Category Archives: Design

Artomatic 2017, and the Joy of Discovery

Artomatic, the free-floating exhibition space that pops up in Washington every two or three years, has made a welcome return. This year, more than 600 artists and performers are taking part in the seven-week-long show.

Artomatic is non-juried. With no gatekeepers to evaluate quality, pretty much anything goes.* As a result, you can find yourself wading thought some truly horrendous amateur art. But every once in a while, you’ll stumble over something beautiful and inspired. The joy of unexpectedly finding something that gives you pleasure is what makes Artomatic so much fun.

The location of Artomatic changes with each show, moving to a different building “in transition”. This year, it fills seven floors of a currently unoccupied office building in Crystal City. I was able to tour four of the floors before museum fatigue kicked in, and I plan to return to see the rest of this year’s show before it ends on 6 May 2017.

Here are some of the things that caught my eye during yesterday’s visit:

 


There’s more to Artomatic than the visual arts. The event also features music, video, film, poetry, performance art, dance parties, and the occasional magician.

Here’s today’s events schedule:


*I’ve never seen the artists’ agreement documents, so I don’t know whether there are restrictions on content. The show stipulates that it’s designed for adults, but there were plenty of families with children touring the exhibition yesterday.

Paradiso, and the Chamber of the Great Council

I didn’t take this photograph. I’m using it because it there was no way for me to come close to capturing the texture and detail of the massive painting behind the Doge’s throne in the Chamber of the Great Council. It’s titled Paradiso, and it was painted by Jacopo Tintoretto and the members of his workshop.

Click the image to enbiggen.

I first saw a picture of Paradiso in Venice: Art and Architecture, a two-volume, slip-cased entry in the superb series of art books that the Konemann publishing house released around the turn of the century. The picture took up two full pages of the oversized book.

I was thoroughly enraptured. Venice had always been near the top of my list of cities I dreamed of visiting, and that picture cinched the deal.

And now I was here.

Paradiso is the world’s longest painting on canvas, and the Chamber of the Great Council itself is one of the largest rooms in Europe. It was here that the Great Council of Venice, made up of all patrician males over 25, regularly met to determine the fate of Venice.

I spent more than an hour in this room, moving from place to place, trying to absorb as much of the emotional atmosphere of the room as I could.

Like Schloss Neuschwanstein, like Sainte-Chapelle, like Château de Chenonceau.

A peak experience.

In the Doges’ Palace

We’re near the end, now. And we’re right back where we started, at Piazza San Marco.

For centuries, Venice was a dominant—sometimes the dominant—force in the commercial and cultural life of Europe, playing a role similar to that of New York City in the 20th century. The Doges’ Palace was Venice’s ultimate power center.

The Palace is adjacent to Saint Mark’s Basilica, and its entrance is just around the corner.


The Courtyard

You approach the palace grounds through this dim passageway…

…which opens to the central courtyard, and a magnificent assemblage of architecture. It’s a much smaller space than Piazza San Marco, but every bit as awe-inspiring..

Emerging from that shadowy entrance into this exquisite space is similar to going from Kansas to Oz.


“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold…”

Beautiful as the exterior is, it doesn’t prepare you for the grand rooms of the Palace.

This is why I keep going back to Europe. It takes centuries of civilization for a society to create an environment like this.


In the Armory

Every palace needs an armory.


The Reason I Came to Venice

There’s one more room in the palace still to visit: The Chamber of the Great Council. It gets a separate posting.

Odds and Ends at Mocenigo Palazzo

In what seems like a familiar story, Palazzo Mocenigo was the home of a branch of the powerful Mocenigo family—seven family members became doges—for more than 300 years. The line died out in the mid-20th century, and the palace was willed to the city on the death of the last Mocenigo widow, with the stipulation that it become an art gallery to complement Museo Correr.

Today the museum is the home of the Study Centre for the History of Textiles and Costumes.* It also houses a mixture of partially restored period rooms, with their contents largely drawn from other Venice museums, and a small but fascinating section devoted to the history of perfume in Venice’s society and commerce.

A reconstruction of a perfumer’s workshop.

From the costume collection.

Remember the door that I plotted to steal from Ca’ Rezzonico? These waistcoats are worthy of that door.

I’ve decided that once I smuggle the door past customs and install it at home, I’m going to establish a detailed dress code for anyone who uses it. Vests like these will be required; if you think you can enter wearing your ratty black Ramones t-shirt, forget about it.


Murano, of course, like the picture at the top of the posting. They’ve been making chandeliers like this for centuries, but the design looks absolutely contemporary


*You can see some beautiful examples from the collection on the Mocenigo Palazzo’s page at the Google Arts and Culture site.

Ca’ Rezzonico, Where I Fantasized about Stealing the Furniture

New day, new palace.

Ca’ Rezzonico, another magnificent 18th century palazzo, fronts on the Grand Canal. It’s now the Museum of 18th Century Venice.

Like every other great building in Venice, it comes with a story.

Work on the palace began in the mid-17th century, but the original architect died, and the owners ran out of money, so the building was left incomplete. Giambattista Rezzonico, a merchant of Venice, bought the palace a hundred years later, when his family’s wealth and power was at its peak. The building was completed in 1758, in time to welcome a visit from Rezzonico’s younger brother, Carlo, who had been elected Pope under the name Clement XIII. At Ca’ Rezzonico, you can still see the large papal throne Clement used when he visited.

Fifty years later, the Rezzonico family was extinct, and the palazzo went into a slow decline. Along the way, it was the final residence of the poet Robert Browning, who died there. Eventually, in 1935, it was sold to the Venice Town Council.


Ca’ Rezzonico now houses some finest 18th century furniture in the city. I eyed many of the exquisite pieces with covetousness in my heart. If I could have figured out a way to stuff some of the furniture into my now-depleted knapsack and smuggle it back to Washington, I would have done so in a second.

Unfortunately, and not for the first time, I was unable to bend the laws of physics and the universe to my will. The furniture remains in Venice. But I do have some pictures…

Tapestry chairs.

A perfect desk.

OK, I definitely have dibs on this door.  It grabbed my attention the second I entered the room.

If I had a door like that, I would probably only walk through it when I was formally dressed, and I’d certainly require a background check before I’d let anyone else use it. And they’d have to wear gloves.

I wonder if I could find a young Arts major in DC who would be willing to do something similar to a door in my condo? Seriously.

This painted chest belongs close to the door.

“New” Artwork for Alien:  Covenant

Uh, Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell”, anybody? Clearly not just a coincidence, but as somebody once said, “It’s not a theft, it’s an homage.”

Rodin's "The Gates of Hell"

Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell”

Details from Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell”


I’m just going to sneak this apology in here, where no one will see it.

Sorry for the premature praise for Ghost in the Shell. I guess the moral is “Never judge a movie by its trailer.”

What the Well-Dressed Venetian Will Wear

Back at Piazza San Marco, I found a captivating shop called Venice Land, which offers Carnevale costumes and masks for sale or rent. This is the stuff of dreams.

Expensive dreams, though. While you can buy little plastic Carnevale masks for a few euros on any street in Venice, serious goods like these are another story entirely. For beautiful work like the objects in these pictures, costume rental is in the hundreds, and sale is in the thousands.