Art fans visiting Venice know that Palazzo Fortuny in the San Marco sestieri is always organizing a beautiful exhibition during the Biennale. The palazzo itself is however also worth a closer look. In this post, I will tell you about the history of this palazzo before I give you more insights on the last exhibition which was held there. Axel Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti presented ‘Intuition’, their sixth and final large exhibition together. It was the climax of a series of enchanting and philosophical exhibitions, which started in 2007. It was your last chance to admire the combination of the passion of Axel Vervoordt with the exhibition skills of Daniela Ferretti in the Venetian grandeur of Palazzo Fortuny.
The gothic palazzo in Campo San Beneto was originally built for Benedetto Pesaro in the mid-15th century. Over the centuries, the ‘Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei’ was extended and altered. The architectural structure of the palazzo fully reflects the Venetian tradition, but the unusual length of the rooms that span the entire width of the building from facade to facade has a significant value. It was the stage for numerous memorable parties, in honour of princes, ambassadors, patricians and noble ladies. In the second half of the 19th century however, the building was converted into apartments to accommodate about 350 lowerclass tenants.
In 1898, attracted by its architectural beauty, the Spanish artist and fashion designer Mariano Fortuny moved into the huge room located in the attic . Over the years, he acquired the other parts of the totally neglected palazzo, and began to gradually restore it. He transformed it into his atelier of photography, stage-design, textile-design and painting. The building still retains the rooms and structures as they were created by Fortuny. His working environment is reflected through a selection of precious wall-hangings, paintings, tapestries and his personal collections. You can also admire the famous lamps he designed for stage lighting. The Fortuny Museum was donated to the city in 1956 by Henriette Negrin, Mariano’s widow. In 1975, the doors of this unique house-cum-museum were opened for the first time to the public. The factory and showroom of the Fortuny fabrics is now located on Giudecca. You can find more information in my post ‘‘Giudecca: A peaceful island with 10 remarkable buildings‘.
In 2009, the city of Venice started a restoration project, which included the main facade facing Campo San Beneto, the window frames and the roof. The prerequisite was to not alter in any way the overall image that the facade had acquired in the course of time. Since then, many other changes have been realized to adapt the palazzo to the current needs of a museum and exhibition area, such as an elevator, electricity or air conditioning. Thanks to the tight bond with the team of Palazzo Fortuny and his love for Venice, Axel Vervoordt contributed to these necessary improvements. Palazzo Fortuny is now a perfect, authentic location for an art exhibition in Venice.
“To be honest, I’m sometimes happy there isn’t enough money in Venice for restoration. Otherwise, they would overdo it and put new facades everywhere. You need to appreciate the aspect of time which gives a new skin to buildings.”
INSIDER TIP: After you visited Palazzo Fortuny, follow my intuition and walk to Rio Terà de la Mandola 3795 for a drink and some cicchetti at Teamo. It will allow you to recover from all the experiences you lived through at the exhibition and let them sink in. From there on, let your own intuition take over and start wandering through Venice.
“Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without proof, evidence, or conscious reasoning: a feeling that guides a person to act in a certain way without fully understanding why.”
The thread in the series of exhibitions of Axel Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti was not so much the aesthetic part of the art, but rather the spirit of things which intrigue and characterise Axel Vervoordt. He is not only passionate about understanding the underlying aspects of everything, but also keen to share this knowledge and inspire artists and audience. Even though you might not expect this from an art display, his exhibitions are always well-founded on an in-depth understanding of the subject based on input from a wide variety of colleagues, friends and think tanks, as well as on scientific research. This results in a strong concept for an exhibition, which eventually becomes art.
Axel Vervoordt’s decision to find an old and worn palazzo in the center of Venice was already a first proof of his outstanding intuition. The ‘Artempo’ exhibition in 2007 was originally meant to be a one-time event, in which he could present modern art in an old setting. It was a big success and attracted more than 50,000 visitors. As a result, more exhibitions followed, always coinciding with the Art Biennale. ‘Proportio’, the last exhibition, was even awarded ‘Best Exhibition of 2015’ by the Leading Culture Destinations. It attracted 65,000 visitors, which is approx. 15% of the visitors of the Art Biennale and more or less the same number as the exhibitions at Palazzo Ducale in that year.
“I really don’t mind if things are ugly. They have their own beauty, if only one looks hard enough.”
Axel Vervoordt, Story of a Style
I had the honour to interview Axel Vervoordt related to the upcoming ‘Intuition’ exhibition. It was an inspiring conversation, in which his passion for sharing was so contagious, that I’m more than happy to transmit this now to you.
The upcoming exhibition will focus on intuition, and this in a very wide sense, including dreams, telepathy, paranormal fantasy, meditation, creative power, hypnosis and inspiration. It will explore how intuition has shaped art across the world and over time. Artists and inventors rely heavily on intuition, so you can expect to see a combination of historic, modern and contemporary works from a very impressive list of artists. All works have been carefully selected by Axel Vervoordt and his team, always following his intuition and his eye for beauty.
DID YOU KNOW? Axel Vervoordt started his career, and the development of his intuition, at a very young age. As a teenager, he went on his own to the UK to buy pieces of art to sell to his parents’ friends. He paid it with money he had lent from his father, but which he had to pay back with interest.
