by The Art Newspaper
Venetian glass is almost as famous as Venice itself, but, strangely, there is no museum in Venice or on Murano where you can see a good showing of 20th-century and contemporary glass—for that you have to go to the Hentrich Museum of Glass in Düssseldorf or the Corning Musem of Glass in upstate New York. This is about to change, though, because the Fondazione Cini, based in the beautiful Renaissance monastery on the island of San Giorgio, is converting 650 square metres of its outbuildings into an exhibition space for modern glass.
The Stanze del Vetro (Rooms for Glass) will open at the same time as the architecture biennale (29 August 2012), with an exhibition of glass designed by the architect Carlo Scarpa for the makers Venini between 1932 and 1942. Pasquale Gagliardi, secretary general of Fondazione Cini, is full of excitement: “This fits in with our founding mission, which is to shed light on all aspects of Venetian culture, and develops one of our traditional activities, which has been to take the so-called minor or decorative arts seriously—as we have done with opera libretti, stage design and dance. "
The Stanze del Vetro will, therefore, be nourished by a study centre within the Cini's Istituto di Storia dell'Arte. This will build up an archive, a specialised library, grant bursaries for students of the subject, organise conferences and workshops, and the regular exhibitions. The curator will be Marino Barovier, a member of the famous glass-making family and a leading expert on glass.
One of his first tasks will be to work through the recently rediscovered Venini archives that include original designs and historical photos for every piece made by the firm, which worked with such famous designers as Ettore Sottsass, Giò Ponti, Tapio Wirkkala and Tadao Ando. There will be thematic exhibitions during the biennales of art and architecture, so that glass will once again be part of the art scene when the world descends on Venice for these events (glass was included in the biennale in its early days).
The scholarly advisory board consists of representative of the Università Ca' Foscari and the Cini's own institute, the well known glass scholars Rosa Barovier Mentasti and Laura de Santillana, and David Landau, who with his wife, Marie-Rose Kahane, is a major collector of 20th-century Venetian glass (Dr Landau is also a trustee of Venice in Peril). She started a Swiss foundation, Pentagram Stiftung, in 2011 to support and further the study of contemporary and historic glass, and this is now backing the Cini Foundation in it Stanze del Vetro project.
During his brief but active period in 2010 as chairman of the board of the civic museums of Venice, Dr Landau had organised and financed a big get-together of world experts on glass at the somnolent Museo del Vetro on Murano to plan how to bring it up to date. His removal by the mayor from the chairmanship for local political reasons meant that nothing came of these plans, but now he and his wife have again come to the support of an industry that is floundering through competition from cheap Chinese imports, conservative and divisive attitudes within Venice, and the dearth of young men willing to learn the arduous craft of glassblowing. Gagliardi is keen to emphasise, therefore, that the Cini is not setting itself up in rivalry to the civic museums or the Museo del Vetro ofr the Istituto Veneto or the university but hopes that the Stanze del Vetro will stimulate collaboration and new ideas within the city and draw in collectors, artists and scholars from all over the world.