Art Beyond the Venice Biennale

After buying the Casa dei Tre Oci on Venice’s Giudecca island last year for the institute that bears his name, the investor and philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen announced in March that he had bought another Venetian palazzo, the Palazzo Diedo, to house a new cultural initiative: Berggruen Arts & Culture, which is scheduled to open in 2024.

For now, a piece by the U.S.-based artist Sterling Ruby has been installed on the facade of Palazzo Diedo (best seen from the Sant’Antonio Bridge in front). It is the first of four projects by the artist to mark “the progress of the restoration, so that the palazzo comes alive, it’s already a sign of occupation,” Mario Codognato, the artistic director of Berggruen Arts & Culture, said during a visit to the palazzo earlier this month.

Mr. Codognato also happens to be the director of both the Anish Kapoor Foundation and the Manfrin Project, a new cultural hub envisaged by the British artist Anish Kapoor, who has undertaken his own venture into the Venetian real estate market, buying the Palazzo Priuli Manfrin to serve as the headquarters for his own Venice-based endeavor. Mr. Kapoor represented Britain at the 1990 Venice Biennale, so the foundation’s presence in Venice “marks a continuation of a long history with the city,” Mr. Codognato said.

Though it is still a construction site, the Palazzo Manfrin will open to the public this week in conjunction with an exhibition by the Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia, featuring both older and recent works by Mr. Kapoor. At the Manfrin, for example, a site-specific monumental work, “Mount Moriah at the Gate of the Ghetto,” has colonized the ceiling of the entrance hall.

“I don’t know if retrospective is the right word, it’s more of a survey of Anish’s work,” said Mr. Codognato, including early works and never-before-seen sculptures created with what is known as Kapoor Black, a “substance so dark that it absorbs more than 99.9 percent of visible light,” according to the gallery’s website.

“Contemporary art works very well in spaces that have their own history,” said Giulia Foscari, the architect leading the preservation of the Manfrin. Going forward, many elements — like wallpaper or wooden frames for long-gone paintings — will be preserved as traces of the palazzo’s storied history, she said. But until it closes to the public on Nov. 9 for further work, “the idea is to show that we are in a construction site,” she said.


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