May 11 – November 26, 2017
Organized by Fondazione Berengo
Curated by Dimitri Ozerkov, Herwig Kempinger, Adriano Berengo
With the consultancy of Clare Phyllis Davies
Palazzo Franchetti | San Marco 2847, Venice
Berengo Exhibition Space | Campiello della Pescheria, Murano: The Unplayed Notes Factory, a solo exhibition by Loris Gréaud, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, a special project of GLASSTRESS 2017
Returning to Venice for the 57th Venice Biennale, GLASSTRESS brought together 40 leading contemporary artists from Europe, the United States, the Middle East and China in an ambitious exhibition exploring the endless creative possibilities of glass. Conceived by Fondazione Berengo, the project took place in two exceptional historic locations: Palazzo Franchetti in Venice and a converted furnace in Murano.
Since its debut as a collateral event of the Venice Biennale in 2009, GLASSTRESS has revived the traditional craft of Murano glassblowing by forging new alliances with internationally renowned artists and designers and has since become an unparalleled platform showcasing groundbreaking new works in glass.
The 2017 edition of GLASSTRESS presented an impressive line-up of artists including Ai Weiwei, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Jan Fabre, Abdulnasser Gharem, Tony Oursler, Laure Prouvost, Ugo Rondinone, Thomas Schütte and Sarah Sze. With little or no prior experience working with glass, these artists have embraced the challenge of creating extraordinary works in this very delicate medium in collaboration with Muranese artisans. The remarkable output of this unusual encounter defies the stereotypes associated with this ancient craft, ultimately pushing the boundaries of both contemporary art and glass.
Ai Weiwei who experimented with Murano glass for the first time says: “I think what Berengo did is exceptionally brilliant. The idea, the concept is so strong. He believes in contemporary expression, but at the same time tries to develop this old technique into a new language. I’m a contemporary artist, but I am always learning and working with tradition.”
Major highlights from the 5th edition of GLASSTRESS exhibited at Palazzo Franchetti included Gartenzwerge, an installation of colorful and geometric sculptures reminiscent of garden gnomes produced by German artist Thomas Schütte. Scottish artist Charles Avery transposed his signature fictional island to the Venetian lagoon, with an installation depicting the long journey of eels from his hometown, Oban, to Venice. The artist was inspired by the act of glassmaking as a way to discover an objective truth through physical movement, strength and timing. Brigitte Kowanz and Erwin Wurm, who both represented the Austrian Pavilion in 2017, also experimented with glass and conceived striking installations at the 19th Century palace.
American artist Sarah Sze collaborated with glass masters to create a site-specific installation composed of shards, Cotissi, informed by her experience of working in the furnace. Her intervention traced the confines of the Palazzo Franchetti with a delicate, but strong line of shards of glass circling the architecture and echoing the shades of blue and green of the Laguna.
Iraqi artist Halim Al-Karim recounted his exile in the desert during the first Gulf War with a mirror in engraved Murano glass, combining his poetry with traditional Venetian art. Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri presented seven sculptures of oil drill heads made of iridescent glass, Amorphous Solid Ghost, mimicking artifacts. The installation attempts to conjure the premonition that fossil fuels will soon become obsolete as an energy source, and pre-emptively positions oil drilling as an inexplicable human activity from ancient times. Abdulnasser Gharem, Saudi Arabia’s most important conceptual artist, addressed themes of Islamic cultural identity in contemporary society, drawing his inspiration from his previous experience as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Saudi army. His work The Stamp (Moujaz) takes on a satirical view of bureaucracy in the Arab world.
Clare Phyllis Davies states that the fragility and translucence of glass combined with malleability of form and nuance of color makes the medium serve as an ideal foil for effects and currents that would otherwise remain at the threshold of human perception.
In the garden of Palazzo Franchetti, Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen presents a spectacular installation exploring recycling and sustainability supported by ECO-oh!
In Murano, where the exhibition continues, Loris Gréaud makes his GLASSTRESS debut with a special project at Berengo Exhibition Space. The French artist brought an abandoned glass furnace back to life with his immersive and performative solo exhibition The Unplayed Notes Factory curated by Nicolas Bourriaud. The Campiello della Pescheria furnace, shut down for the last 60 years, hosted an unofficial glass production line with an almost alchemical ambition to crystallize time.
GLASSTRESS 2017 was curated by Dimitri Ozerkov (Director of the Hermitage 20/21 Project for Contemporary Art at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg), Herwig Kempinger (President of Secession, Association of Visual Artists, Vienna) and Adriano Berengo (President of Fondazione Berengo and founder of GLASSTRESS, Venice), with the consultancy of Clare Phyllis Davies (Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The Unplayed Notes Factory by Loris Gréaud was curated independently by Nicolas Bourriaud.
GLASSTRESS 2017 – PARTICIPATING ARTISTS
Ai Weiwei (China), Charles Avery (UK), Dike Blair (USA), Graham Fagen (UK), Gaia Fugazza (Italy), Abdulnasser Gharem (Saudi Arabia), Loris Gréaud (France), Xenia Hausner (Austria), Siggi Hofer (Italy), Cameron Jamie (USA), Halim Al-Karim (Iraq), Brigitte Kowanz (Austria), Dr Lakra (Mexico), Karen LaMonte (USA), Paul McCarthy (USA), Haroon Mirza (UK), Laure Prouvost (France), Monira Al Qadiri (Kuwait), Random International (UK), Ugo Rondinone (Switzerland), Markus Schinwald (Austria), Sarah Sze (USA), Sabine Wiedenhofer (Austria), Dustin Yellin (USA)
Monica Bonvicini (Italy), Jake & Dinos Chapman (UK), Tony Cragg (UK), Erin Dickson (UK), Jan Fabre (Belgium), Josepha Gasch-Muche (Germany), Shirazeh Houshiary (Iran), Vik Muniz (Brazil), Tony Oursler (USA), Jaume Plensa (Spain), Thomas Schütte (Germany), Koen Vanmechelen (Belgium), Erwin Wurm (Austria)
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