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July 14, 2013

Vuitton’s Venice

Text by Shirin Mehta.

The symbiotic relationship between luxury brand Louis Vuitton and art continues to gain strength with the opening of a new cultural space in the beautiful City of Canals, Venice

In keeping with its tradition of promoting the arts, luxury brand Louis Vuitton, earlier this year and in time to coincide with the opening of the 55th edition of the Biennale Internationale of Contemporary Art in Venice, inaugurated the newest cultural space in this, the City of the Doges. A stone’s throw away from St Mark’s Square, in the Maison Louis Vuitton, this space in Venice now joins the five that are already in existence the world over, in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore. The espace is intended as a venue for the expression of contemporary art. With each new exhibition, contemporary art will meet Venice’s artistic heritage. A contemporary artist will have carte blanche to respond – with an original, in-situ creation – to an art work from the Venetian heritage, ‘putting traditional and modern art into context, like this is a means of breaking down barriers, of re-attaching contemporary art to its roots and celebrating the extraordinary vitality and topicality of classical art. It is also an alternative way to portray the treasures of Venice’.

The first exhibition at the Venetian cultural space, Where should Othello go? (upto November 24, 2013), brainchild of modern art historian Adrien Goetz and exhibition curator Herve Mikaleoff, revolves around the work of artist Pompeo Molmenti (1819-1894), which has been restored thanks to backing from Louis Vuitton. By giving pride of place to the masterpiece of a key figure in the history of Venetian art, The Death of Othello (1866), which depicts a legendary and emblematic character from the city and took 14 years to complete, the exhibition aims to pay homage to the city in a unique way. Standing opposite the masterpiece, an audio-visual installation by contemporary artist Tony Oursler (b. 1957, New York), Strawberry-Ecstasy-Green, inspires one to reconsider the classical interpretations of a work of art that is less conventional than it seems to be. Combining videos and form sculpted in multi-coloured glass, reminiscent of the works of the Murano master glassblowers, Oursler has brought to life the deep symbolism of the colours linked to the tragedy of Othello. The red of Desdemona’s assassination and Othello’s suicide; the green of jealousy; the black skin colour and the final blackness of the soul of the ‘Moor of Venice’, highlighting timeless psychological traits and emotions.

All this has been made possible by the partnership that Louis Vuitton has formed with the Venice foundation for civic museums, the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (MUVE) according to which the brand has undertaken to restore artworks belonging to the MUVE foundation’s heritage and in return MUVE will lend artworks to the Louis Vuitton cultural space. A win-win situation, it would seem for those involved as well as gallery goers who are bound to benefit from this.

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