Berggruen Arts & Culture debuts in Venice wit...

Berggruen Arts & Culture debuts in Venice with the group show “Janus”

In the prestigious eighteenth-century setting of Palazzo Diedo, the Berggruen Arts & Culture institute, founded by the collector and philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen, makes its debut in the lagoon by presenting the show Janus, an exhibition curated by Mario Codognato, artistic director, and Adriana Rispoli, curator. With the mission of deepening the link between contemporary art and the past between Eastern and Western cultures, this inaugural exhibition establishes a dialogue between historical heritage and contemporary, paying homage to the tradition of glass, textile, pictorial art and Venetian design whilst suggesting a dialogue between the neoclassical architecture by Andrea Tirali and the new scenario created by the architect Silvio Fassi, by addressing site-specific practices.

“Janus”, Palazzo Diedo, photo Massimo Pistore, courtesy Palazzo Diedo / Berggruen Arts & Culture

Mythological and ancient evocations are present in the title of the exhibition, which revisits the cult of the Latin divinity Janus, a deity of the pantheon who, according to classical iconography, is represented as a two-faced figure, having with one profile facing forward and the other backwards, overall a symbol of historical (dis)continuity between past and present, here translating overall into an allegorical phantasmagoria. In response to such a mythological figure, Liu Wei‘s sculptures Throw a Dice (2024) and Speculation n.2 (2024) enter the space as if resembling modern grotesques to suggest new compositional morphologies which are drawn from a minimalist lesson and further articulating a sophisticated material study to foreground a posthuman metamorphosis. The artist Sterling Ruby places a specific emphasis in relation to the venetian context and architecture with Lantern (3) (2024), further suggesting a sublime pictorial reflection with the tapestries Window of Declinism ½ (2024), whose layered textures overturn the tradition of landscape painting.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, “Enlightning”, 2024, printed fabric. Photo by Massimo Pistore. Courtesy of the Artist, Lisson Gallery, Sugimoto Studio and Palazzo Diedo / Berggruen Arts & Culture

Rigorous and sublime are the minimalist works by Mariko Mori, Peace Crystal (2016-2024), a series of site-specific works differently placed in unique ecological environments in each of the inhabitable continents of the world, here acting as sculptural poems or metaphors of the processes of life, death and rebirth. These pieces further address a reflection on time through the lines of refractions and compositions, merging into a perfect harmony through the style of transparency. They flank the natural passage created by Carsten Höller for the installation Venice Inclined Oval Staircase, which eventually reach the works by Hiroshi Sugimoto, an artist known for his sublime photographic aesthetics, who, in this setting, makes explicit his personal poetics of lighting in a monochromatic and abstract guise by fusing elements taken from Isaac Newton’s photology as in Lightning Fields and Opticks, studies of the decomposition of the prism for white light and the chromatic spectrum, and poetically culminating in the mural Enlightening (2024). The dialogue continues with the works by Lee Ufan whose spatial research goes beyond pictorial surfaces to become sculpture as for the pieces Response (3) (2023/24) and Relatum – The location (2024),  works characterized by a meditative research into the void, a calm expressionist rigor and cosmic poetry, all evoked by the Beyond Venice sculptural complex which suggests a geometric as well as a sublime contrast.

Jim Shaw, “The Split Fountain”, acrylic paint, fibreglass, aquaresin, EPS foam, epoxy, wood and steel. Photo by Massimo Pistore. Courtesy of the Artist Jim Shaw Studio, Gagosian and Berggruen Arts & Culture / Palazzo Diedo

A series of stylistic citations will follow, culminating in the works by Jim Shaw, whose practice is inspired by classical mythology as in the fresco The Alexander Romances (2024) and is further declined in the sculptures and prints from the Split Fountain series (2024), a modern phantasmagoria between titanic, animal and anthropomorphic forces, all figuring both an apocalyptic and surreal scenario. A similar illusionist vision is found in the painting by Urs Fischer who in Good Luck Peanuts (2024) presents a modern trompe l’oeil by exceeding the limit of every possible representation, followed by the suggestions of the installation Omen (2024), both an atmospheric and a poetic piece. Towards the end, a realistic accent characterizes the works by Ibrahim Mahama: Three Little Birds (2023) traces the signs of Ghanaian traditions back in time, demonstrating a mastery of the plastic arts and decoration. Piero Golia‘s approach is also decorative as we can see in the site-specific sculpture Concrete cube with glass chandelier (2024), for which he combines the great eighteenth-century Italian tradition with refined sculptural research drawn from minimalism and suggesting a new form and a poetics of transparency.

Ibrahim Mahama, “Three Little Birds”, 2023, relief mural, fibreglass. Courtesy of the Artist, APALAZZOGALLERY and Palazzo Diedo / Berggruen Arts & Culture

Janus exhibition, however, is not limited to these choices and positionings and, suddenly, it becomes evident how Berggruen Arts & Culture’s mission intends to pursue an interdisciplinary trajectory. This is shown by the collaboration with the New York institution, The Kitchen, which at Palazzo Diedo, presents the solo exhibition of artist, Rhea Dillon, suggesting a poetics of ​​care and healing through a personal sculptural and assemblage research. Alongside it is the collaboration with the Polaroid Foundation which, in following the experimentation that the great masters have conducted in favor of this medium, commissions artist and expert John Reuter to invite these invited artists to create new works designed on site by using the instant camera, Polaroid 20×24.


Janus: Urs Fischer, Piero Golia, Carsten Höller, Ibrahim Mahama, Mariko Mori, Sterling Ruby, Jim Shaw, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Aya Takano, Lee Ufan and Liu Wei
Curated by Mario Codognato and Adriana Rispoli in collaboration with The Kitchen (New York) and Polaroid Foundation
20/04 – 24/11/2024
Palazzo Diedo | Cannareggio 2386 | 30121 Venezia
Istituto Berggruen | Fondamenta Zitelle, 43 | 30133 Venezia


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