Together with the Stella Art Foundation, the Pushkin Museum will present a special project of the “Pushkin Museum XXI” initiative in Venice: “There is a Beginning in the End”, a modern art exhibition in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Venetian artist Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto. This event will be held at the same time as the 58th Venice Biennale.
The San Fantin church, where Tintoretto’s paintings used to be displayed, will host works by contemporary artists Dmitry Krymov (Russia), Irina Nakhova (Russia) and Gary Hill (USA). These pieces will be in dialogue with a painting by Emilio Vedova, a modernist Italian artist and one of Tintoretto’s followers, and the historical context of the venue. The painting The Origin of Love (1562) by Tintoretto from the collection of the famous Venetian antiquarian Pietro Scarpa will become the conceptual center of the exhibition. An intervention project by the !Mediengruppe Bitnik team from Switzerland will complement the exhibition and stress the atmosphere of participation and affiliation with a secret Venetian brotherhood.
As Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Tintoretto is Venice, even when that is not what he is painting.” The key aspect of Tintoretto’s paintings was space; his works embody the infinite universe in its violent eternal motion. The contemporary artists’ works, created specifically for this project, reinterpret the great Venetian master’s innovative approach and invite viewers to immerse themselves in Tintoretto’s world. Each of them bears insight intoTintoretto’s major artistic motifs, such as the spiritual unity of people and the experience of miracles, as well as evidence of his virtuosity with moving space and expressive light.
In contrast to a traditional exhibition, this project is arranged as a kind of contemporary liturgical act where each part is a new artwork filling the entire space of the church. In addition to media objects, the exhibition will feature a painting by Emilio Vedova, an Italian abstractionist and main follower of Tintoretto in the 20th century, which is echoed by the works of contemporary artists.
Dmitry Krymov, a scenery designer, turns the San Trovaso Church into a performative installation inspired by the Last Supper. As an interpretation of this biblical story, he constructs in the altar of the San Fantin Church an alternative reality based on trompe-l’oeil, an optical illusion, thereby causing the viewers to doubt the correctness of their perception.
A media installation by Irina Nakhova consists of three parts, each being a reference to the works of the great master. All of them reinterpret biblical stories from the perspective of contemporary history. For this artist, an important theme of Tintoretto’s works is the vigorous movement of masses of people with their crucial emotional intensity. A swirling material born on earth searches for a way out in the transcendent outer space, which is hardly comprehensible but can be felt through Irina Nakhova’s dramatic media object.
Gary Hill, a classic of American media art, decomposes Tintoretto’s paintings into patterns and elements and uses those as a basis on which to create a new sounding and shimmering essence. The primary starting point for Hill is the realm of human consciousness rather than architectural space. The combination of visual images and intense electronic tones makes it possible to achieve a deep synesthetic experience.
Tondo, one of Emilio Vedova’s later works presented at the exhibition, is in the shape of a circle. It reflects the concept of an endless loop of time. For Vedova, the mission of an artist was to record and re-translate the eternal themes of disturbing worldwide collisions: wars, injustice, oppression. Like Tintoretto, he handles huge spaces and forces of nature rather than single images. He employs the circular shape to go beyond the depictive environment through the connection between space and time.
The Pushkin Museum exhibition will be the first event to welcome a wide audience to the San Fantin Church after a decade of restoration work. Its construction was finished in the 16th century, while the first local public worship buildings date back to the 10th century.
Another participant of the exhibition is the !Mediengruppe Bitnik team, which will hold a secret intervention project for the viewers to join Tintoretto’s Secret Brotherhood. The atmosphere of secrecy, affiliation and co-creation will connect their project with the Venetian brotherhoods.
Marina Loshak, Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts: “Tintoretto introduced changes into the world of art, changes that contrasted with conventional, seemingly regular and traditional life. The theme of brotherhoods, including the poor ones that ordered Tintoretto’s paintings, is important for us. This exhibition is about the role of an artist who neither deals with rich clients nor looks for means of subsistence or personal comfort. He aims to remove any distractions from a person’s clear view of works which surround the liturgy, works which are the person’s focal point and will change him.”
Stella Kesaeva, President of Stella Art Foundation: "In 2019 our Foundation is returning to Venice for the seventh time. We have represented Russia in the national pavilion at the Venice Biennale on three occasions. Before that, as part of a concurrent program, we displayed projects in the Ca' Rezzonico Museum and the Tiraoro and Battioro School of Arts, and we held a special event in 2005 at the Guggenheim Foundation. This time, in cooperation with the Pushkin Museum, the Foundation is co-organizing an exhibition where current art echoes the works of Tintoretto, a great Venetian master whose 500th anniversary is celebrated worldwide this year.”
Exhibition curators: Marina Loshak, Olga Shishko.