Real Venice at Somerset House

For centuries Venice has inspired intellectuals with its strangeness, artists with its beauty and couples all over the world have breathed its innate romanticism. Despite its magic essence the real Venice is most definitely in peril. Many of its buildings are threatened by flooding and the mass tourism is making it even more fragile.

For this project fourteen international artists were challenged to create a series of meaningful and original photographic images of Venice. The resulting images show Venice in all its beauty with a touch of realism. As well as capturing iconic monuments and modern architecture, the photographs capture the ravages wrought by mass tourism and the rise of the lagoon water level.

Walking into the exhibition you are greeted by an explosion of colourful light combined with ancient gold frames, which captured our attention immediately.

Candida Höfer had visited the great theatre La Fenice, before the terrible fire but had not been able to photograph it. Nor had she been able to do so after it had risen from the ashes, sticking true to its name The Phoenix. Because of that Höfer truly took the most of this opportunity, making the baroque glamour of this picture and its amazing colours, all her own.

As you continue exploring, each artist’s collection provides a new exciting taste and feel for Venice. Mimmo Jodice wants to confound the viewer’s sense of time. The image could have been taken last week, last year or even a hundred years ago. The artist turned to a nineteenth-century limitation of photography for inspiration and has created a timeless masterpiece.

Hiroshi Watanabe wanted to approach the Italian Commedia dell´Arte to show the uneasy relationship the Venetians have with their tourists: resentful but holly dependent. As masks are meant both to reveal and disguise, the artist decided they would serve his intention. Robert Walker, long known for his vibrant colour studies of Times Square, reflects a different view of tourism: ‘the city was sold long ago to world tourism and each and every tourist owns a piece of it.’

As the real Venice is ecologically fragile, all its beauty depends on its conservation. It is not easy, but organisations like Venice in Peril are out there to ensure that the fairy city of heart will be there to enchant our great-grandchildren as it has enchanted us. We too can contribute in an enjoyable way by visiting this stunning exhibition that will be at Somerset House until the 11th of December.

images : somerset house

Laura Roig Vericat

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