Of all the impressive exhibitions in Venice right now, Rudolf Stingel's current show at Palazzo Grassi is hands-down one of the most sumptuous, staggeringly gorgeous installations ever. I'm still swooning even though I left Venice days ago.
Art historical theory aside, let's get back to basics—the act of looking and of walking through a physical space still stuns. In this case, a visual paradise is created through several floors covered wall-to-wall and wall-to-ceiling in oriental carpet with a silvery gray or black and white painting hung in each room. At first, some of the works look like archival photos of historical objects, but then you realize they are paintings.
Walking through, the contrast of the carpeted background makes the textures of the paintings more palpable. And because all of the spaces are transformed by carpeting, you feel how your orientation in the space informs your perspective. Stingel makes the experience of art about pleasure and beauty again.
Palazzo Grassi (built 1748-1772) was designed by Giorgio Massari. Now owned by the François Pinault Foundation, this exhibition is the first time the entire building has been dedicated to a single artist. The strange tension created by combining 18th century Venetian Classical architecture with oriental carpets and contemporary paintings is absolutely breathtaking.
At the Venice Biennale in 1989, Stingel published an illustrated “do-it-yourself” manual in several languages outlining the equipment and procedure that would enable anyone to create one of his paintings. Even though you can make your own Stingel, most people probably still want to experience an original touched by the artist's hand.
Despite all the new means we have to replicate art, we value more than ever the authentic object and experiencing art in situ. Enjoy the thrill of the real thing, get yourself to the Palazzo Grassi before the end of the year.
Rudolf Stingel at Palazzo Grassi, Venice, on view through December 31, 2013.
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Installation views at Palazzo Grassi: 1) Rudolf Stingel, Untitled, 2012, oil and enamel on canvas, 3 panels, each 300 x 242 cm, Pinault Collection; 2) Rudolf Stingel, Untitled, 2012, oil and enamel on canvas, 300 x 242 cm, Collection of the artist; 3) Rudolf Stingel, Untitled (Franz West), 2011, oil on canvas, 334.3 x 310.5 cm, Pinault Collection; 4) Rudolf Stingel, Untitled, 2013, oil on canvas, 243.8 x 168.3 cm, Pinault Collection; 5) Rudolf Stingel, Untitled, 2011, oil on linen, 40.6 x 33 cm, Pinault Collection. All photos: Stefan Altenburger, courtesy of the artist.