Category: Art & Lifestyle (8)

For anyone with an interest in 20th century design, MEMPHIS – Plastic Field is a must-visit exhibition. Staged to coincide with this year’s Architecture Biennale, it’s a vibrant, uplifting show dedicated to the Memphis Group – a short-lived but highly influential design movement founded by Ettore Sottsass and a group of young Italian architects and designers in Milan in the early 1980s.

Taking its name from a Bob Dylan song that happened to be playing during the inaugural meeting of its members, the Memphis Group was a design collective born as a playful rebuke to the minimalist aesthetic and austerity of mid-century modernism.

Memphis Plastic Field
Memphis Plastic Field

In the six years until the collective was formally disbanded in 1987, Memphis produced an eclectic spectrum of products ranging from sofas and lamps to textiles and dressing tables. Drawing inspiration from the Pop Art and Art Deco movements, their designs were characterized by loud primary colours, unconventional geometries and experimental, whimsical forms. Although their furniture wasn’t a great commercial success at the time, their mischievous, iconoclastic design aesthetic had a strong influence on late 80s pop culture, from the zany graphics of MTV to set designs in films and TV programmes such as Back to the Future II and Saved by the Bell.

Co-curated by Adriano Berengo and Jean Blanchaert, the exhibition presents a wide array of contemporary productions of the group’s original designs.  Among the highlights are Sottsass’ iconic “Carlton bookcase”, Martin Bedin’s “Super Lamp”, and Masanori Umeda’s “Tawaraya’s boxing ring bed” – a piece which, along with a vast range of other furniture from Memphis’ pilot collection, was bought by Karl Lagerfeld for his home in Monaco. Significantly, the exhibition also includes a room that explores the impact that Memphis had on Murano glass production during the ‘80s and beyond.

Staged within the imposing neo-Gothic interiors of Palazzo Franchetti, this enlightening and entertaining show is on view for just a couple more weeks; catch it while you can.

MEMPHIS – Plastic Field is at Fondazione Berengo, Palazzo Franchetti, San Marco 2847 until 25th November 2018.  


After a busy day exploring the streets and sights of Venice, one of the best (and most Venetian) ways of winding down is an early evening giro d’ombra around the Rialto – essentially a tour of the area’s back-street wine bars, known as bacari.  While the word bàcaro derives from the name of the Roman god of wine, Bacchus, the term ombra has its own uniquely Venetian roots; elsewhere in Italy, the word simply means “shade”, or “shadow”, but its slang use in Venice dates back to the days when Venetian wine merchants would set up their stalls in the shadow of the Saint Mark’s bell tower, moving their wine throughout the day to stay out of the sun.  In this context, the expression prendere un’ombra or “take some shade” came to mean “grab a glass of wine”; here are a few of our favourite places around the Rialto to do just that.

cicheti, snacks, cheese, meats, Venice, Itlay

Cantina Do Mori, Calle Do Mori

Dating back to 1462, this ancient establishment is said to be Venice’s oldest bàcaro; with dark wood-panelled walls and a low ceiling hung with copper pots, it’s an atmospheric spot to enjoy an excellent choice of wines – with house options served from large casks behind the counter.  The speciality is francobollo (literally “postage stamp”), a tiny white-break sandwich filled with cold meats or roasted vegetables from the lagoon island of Sant’Erasmo.  Alternatively, try the traditional salt cod baccalà, either vicentino (cooked in milk with anchovy, parsley and cheese) or mantecato (whipped with potato and olive oil).

All’Arco, Calle Arco

Just around the corner from Do’ Mori, this bustling little bàcaro run by father-and-son team Francesco and Matteo is regarded by many Venetians as the best place for cicheti (bar snacks) in town.  Using the freshest ingredients from the nearby Rialto Market, All’Arco serves up miniature masterpieces such as courgette flower wraps filled with ricotta and speck, or mantis shrimp stuffed with pumpkin and roe.  Their unbottled wines are excellent, as is the free-flowing prosecco.  Be sure to get there around lunch-time, as it’s not open in the evening.

Cantina Do Spade, Calle Do Spade

Famously mentioned in Casanova’s memoirs as a spot where he enjoyed entertaining his romantic conquests, Do Spade (“Two Spades” – named after a local duel) continues to attract young Venetians with its superb selection of Veneto wines and tasty cichetti.  Arrive early for steaming hot, market-fresh fritture (batter-fried seafood), meatballs or mozzarella in carrozza (deep fried cheese), or linger longer over their signature sarde in saor (sardines marinaded in onions and vinegar), stuffed squid or grilled cuttlefish.

