Venice Past and Present

Breath by Mark Quinn, San Giorgio Maggiore

I didn’t show you a photo of the outside of San Giorgio Maggiore when I wrote my last post because I wanted to prepare you first.

You see, it is currently the Biennale, Venice’s biennial modern art extravaganza. Which means there is lots of modern art scattered around Venice. EVERYWHERE.

That includes on the tiny island of San Giorgio. That’s right, what you see in the photo is true: They’ve placed an 11-meter high, inflated pink naked lady right in front of Palladio’s masterpiece! She’s really very impressive, swaying gently as she lords over the Venice lagoon.

The pink lady sculpture is titled “Breath.” It’s the work of artist Marc Quinn and is an inflatable version of his marble statue “Alison Lapper Pregnant.” Alison Lapper is an artist who lives a very full life despite the challenges of having no arms and only truncated legs. The inflatable was used in the opening of the 2012 Summer Paralympics.

Why would you put a 21st century piece of art in front of a renaissance church?

I’m not sure if there is an official explanation is, but I’ll share my take. The city of Venice doesn’t want to be seen as a museum of antiquities, but rather a shrine of art and culture of all times. Incorporating modern art around the city is Venice’s way of saying, “Yes, we have a past—but we have a very rich present, too.”

As a woman who just turned 50, I can really identify with that sentiment. I too want to stay active and relevant as I age.

My initial reaction to the pink woman was WTF?!? but I quickly grew to love her. Alison Lapper  is a real-life super hero because she embodies the spirit of human persistence. “Breath” exudes her power. With her chin held high she lords over the Venice proclaiming, “Yes I can—and you can’t stop me.”

Besides, I’ve always loved giant balloons. My all-time favorite–besides “Breath” is Underdog from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

wooden head Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti

Another great piece of modern art we stumbled onto was this amazing head.* Its angled and flattened profile sits in front of Palazzo Cavalli-Francetti, a renovated palazzo near then Accademia Bridge, which is now a conference center. I really like the way it seems to be eyeing the gondoliers as they paddle up the Grand Canal.

*If anyone knows who the head artist is, please shoot over the name. I’d love to give him/her credit.

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