Thursday, October 6, 2011

Art and Mystery in Venice:

Come and see what the great Belgian antique and art dealer Axel Vervoordt has been up to lately.

And you'll find my list of highlights for the Venice Biennale.

Brilliant Axel Vervoordt created the inspiring TRA: Edge of Becoming exhibit at the Palazzo Fortuny, recently renovated.  It's a dazzling and thought-provoking jewel of this year's brilliant Venice Biennale, which continues through November.

Axel Vervoordt is a favorite style-setter and ideas generator for THE STYLE SALONISTE readers. 

Vervoordt’s antique-filled Antwerp castle, his art galleries, the gardens with Jacques Wirtz, the luxe color-modulated interiors he has created around the world, have all been documented in his books over the last decade.

For the last few years, Axel has been involved in provocative and addictive exhibits that take over the hauntingly beautiful Palazzo Fortuny every two years.

I was in Venice recently to view and enjoy highlights of the Biennale, the lively arts and cultural event that runs through November. 

First on my list to view was Axel’s new collection, TRA: Edge of Becoming, a mind-bending collage of 150 pieces of sculpture, paintings, video, installations, Japanese traditional structures, textiles, antiques, archaeological digs.

Come with me for a visit to this rare and wonderful cabinet of curiosities. And if you can’t travel to Venice before November, the is a highly collectible book of the exhibit. Axel wrote the highly personal and informative text. Check on, and send a book request to You’ll treasure it.

I arrived in Venice this summer after the first crush of the ravenous art crowd had ‘done the Biennale’ and departed. By the time I stepped onto the airport water taxi, Venice had fare-welled (with some measure of relief) the Russian oligarchs in aircraft carrier-sized yachts. Art collectors, curators, art groupies, artists and their fellow-travelers had had their fill of parties and vernissages and headed home. All was quiet.

On my list to view: the new Punta della Dogana (architecture by Tadao Ando), Barry X. Ball’s allusive sculptures at Ca’ Rezzonico,  Anish Kapoor’s on-again, off-again magic act at San Giorgio Maggiore, everything at Arsenale (especially Urs Fischer’s wax sculpture tour de force), and the newly unveiled Prada Foundation collection.

And my major focus: Vervoordt’s TRA: The Edge of Becoming, at the Palazzo Fortuny.

Ground Floor/ entrance view with Michael Borremans ‘Red Hand, Green Hand (2), oil on canvas, 2010, Private Collection. Courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp and Alberto Giacometti ‘L’Objet Invisible’, 1934, bronze, Foundation Marguerite and Aimé Maeght, Saint-Paul, France

View of the Fortuny floor with a painting by Casorati, ‘L’Attesa’, 1918-1919, tempera on canvas, Private Collection, Turin; a sculpture by León Ferrari Untitled, 2010, wire, Courtesy Leon Ferrari and Haunch of Venison, New York; Kimsooja, ‘Bottari: the Island’ site specific 8 Bottari installation at Palazzo Fortuny, 2011, Dimensions variable, Used Japanese Clothes and used Korean bedcovers, Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery and Raffaella Cortese Gallery, Milan; photo by Désiree Dolron, ‘Xteriors XII’, 2001-08, Collection of the artist Courtesy GRIMM, Amsterdam

View of the second floor containing works by Jannis Kounellis, Untitled, 1969- reinstalled 2011, Courtesy of the artist; Anthony Gormley, ‘Feeling Material XII’, 2004, Courtesy of the artist and Mimmo Scognamiglio Arte contemporanea, Milano; Jesus-Rafael Sotto, ‘Contraste’, 1989 or before, Private Collection Florence; and Marisa Merz, Untitled, 1980, Wrapping paper, paraffin, toy, wooden triangle, copper wire, box iron, branches, iron tripod, glass, Collezione Merz, Turin 

“We gave TRA the subtitle Edge of Becoming as it represents a state of infinite becoming, a moment when you’re standing on the edge of the past and present, and looking forward to the future, through these works of art. The exhibit explored the possibility of space and energy and the potential for transformation in ever single moment.”—Axel Vervoordt.

Anish Kapoor, ‘Portrait of Light Picture of Space’, 1993, pigment and wood, Courtesy of the artist and an Egyptian False Door in limestone, Old Kingdom, IIIrd – VIth Dynasty, ca. 2686 – 2181 B.C., Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Company

Gunther Uecker, Schwebend Schweben, 1995-2011, Chairs, fabric, nails, rope, stones. Collection of the artist. Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery

Among the artists represented are Mark Rothko, Antoni Tapies, Anish Kapoor, Marina Abramovic, Shirin Neshat, Otto Piene, Kazuo Shiraga, Jef Verheyen, Louise Bourgeois, James Turrell, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and a series of Japanese and Thai masters.

It’s an exhibit that invites a viewer to linger, ponder, experience, stop time, go into a dream state, and disappear from the world for a few hours.