For a true glimpse of daily Venetian life, seek out the city’s food markets – where you’ll find some of the very best local produce, often at bargain prices.  We’ve picked three of our favourites:

Rialto Fish Market: Established in 1097, the Rialto Market has been at the heart of Venetian life for over seven centuries.  At the Pescheria, you’ll find stalls selling a vast selection of fish and seafood straight from the lagoon, ranging from inky-black squid to writhing eels and silvery swordfish. Many stalls open at dawn, and most close by midday, so arrive early and enjoy wandering  among chefs and restaurant owners as they haggle for the best of the day’s catch.

Tuesday to Sunday, dawn until midday (or thereabouts)

Giudecca Women’s Prison Market: If you head to the island of Giudecca on a Thursday morning, you’ll find an excellent weekly market in front of the Women’s Prison – a 13th century former convent on the Fondamenta delle Convertite.  One of the stalls sells organic vegetables grown in the prison’s garden, while another sells cosmetic and book binding products made in laboratories within the prison itself.  The prison also runs a tailors’ workshop, where the inmates produce period costumes for purchase and hire at Carnival time – as well as stylish contemporary clothes and accessories which are sold at a stylish boutique called Banco Lotto no. 10, at Castello 3478.

Every Thursday from 9am to 12 pm

Santa Marta Farmer’s Market: Every Monday, Calle Longhi in Santa Marta hosts a bustling farmers market, with stalls run by around 20 family-run farms from the surrounding islands and villages.  It’s a wonderful place to stock up on local food products such as honey from the lagoon, regional cheeses and fine wines from Veneto vineyards, as well as asparagus from Giare and the famous purple artichokes from the island of Sant’Erasmo.

Every Monday from 10 am – 7 pm

Despite being designed by the great architect Sansovino and decorated with paintings by Tintoretto, Titian and Veronese, the monumental Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (or National Library of St Mark’s) is often overshadowed by its better-known neighbours such as the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale. Yet the Biblioteca is currently one of our “top tips to visit”, as it’s hosting a dazzling exhibition of masterpieces by Gianmaria Buccellati – the famed Italian goldsmith and jeweller who died in 2015 aged 86.

Born in 1929, ten years after his father Mario had opened the first Buccellati boutique in Milan, Gianmaria Buccellati went on to grow his family business into one of the most iconic and celebrated jewellery brands in the world. The present exhibition features 75 exquisite designs, with particular highlights including a Dragon brooch (1976) formed around a glittering Mexican opal, and the Pizzo Venezia (1992) inspired by an antique piece of Venetian lace.

Also on display are examples from Buccellati’s “Animalier Collection”, such as his Snail and Scorpio brooches (designed around unusual baroque pearls), and four fantastically ornate vessels such as the jewel-encrusted Cup of the Holy Grail (2013).

Beautifully presented within the Sansoviano Hall, all of the pieces on display illustrate Buccellati’s remarkable techniques and craftsmanship, and remind us of the creativity and innovation which enabled him to elevante the art of goldsmithing to levels never seen before.

Gianmaria Buccellati: Masterworks of the Goldsmith’s Art is on view at the National Library of St Mark’s until 12th November 2017. 

This week sees the opening of the Venice Art Biennale – the world’s most prestigious art festival, which was first established over 120 years ago.  On view until 26th November 2017, the Biennale features hundreds of contemporary art exhibitions and installations taking place all over the city.  This week we’ve picked out a few of our favourite pavilions from the Giardini site, and we’ll be sharing many more recommendations over the coming months.

British Pavilion

Phyllida Barlow’s sculptures for the British Pavilion are constructed from everyday materials such as concrete and cardboard – yet built on a monumental scale, soaring up to the roof and spilling outside. Visitors are encouraged to take on the role of explorer, picking their way around a sculptural maze of towering columns and precariously-balanced ledges, where familiar objects are juxtaposed with abstract sculptural forms.  Titled “Folly”, the exhibition is both fun and foreboding; the jumble of colourful bulbous forms surrounding the colonial pavilion at once resemble festive baubles, sinister tumorous growths and decaying schoolroom globes.
As Barlow observes,“There’s a slightly melancholic tone to all of it,” especially against the backdrop of tumultuous political events that have recently threatened to destabilise Britain’s position on the world stage.


