Art and God

In my more rebellious years I was tollerant of the Catholic Church only for having made possible incredible works of art and having been patron to innumerable artists. With age, as one becomes (inevitably?) more conservative, I have shifted perspective. My understanding of the link between Art and God has grown deeper, more complex and flows in both direction. 

As the Church – in the name of God -has made Art possible, so Art allows a spiritual dialogue with God. I don’t think I am the only one, that albeit little faith, feels moved by a stripped down crucifix, by the high vaults of a church or the sombre tones of a deposition from the cross. The beauty of created things stirs up God’s emotions.

The Vienna Biennale

No, it’s not a spelling mistake. I still have to see the Venice one but in the meantime I checked out the first Vienna Biennale. It is the latest offering of the MAK which aims to combine Art, Design and Architecture in one event. This year the event is called Ideas for Change and the exhibitions offered aim to question how we want to live our cities in the future. The idea of course is that creativity can improve our way of living, but what transpired is that politics have a lot more to do with change, than the efforts of artists, designers and architects. 

Smart Life in the City proposes alternatives scenarios for key situations in cities like hotels, hospitals, shopping centers, schools, markets etc. With a successfull mixture of text, videos, images and designers’ intervention it creates a thought provoking environment and easy to follow discourse. 

Uneven Growth instead examinse 6 megapolis and how they have successfully developed coping strategies in the last years. Highly scenographic and with diverse and smart graphics, this small exhibition totally captured me. Also, just goes to show that practical examples are much more poignant that theoretica ideas. If we really want to change ideas are not enough!

At the Reggia of Caserta


For those of you who might have not yet guessed, my husband and I are on a little Italian holiday to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Today we were at the Reggia of Caserta, less than an hour from Naples. So close in fact, that from the spectactular waterfall you can see both the Vesuvius and Capri.

The vast regal palace was designed for Charles III – before he became King of Spain – and it was to rival Versailles. Being Italy there are less gilded mirrors and more marbles, but the never ending sequence of rooms is just as breathtaking. The paintings on the walls might not be outstanding but the silks surely are; and so is the furniture, the curtains, the floors and the decorations on the ceilings. It is an interior decorators paradise. The richness, harmony and detail make me blush to have ever thought minimalism could be an answer.  


EXPO: In the Desert


Among all the wooden architecture at the Expo, rose impressive twelve meters high walls made in red fibre glass reinforced concrete. Rippled like gigantic sand dunes and designed to evoke the narrow self-shaded streets of the UAE’s historic settlements, the architecture immediately transported me to a different geography with none of the arabian kitchyness. No wonder since the UAE pavillion was designed by none other than Foster & Partners. 

Once inside, a video perfectly balanced between shrewd advertising and concrete information was following the visitors are treated to state of the art 3D animations on the theme of water. If only the (italian) staff had not been so pushy and commandeering I would have loved every minute of it!

Morning Ablution

The first time I saw a sink in a bedroom I was shocked (not something you see in Italy!) It is of course a vestiges of when, before running water came into existence, every respectable bedroom had a washstand. Most were simple tables with a ceramic jug and basin, but William Burges clearly wanted to offer his guests more. 

The washstand he designed and had made in London (in 1880) was inspired by Dante’s  Vita Nova. The decorations suggest a garden full of life, but really, it is the clever mechanisms and shrewdnesses that captured all my attention. The basin turns to empty itself in a hidden bucket and water is held in a a small cistern in the higher cupboard. Running water is one of the granted luxuries of life, but for a washstand as astonishing as this, I could renounce it… Well perhaps for a whole week! 

On show in the permanent collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

Dreaming a Pool

  Today it was so hot I dreamed of having a pool. Something stilish, natural looking and completely integrated with the architecture. Something that doesn’t really look like a pool. Like this beautiful example in Rio de Jainero designed by Burle Marx, who incidentally also designed the tiles. Some days it is good to dream!

Fantastischen Welten

Yesterday in Vienna I successfully bargained with my daughter: for every minute at the Zoo we were going to have a minute at the Kunsthistorische. We had two hours looking at polar bears, pandas, koalas and snakes which meant we really took our time at the spectacular exhibition Fantastische Welten

I am not as comfortable with Northern Europe’s high Renaissance as with Italy’s, finding the sharp and angular forms sometimes hard to appreciate. Yet this time I understood the pathos and ingenuity of the compositions. And loved the masterfull way the artists of the time carved wood. 

As you enter the exhibition you will be bewitched by the detailes and expressions of the apostles as they discover the Holy Virgin has ascended to heaven. The figures, carved in wood between 1516 and 1525, are part of the very large altar piece in Zwettl. It looks like I need to add a new destination to my bucket list…