” continued Weiwei, who produced a number of works with his assistants at the Berengo Studio over December. “I’m a contemporary artist, but I am always learning and working with tradition.”
This year, the Glasstress exhibition has been split across two venues: Palazzo Franchetti and the Murano workshops at the Berengo Studio. Highlights at Franchetti include installations of German artist Thomas Schütte’s geometric garden gnome-like sculptures and Scottish artist Charles Avery’s signature fictional island, in this iteration showing the long journey of eels. Both artists from America, Sarah Sze has created a site-specific installation of shards to describe her experience with the furnace, and Clare Phyllis Davies uses the fragility and translucency of glass to highlight effects at the edge of human perception. Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen explores recycling with an installation in the garden.
Taking the exhibition into geopolitical territory, Iraqi artist Halim Al-Karim combines his poetry and the Murano tradition to reflect on his experience of exile during the first Gulf War. Using iridescent glass, Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri has made seven sculptures of oil drill heads pre-empting a future in which fossil fuel is obsolete. Previously a Lieutenant Colonel in the Saudi army, conceptual artist Abdulnasser Gharem satirises Arab bureaucracy with his rubber stamp.
Back at the Berengo Studio, French artist Loris Gréaud and curator Nicolas Bourriaud have created an immersive performative exhibition. The Campiello della Pescheria furnace, shut down for the last 60 years, is brought back to life to manifest a production line that attempts to crystallise time.