May with Ruskin, Albers, the Biennale and the Vogalonga

John Ruskin discovered Venice in one of the most difficult and tormented periods of its history, its downfall during the Nineteenth century.
An Englishman – he was born in London 1819 – he visited the city in eleven journeys from 1835 to 1888, the first of them when aged sixteen. He studied it and spoke of it, observing its sunsets, its moonscapes, its views, its great masters, especially, and its architectures, with a sensitive and romantic soul.

His passion for this city soon became a gesture of love embodied by The Stones of Venice, a book which would enter history as a hymn to the beauty, the uniqueness and… the fragility of a city which seemed to be crumbling under the strokes of time and oblivion, in those years more than ever. In view of the particular conformation of the city, this is a theme that is still in part extremely topical.

Today, a great exhibition promoted by the Venice City Museums within the fascinating scenario of the Doge’s apartment in the Ducal Palace, focuses its attention on John Ruskin and his great literary work. Up to 10 June, about one hundred artworks here, all of them from foreign museums, will document his skill in translating his view of reality in his era into images and words, reaching out to a civilized awareness on preservation and restoration which would reach its peak in the following century.

The circuit, opened by a scenographical contribution by Pier Luigi Pizzi, takes its cue from a “private” overview about this English writer and critic, with some self-portraits, photos and paintings depicting him, in addition to portraits of Rose, the girl he dreamt of marrying, but who died when she was just 27 years old. A naturalistic section then follows, with beloved subjects such as the Alps, “leaves” and “algae”; a few languid vistas of Venice by Turner; up to his sophisticated descriptions of Venetian monuments, centred on description and on detail.

From Venetian architectures illustrated by Ruskin’s Nineteenth century eye, to contemporary and futuristic ones… the step is but short. This all about the sixteenth edition of the international Architecture Exhibition, titled FREESPACE, scheduled to begin on the final days in May (preview on 24 and 25 May).

The two curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, are pinpointing attention this year on the relationship between space and architecture, with a particular focus on public space concepts. The central exhibition will be flanked by 63 national participations, spread out amongst the historic pavilions, the Arsenal and the historic city centre.

More architecture, but intended this time as a geometric and formal reference. The reference is to Josef Albers, the precursor of American post-war art and, more precisely, to the exhibition that the Peggy Guggenheim Collection will be dedicating to him starting from 19 May. The architecture featured in this case is taken from pre-Columbian sites and monuments in Mexico. From 25 May the same venue will also present a small but significant display, recalling the first exhibition of a Peggy Guggenheim collection in Europe, for the occasion of the Art Biennale in 1948.

Among the multitude of events in May – all, or at least a good part of them, listed in the following pages – 

we may finally recall the Vogalonga. Together with the Redeemer’s fête and the Historical Regatta it is the most spectacular water event of the year, also known as the lagoon marathon. It is also the one that most closely conveys the spirit and grand Venetian oar traditions, and that has been increasingly able over time to capture rowing fans from every corner of the world. Sunday 20 May will take absolute centre-stage.