May 29, 2017

Carlo Urbinati’s Venice Must-Sees

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Heading to the Venice Biennale? Carlo Urbinati, the co-founder of Foscarini (based in nearby Treviso), shares his tips on what design lovers should see in the city outside the exposition.

1. Le Stanze Del Vetro

Le Stanze del Vetro is a long-term initiative devoted to studying the art of glassmaking in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is based on the San Giorgio Island where it showcases incredible pieces of blown glass from international artists from Carlo Scarpa to Venini to the Scandinavian masters. Right now, for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ettore Sottsass, Le Stanze del Vetro will celebrate his glass production with the exhibition “Ettore Sottsass: The Glass.”

2. Olivetti Showroom

In the late 1950’s, Adriano Olivetti commissioned Carlo Scarpa to design a display space for his Olivetti products. The Olivetti Company was a typewriter manufacturer experimenting with producing early computers and calculators. The resulting Olivetti Showroom was a beautiful space used for decades. It was restored in 2011 and today is a recognized historical building, where Scarpa’s design has become a museum. This space is tiny jewel of Venice—you find the most sought-after marble and stones, lime surfaces and mosaics, different types of wood, metals and crystals all used in various scales. I appreciate that this space reminds us of the more humble technology designs from our past. To me, the showroom also represents one of most important architectural preservation projects in Venice today.

3. Fondazione Querini Stampalia 

This grand structure was once home to the Querini Stampalia family. Inside, luxurious rooms are full of ancient collections of furniture, paintings, porcelain accessories, and artwork. The Foundation, established in 1869, is the only institution of the city that contains the entire heritage of this ancient and noble Venetian family. It supports cultural productions through the study of its own historical and artistic heritage and it is open to contemporary events and works of art.

Carlo Scarpa and later Mario Botta took part of updating and adding to the museum, which also features a large, lush courtyard that’s open to the public—a rare find in Venice. One of my favorite things about this museum is the system built by Scarpa to deal with the city’s rising water problem. On the side of the building, there is a tall geometric gate where the water is free to flow in and over the steps.

Each of my sons has gone here to study or work over the years; it’s a relaxing, popular place for locals to enjoy the outdoors during the warmer months. 

4. Vedova Foundation

Created by Emilio Vedova and his wife Annabianca, the Foundation is situated in the heart of Venice. The main aim of the foundation is to promote art and work of Vedova and highlight his importance in the history of 20th-century art through a series of initiatives, research projects, analyses, and exhibitions. The space where the Emilio Vedova Foundation is hosted now was the atelier of the artist.

When he passed away, the building became converted into a gallery showing various pieces of his work. The exhibition space—designed by Renzo Piano—is equipped with the latest technology for conserving and displaying works of art to the public and will also host works by artists from all over the world to create a dialogue with Vedova’s works. Piano designed a motorized system to display the art: each large canvas is suspended on a rigged loop, and moves throughout the space in different positions, matching the fixed light. It’s amazing! 

5. Giorgio Mastinu Gallery  

My son Matteo and I have such an appreciation for this shop; it’s one of our personal favorites galleries in Italy. Whenever we have to buy a special, one-of-a-kind gift, we go here first. The owner and curator, Giorgio Mastinu, does an incredible job of mixing vintage art items with a rich history with more contemporary objects. It’s right on the corner of a small street and looks inconspicuous, but it will not disappoint anyone who visits.

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