Jackie Wullschlager surveys the landscape at Venice and declares the winners.
Venice fixes the world’s gaze because it embodies global trends: this year, how fast distinctions are collapsing between museum and gallery, public and commercial exhibitions, and the roles of dealer, curator and collector. So it is a lovely twist in this marketplace delirium that the stillest, most thoughtful exhibition takes place at a new private museum launched by a fashion house: the Prada Foundation’s Ca’ Corner della Regina, an imposing Grand Canal palazzo with a façade of Istrian stone, frescoes lining a stunning piano nobile and untreated earth floors and open brickwork that set off modern art perfectly – especially the 1950s-60s Italian works at the intellectual core of Miuccia Prada’s collection.
I have never seen a more persuasive, moving presentation of arte povera than at this inaugural show. Prada’s interest reflects her background in political science and former membership of the Communist party, and she has assembled the very finest examples: Alberto Burri’s works in sackcloth and plastic, including the iconic ragged “Sacco” (Sack) and “Rosso Plastica” (Red Plastic); Lucio Fontana’s ochre-and- pink oval series “Concetto spaziale. La fine di Dio” (Spatial Concept. The End of God), punctured, cut and glitter-sprinkled; Piero Manzoni’s emptied-out kaolin and wrinkled “Achrome” canvases.
Together, they dramatise how the aperture and the slash became the most potent visual emblem in postwar Italy, referencing a rejection of fascism, economic deprivation and the bitter struggle between communism and catholicism.
Private Corner, Public Gaze (Financial Times)