In line with the previous exhibitions, I assume the large atelier of Mariano Fortuny will again feel as an eclectic ‘wunderkammer’. The dim-lit room will be stuffed with so much beauty that you won’t know where to start looking. This might feel as an overdose and can be overwhelming, but it’s certainly intriguing. It is probably one of the reasons why, according to Axel Vervoordt, many people return more than once to his exhibitions.
‘Intuition’ starts with totems, shamanism and iconography from the early history, when men tried to understand the link between the sky and the earth. There will be modern works by Vassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Hilma af Klint, Kazuo Shiraga, Pierre Alechinsky, Günther Uecker, Lucio Fontana, Mario Deluigi and Joseph Beuys. Surrealist works include André Breton, André Masson, Paul Eluard, Remedios Varo and Victor Brauner, but also Raoul Ubac, Man Ray, Henry Michaux, Oscar Dominguez or Joan Miró. Finally, contemporary artists are also featured, such as Robert Morris, William Anastasi, Isa Genzken, Renato Leotta, Susan Morris, Marina Abramovic, Chung Chang-Sup, Ann Veronica Janssens and Anish Kapoor. The team has asked Kimsooja, Alberto Garutti, Kurt Ralske, Bruna Esposito and Nicola Martini to create site-specific installations. All art works will be spread over the beautiful rooms on the different floors of the Palazzo Fortuny.
Axel Vervoordt hopes to provoke questions and to stimulate you to listen to your intuition. After you walked through Palazzo Fortuny and descend back towards the ground floor, he hopes you will be more aware of your intuition. More importantly, you should dare to follow this gut feeling.
“Together with Director Daniela Ferretti, we have made a series of five remarkable exhibitions in Palazzo Fortuny exploring the transversal links between philosophy, science, music, history, creative heritage and art. Much like Artempo, Infinitum, Tra and Proportio, Intuition is another concept that has fascinated me all my life, and which we wanted to study more scientifically. Intuition is a sense that comes out of total freedom, being one with cosmic energy. It is the Beginning and the End. This is a poignant theme for our final exhibition at the Palazzo Fortuny, and the beginning of new adventures.”
Cooperation between Axel Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti
The cooperation with Palazzo Fortuny and the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia started more or less as a coincidence, after Axel Vervoordt searched for an old palazzo in Venice. When he presented his idea for an exhibition on the relationship between art, time and the possibilities of display (Artempo. Where Time becomes Art) to the City of Venice, the mayor immediately liked it. It was the start of a ‘Vervoordt era’ during the Art Biennale. Even though the partnership with the city implied that the exhibition can’t be listed as a collateral event of the Art Biennale, many art lovers are automatically checking whether Axel Vervoordt is exhibiting when they prepare their trip to Venice. I’m sure many of them will be disappointed about this last opportunity to visit an Axel Vervoordt exhibition at Palazzo Fortuny. It will no doubt result in even more visitors.
The collaboration has in the meantime become a very strong bond. Whereas the first exhibitions were clearly labelled Axel Vervoordt, this gradually changed into a dual curatorship. The press release on ‘Intuition’ for instance clearly mentions both Axel Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti in the title. Due to the fact that he is always very closely involved in the whole process of defining and setting up an exhibition, the close cooperation led to an intimate friendship, even up to the level that he almost considers her as his sister. They are truly hand and glove.
Axel Vervoordt is a Belgian collector, curator, tastemaker and dealer. He is known for his inimitable taste which spans centuries, continents and socio-economic strata. His knowledge of and deep fascination with the history of the arts – in particular the ZERO and Gutai movements – has led him to advise and inspire collectors from around the world. He doesn’t organize exhibitions with their future success in mind, but simply because he wants to pass on a message, things he discovered or which influence him to the audience. Sharing is an important element in his life and the main driver behind his motivation to organize an exhibition. This is also reflected in his motto ‘Etre heureux en rendant heureux’ (finding happiness through creating happiness). It is only one example of the wisdom of this enlightened and engaging person.
Daniela Ferretti is the director of Palazzo Fortuny. Her background and experience in architecture, exhibition design and the organisation of major retrospectives make her a valuable partner, for Axel Vervoordt as well as for the whole team. She has planned more than 200 exhibitions for public and private institutions in her career.
“It has been twelve years since I met Axel Vervoordt; it was a day in August and the beginning of our intense collaboration. Together, we started an exploration of the arts and, more generally, of the concepts of thought and reflection. It was intended as a continuous questioning of the universal themes that each historical period interprets through new prisms. We have dived into the same projects, often following different paths and approaches, but, in the end, always converging in a shared vision. To me, Intuition is therefore the synthesis of a long journey, the end of a research cycle, which opens new perspectives.”
If you want to know more about the coinciding Art Biennale, the collateral events and other exhibitions, you can find an overview on this page. ‘Intuition’ was a unique opportunity to attend the last large exhibition of Axel Vervoordt in Venice. All practical information can be found on the website of Palazzo Fortuny. For his future exhibitions, you will have to go to Kanaal, his new art center near Antwerp (Belgium).
Enjoy your visit!
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(Picture in banner: ‘Damien Jalet, the Ferryman’ – Video and installation by Gilles Delmas (France, 1966) – 2017 – Choreography, performance and texts by Damien Jalet. – Voice : Marina Abramovic – Courtesy Gilles Delmas and Damien Jalet)