Building Bridges Through Art

on June 1, 2019 | By Maya O'Mahony

A living, breathing city and work of art in and of itself, Venice is also full of art everyday, with collections ranging from the Accademia Gallery, which houses Titians and Tinterettos (even the building it’s housed in dates to 1343) to the Peggy Guggenheim, full of Klees and Kandinskys.  But every other year, the city swells with new art as a result of the Venice Bienalle, which is touted as the world’s largest art exhibition.  On it’s 58th edition, there are 30 permanent pavilions that are leased by countries from all over the world, and they fill them with the best representations of modern art from their respective homelands.   But well over 70 countries participate so you can find exhibition spaces all over the city.

One of our favorite things to come out of the 2017 Biennale was a work by sculptor Lorenzo Quinn (son of Anthony Quinn) — it was called “Support,” and featured two massive hands rising out of the Grand Canal that seemingly supported a palazzo.

Lorenzo Quinn’s “support”

His message was about climate change, and how we ultimately have the power in our hands to save or destroy.  But many Venetians, like us, took the message to heart — Venice needs support in so many ways, including climate change, but also with things such as unbridled mass tourism, mega cruise ships, and the fact that Venetians themselves can no longer afford to live in their own city.  We fell in love with this sculpture, and we weren’t alone — erected in April 2017 for the opening of that year’s Bienalle, it was due to come down that November, but there was such an outcry to let it stay (many, like us, hoped it would become permanent), the exhibition remained for another six months.

Fast forward to 2019, and Lorenzo is back, and instead of one pair of hands, we now have six.  It’s entitled “Building Bridges”, and each pair represent one of six human values:  Friendship, Faith, Help, Love, Hope and Wisdom.  At a time when many people talk about building walls to keep people out (or in), we love seeing the call to build relationships, to reach out across and hold someone’s hand and form bonds, rather than break them down.  It’s worth noting that the pairs are not from the same “body” — each arm is different to the one it reaches to.  For instance, the pair on the far left, “Wisdom” features a youthful arm reaching out to a heavily wrinkled and aged arm.

Lorenzo Quinn’s “Building Bridges”

We’ve also had some fun with Banksy this week.

Three days ago he released a video of a man (purported to be Banksy — sitting with the newspaper covering his face) setting up an illegal art stall on the boardwalk of Piazza San Marco.  Once the man displays all nine of his paintings, they line up to show one scene:  a massive cruise ship, dwarfing the surroundings of Venice, which is a blight upon our fragile city.

Banksy’s “Venice in Oil” – a statement on cruise ships that are a blight upon Venice

At the end of the video, it captures the moment when the police tell him he is unauthorized to display his paintings and he must move on.

About a week before the video was released, this graffiti appeared:

Banksy’s “Migrant Child”

It’s a stunning image of a migrant child, clad in a life jacket, holding a flare signaling for help.

Rumors abounded for days on whether this was a true Banksy or not, as he had not claimed it in public as his own.  But just yesterday, he confirmed it was his by posting two photos of the work on Instagram.

The juxtaposition of the work, just above the water line and on the face of a crumbling home that has been vacant and for sale for years, is breathtaking.  One question does remain — how much will this abandoned house sell for now, because the real estate ad is now calling it “The Banksy Estate“?

“The Banksy Estate”

Maya O'Mahony