Venice is an art-lover’s paradise at the moment, and not simply because the Biennale is in full swing. All over the city, hundreds of buildings – ranging from de-consecrated churches and cloisters to private apartments and palaces – are hosting fantastic ‘fringe exhibitions’ that will run throughout the summer. Head to the San Marco district, where our luxurious Longhi Palazzo Molin apartment is situated, and you’ll find a wealth of superb shows and installations in all sorts of unusual locations. We’ve selected two of the best, to get you started.
Paul Benney: Speaking in Tongues at Chiesa di San Gallo
Just north of Piazza San Marco sits the beautiful little church of San Gallo, which is currently housing an immersive installation by British artist Paul Benney. Push through the heavy curtains over the door, and you’ll discover a cool, dark space containing a large luminous canvas in front of the high altar. Drawing on the biblical story of the Pentecost, in which twelve apostles encounter the Holy Spirit and then begin ‘speaking in tongues’, Benney’s painting depicts twelve contemporaries of diverse ethnicities and religious backgrounds, united in a collective state of spiritual awakening. Playing with the concept of narrative painting, the artist has also introduced a sound element to the work, inviting each of his subjects to narrate and record transformative moments in their lives – which are then relayed through holosonic speakers placed around the church. On first entering the building, the recordings sound like barely-audible murmurings – but when standing in precise spots around the chapel, you hear individual voices (an effect achieved through sound-focussing technology) recounting the subjects’ poignant and sometimes shocking revelations. Within the context of this intimate, shadowy religious setting, the experience feels akin to receiving a highly personal and profound confession.
Intuition at Palazzo Fortuny
Wander over to Palazzo Fortuny and you’ll encounter one of this summer’s most talked-about shows; the last in a series of six highly-acclaimed biannual exhibitions curated by the great Belgian collector, dealer and entrepreneur Axel Vervoordt. Titled ‘Intuition’, the show explores how intuition has shaped art across cultures, geographies and generations, though a broad and intriguing spectrum of works that relate in various ways to the concept of dreams, telepathy, hypnosis and inspiration. Spanning antiquity to the present day, the exhibits range from anthropomorphic totems from the 4th millennium BC to seminal surrealist works by modern masters such as Joan Miro and Man Ray, as well as installations by some of the world’s most highly prized contemporary artists including Marina Abramovic and Anish Kapoor. Dimly lit and eclectically curated across five floors, the atmospheric palazzo resembles a gothic ‘wunderkammer’ stuffed with curios and artefacts, where visitors are encouraged to explore its many darkened spaces and passageways – following their gut instinct and become more aware of their intuition in the process.