The Details:
The accomplished curatorial team for TRA: Edge of Becoming is composed of  Daniela Ferretti, director of Palazzo Fortuny; Rosa Martínez, independent curator and art advisor; Francesco Poli, philosopher and art history professor, and Axel Vervoordt, president of the Axel Vervoordt Foundation.

TRA: Edge of Becoming
Palazzo Fortuny, San Marco 3780, San Beneto, Venice
4 June – 27 November 2011

When in Venice: 
Where to Stay Now
I had the great good fortune to discover and stay at the new Il Palladio hotel on the green island of Giudecca for this visit to the Biennale.

I loved the hotel and the location—though I was at first a little apprehensive to be across the water from San Marco. I usually stay at Bauer Il Palazzo. I love that hotel and the central location, right in the middle of everything, moments from Codognato, my favorite jewelry treasure trove, and seconds from Florian.

Il Palladio is owned and directed by the brilliant Francesca Bortolotto Possati, a third-generation Venetian and the source for everything stylish. (Click here for my earlier feature on her glamorous new Villa F.)

Francesca lives and works in her palazzo on the Grand Canal and she understands Venetian style and history. Her family owns two palazzi directly on the best stretch of the canal. (The larger palazzo was rented out to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when she was working on a movie recently in Venice.)

On Guidecca island Il Palladio has a discreet entrance. (No day-trippers find their way across the water.)

Arriving and departing, guests have the best view in Venice, from Giudecca back to the spires of San Marco and with the Palladio-designed San Giorgio Maggiore stage right. A few steps along the quiet waterfront is the hotel spa, a haven of calm and tranquility. 

Il Palladio is adjacent to the legendary Cipriani, but it feels secret, undiscovered, arty, and a bit mysterious. Perfect for privacy-loving travelers.

Francesca directed the hotel remodel, designed the interiors and gave the hotel, a former monastery, a sense of history and comfort. Large reception rooms feel gracious upon arrival.

Only seven minutes from the Bauer dock by luxury boat, Il Palladio feels a world away from the hullabaloo and crush of the San Marco neighborhood in high season. One secret: the exquisitely fragrant private gardens, with verdant lawns and jasmine arbors, rose-scented trellises and cool belvederes for summer relaxation. It’s a refuge after a day of museums, cafes, walking over bridges and leaping on and off the Vaporetto. Guests may wake to birdsong, a rare occurrence in Venice where the air is more likely to be ornamented with the ringing of bells at all hours.

Il Palladio Tip: I suggest introducing yourself to the handsome Simone Moretti, Palladio resident manager. Discuss your plans with him, and he’ll recommend his favorite restaurants, get reservations to top tables, and suggest artful ways to traverse Venice and embrace its beauty, character and history far from the day-trippers.  

Mr Moretti and his helpful staff can be your advisors to make the trip private, memorable.

For more information on Il Palladio, the very grand (live like a Doge for a day) and beautiful Il Palazzo, and other Bauer hotels in Venice:

Why Venice Now:
The 54th Biennale, through November 27, includes the highly entertaining official Biennale sites on Castello. My favorite site is the Arsenale, a series of old, vast, brick ship-building sites and warehouses, filled with provocative paintings, sculpture, film, conceptual pieces and installations. Brilliant.

As well as the official sites, there are top-quality off-site exhibitions and events, such as those at the Palazzo Fortuny, Ca’Rezzonico, Punta della Dogana (Tadao Ando), and Palazzo Grassi.

This year’s Biennale also includes exhibitions of architecture, and music and dancer performances. 

I suggest: book some tickets online, and then head to the information booths at the Biennale Giardini site to find out all events.

According to Biennale president Paolo Baratta “The Biennale is like a wind machine. Every two years, it shakes the forest, unveils hidden truths, gives new strength and light to new sprouts, showing older trunks and persisting branches from a different perspective. The Biennale is a great pilgrimage, where in the works of artists and in the work of curators the voices of the world meet, to talk about their own and our future. Art here is meant as a continuous evolution.”


The Devoted Classicist said...

The hotel looks fantastic! It must be wonderful with the garden.

Greet said...

Dear Diane,
Thank you so much for this post! I hadn't had the time to go the Venice Biennale and I am so pleased to read about it here!
Axel Vervoordt is an amazing and talented person! I just love everything he does! He has brilliant ideas.
I will file the hotel you recommended here. It looks great!
Have a wonderful weekend!

La Contessa said...

Wish I could get there!At least you took me away for a few minutes with your post!I have met AXEL,been to his studio and his magnificent castle.Anything he does is BRILLIANT!It all sounds delightful.

peggy braswell said...

Venice Biennale sounds divine + AV is simply the BEST & the hotel sounds amazing. What a marvelous trip! Thank you for sharing.

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Diane, Gunther Uecker's work is so interesting. Thank you so much for this gorgeous post. Venice always has a way of making me nostalgic. One can never be bored of this place. It's absolutely stunning!!