St Mark’s Square shines thanks to “Murano illumina il mondo”.

Marvels of glass switch on at dusk in the Venetian sitting-room.

That St Mark’s Square is an extraordinary open-air sitting-room is not a mystery, but this year a series of incredible signature chandeliers lit up the famous salon for a one-of-a-kind public art project. Twelve glass marvels installed under the vaults of Procuratie Vecchie will brighten the Venetian nights until the end of February.

The project “Murano illumina il mondo”, sponsored by The Venice Glass Week and the City of Venice, puts the spotlight on the art of Murano glassmaking with its unparalleled versatility and the ability to translate ideas into glass. Twenty-four internationally renowned artists took part with their original projects and a committee of experts selected twelve of them for as many available spaces. Thanks to the contribution of nine furnaces, in the space of only four months twelve unique works purpose-built for this exhibition project were created in Murano.

Here are the names of the artists: Philip Baldwin and Monica Guggisberg, Marcantonio Brandolini d’Adda, Federica Marangoni, Michael Craig-Martin, Ritsue Mishima, Cornelia Parker, Maria Grazia Rosin, Silvano Rubino, Lino Tagliapietra, Giorgio Vigna, Pae White.

The project involved historic Murano glass-making companies such as Barovier & Toso, Simone Cenedese and Gianni Seguso, some famous glass masters and not least the students of Glass School Abate Zanetti.

Seagulls, fireworks...and spaceships.

Except for the weight and size limitations, the artists were given carte blanche with the aim of demonstrating that the furnaces can follow an artist’s project and make anything with glass. The references to the lagoon city are extremely varied: the colourful fireworks of Redentore, a traditional celebration in Venice, the seagulls, wind and water.
There is for example the naked Rezzonico by Michael Craig-Martin, that is only the structure of a classical chandelier covered with many small glass elements, or the work of Pae White that recalls the colours of sunset. There is even the 3D glass reproduction of a chandelier featured in a famous artwork. Cornelia Parker indeed was inspired by a famous painting by the Flemish artist Van Eyck. This chandelier is the fruit of a double collaboration between the Salviati factory, that made the body in blown glass and Nicola Moretti who used a modern laser cut technique instead.
The futuristic work of Lino Tagliapietra looks rather like a spaceship. It is an experiential trip through the various techniques that the master has pioneered during his career. Each element is in fact a circular section of his vases that highlight the different types of glassmaking.

All the artists have reinterpreted and transformed an object of daily use such as the chandelier in a real artwork. The common goal is to bring visibility to Murano Island not only as a craft industry but also as source of new ideas and an international experimentation centre.

Behind the scene of the project.

I had the pleasure of having a talk with Giordana Naccari, involved by David Landau in the role of project coordinator for her great passion and knowledge about Murano glass. She was entrusted with the difficult task of translating the sketches into chandeliers by linking each artist with the most suitable furnace to turn the single design idea into glass. She had to juggle among permits, constraints of the monuments authority and engineering studies of the supporting structures in order to ensure the safety of the works in glass. Yes, let’s not forget that usually a chandelier is hung in a private house, certainly not in a public place crowded with tourists.

Giordana not only matched the artists’ projects to the various furnaces according to their specialities but she selected also the places where the chandeliers have been displayed.  For example, Maria Grazia Rosin’s work is located right in front of the entrance of Caffè Quadri where the pastel tones of the chandelier are exactly those of the stucco of the historical restaurant.

It’s been a long few months of constant communication between artists and glass masters to implement the ideas in glass.  “It was a challenging project – Giordana confesses – I was doubtful if we would make it, but on 24th November the chandeliers were in their places and despite the exhausting day of installation from 5 AM to 8 PM in the end I was satisfied to have given to St Mark’s Square some unique masterpieces with a non-invasive operation”.

After the event the chandeliers will go back to the institution or furnace that sponsored them, sometimes to the artist himself, and they can replicate them in a limited edition of five pieces.  

The initiative was so much appreciated that the merchants of St Mark already requested to repeat it next year. Other shop owners of the famous square would like to have the chandeliers, expanding the number of the works on display. For now, this is only a proposal, so let’s enjoy the beauty of these artworks that celebrate the greatness of Murano glass in an exceptional location.


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Photo credits: The Venice Glass Week 

Ph. Renato Greco, Marco Sabbadin, Marco Valmarana

Cover Photo: Segmenti d’Infinito, Silvano Rubino, fornace Seguso Gianni, ph Marco Valmarana


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