German Pavilion

Awarded the 2017 Golden Lion for Best National Participation, the German Pavilion attracted the biggest crowds at the Preview last week – not least because it’s surrounded by a cage of excitable barking guard-dogs, whose antics form part of the exhibition.
Once inside, visitors walk on a raised glass floor above a group of androgynous performers who writhe about, clasping each other – while others move slowly around the pavilion’s chambers and rooftop, chanting and lighting fires, following the choreography of a five-hour ritualistic production titled “Faust” devised by German artist Anne Imhof.
Set against a penetrating audio soundtrack, the experience is voyeuristic and unsettling, yet highly compelling; it’s worth enduring the queues to see what the hype is all about.

Canadian Pavilion

Canadian artist Geoffrey Farmer is causing a splash with his installation “A way out of the mirror”, which sees powerful jets of water exploding sporadically from various points in the deconstructed pavilion, soaking unsuspecting visitors.  Despite initially prompting surprise and delight from onlookers, the installation is in fact rooted in tragedy, as explained by a poetic text  that  describes the origins of the objects in the exhibition; the scattered piles of wooden planks, for instance, refer to an incident when the artist’s grandfather’s lumber truck was hit by a train in 1955. Other elements such as 3D-printed sculptures cast in aluminum and bronze tell stories that touch on relations between Italy and Canada after the Second World War.  It is an exhilarating, thought-provoking and moving installation that definitely warrants a prolonged visit.

DON’T MISS: Serra dei Giardini

Just a few minutes’ walk from the Biennale Gardens you’ll find one of Venice’s most charming and unusual bars.  Built in 1894 during Napoleon’s rule, Serra dei Giardini was originally designed as a “tepidarium made of glass and iron” to host palm trees and other decorative plants used at the International Art Exhibition.  Abandoned in the 1990s, the building was restored in 2010 and today serves as a wonderfully sunny bar, plant nursery and exhibition space, run by the cooperative Nonsoloverde.  A short stroll from our divine Riad property, it’s the ideal spot for a morning coffee or early evening refreshment (try their signature Pear Bellini) after a long day exploring the Biennale.


For more information about La Biennale di Venezia, visit

For more information about Serra dei Giardini, visit


After months of anticipation and media hype, Damien Hirst’s new blockbuster exhibition has finally opened in Venice – and it is undoubtedly the hottest ‘must-see’ attraction in town.  Renowned as one of the world’s most controversial and polarising artists, Hirst has been working on this exhibition for years; it is his first major show in almost a decade, and as we discovered when we visited this weekend, it has certainly been worth the wait.


The colossal exhibition is spread across 54,000 sq ft of gallery space at not one but two museums; Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal, and the city’s old customs house at the Punta della Dogana – just a short walk from our exceptional Orio apartment in Dorsoduro.
Titled Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, the show is based around the premise that the works on display are ancient artefacts that were “discovered” in 2008 in a shipwreck off the coast of East Africa.  According to the exhibition’s introductory film, the ship and its priceless cargo were originally owned by a wealthy collector named Cif Amotan II, who lived around 2000 years ago.  While transporting the treasures as an offering to a faraway sun-temple, the ship foundered and sunk, leaving the collection submerged at the bottom of the Indian Ocean for two millennia – before being salvaged at Hirst’s personal expense and brought together for this historic show.

Upon entering the exhibition, it gradually becomes apparent that the underlying narrative is in fact entirely fictional; Cif Amotan is an anagram for “I am fiction” and the ship’s name, the Apistos, translates as “the Unbelievable”.  At every turn, Hirst confounds our expectations and suspends belief; alongside monumental statues of mythological animals and classical figures such as Mercury and Achilles, we encounter a pharaoh that looks suspiciously like the musician Pharrell Williams, a gilded bust that resembles Kate Moss, and even a barnacle-covered Mickey Mouse.   On closer inspection, we find marble painted to resemble leather and malachite carved to look like skin; the gargantuan headless demon standing 18 metres tall in the atrium of Palazzo Grassi appears to be cast in bronze, yet in fact is made from resin.  The technical virtuosity of these works is astounding, as is the use of precious metals and stones thought the show; Hirst employed 250 specialist craftsmen in five countries to help realise the sculptures, many of which are lavishly encrusted with real emeralds, rubies, pearls and other glittering gems.  It’s no wonder that the project has been revealed to have cost more than £50 million.

Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable: Damien Hirst at Palazzo Grassi Venice on view until 3 December 2018 - Venice Sotheby's Realty luxury property

Throughout the exhibition Hirst weaves a never-ending web of historical references and cultural appropriations, raising myriad questions such as the value of art, its meaning and worth – as well as other issues such as the blurred line in today’s ‘post-truth’ society between facts and lies, fantasy and reality.  Prepare to be unsettled, confounded, amused and amazed; above all, be sure to book your tickets soon, as this spectacular show is undoubtedly one of the unmissable highlights of this year’s international cultural calendar.


For more information about Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable. Damien Hirst 
on view until 3rd December 2018 visit

image001Hidden away at the end of Calle delle Pignatte in Cannaregio is one of Venice’s most unusual, eclectic, and largely unknown museums in Venice.  Open only by appointment, the Arzanà museum is housed in an ancient squero (boat-building yard), which was first documented in the 15th century and remained active until 1920.  Originally owned by the Casal dei Servi family (one of Venice’s most important gondola-making dynasties), today the building contains a private collection of historic Venetian boats and maritime treasures that offer an intriguing insight into Venice’s nautical history.

The museum is owned by the Arzanà Association, a non-profit organisation founded in 1992 that aims to promote the study and preservation of Venice’s traditional naval heritage – which today is at risk of falling into oblivion.  Over the years, the association has built up a vast array of maritime equipment and ephemera, most of which was recovered from abandoned boat workshops or donated by private individuals.

image003Inside the museum it’s quite an Aladdin’s Cave full of artefacts ranging from vintage sails to old fishing equipment, an original felze (the structure that used to cover passengers on a gondola), forcole (carved gondola oar-rests) and 19th century boat lamps, as well as  historic boats including the only surviving example of an authentic ‘gondolin da fresco’ – a narrow, light-weight gondola that was built in this very squero between 1870-80.  Other boats in the Arzanà collection are kept in water for use in Venice’s many historic regattas; some have even been featured in films including recent productions of Casanova and The Merchant of Venice.  

For anyone interested in discovering more about this important aspect of Venetian life and history, a visit to the museum is highly recommended; private guided tours can be arranged in return for a donation that supports the maintenance of the collection.  While you’re at it, why not also consider trying your hand at Venetian rowing, by booking a lesson with the excellent organisation ‘Row Venice’, which offers private lessons for up to four people in traditional hand-crafted wooden boats.

DON’T MISS: ‘JHeronimus Bosch and Venice’ at the Palazzo Ducale until 4th June 2017

Set within the Grand Ducal Apartments of the Palazzo Ducale, this superb exhibition explores the links between Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450 – 1516) and Venice – the only city in Italy that holds any works by the enigmatic Flemish artist. Revolving around three masterpieces that were restored last year on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of his death, the exhibition also includes around 50 other contextual works from significant collections, including rare manuscripts, bronzes and antique marbles, as well as artworks by Dürer, Bruegel and Cranach.  In the final room of the exhibition, visitors are even able to immerse themselves in Bosch’s paintings and take a 3D journey through his fantastical visions of the afterlife, via a multi-media installation titled ‘Four Visions of the Hereafter: A virtual reality experience from Hell to Heaven’.   If you’re coming to Venice over the next few months, this fascinating show is well worth a visit.


For information about the Arzana Museum, visit
For information about Row Venice, visit
For information about ‘JHeronimus Bosch and Venice’, visit

One of Venice’s most fascinating museums, the Museo Fortuny, stages an excellent programme of temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Currently The Cadorin Bottega: A Dynasty of Venetian Artists, on view until 27th March , presents a beautifully curated survey of over 200 works by four generations of artists, architects, musicians and photographers working in Venice across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, serving both as an intimate family album and a sweeping overview of artistic activity in Venice during this lesser-known period in the city’s cultural history.

Hidden away in a quiet campo in Sestiere San Marco is the magnificent fifteenth century Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei, which houses the Museo Fortuny. Originally owned by the Pesaro family, the vast Gothic palace was bought in 1899 by the Spanish artist and designer Mariano Fortuny, who today is regarded as one of the great creative talents of the twentieth century.

Born into a renowned family of artists in Granada in 1871, Fortuny grew up in Paris, where he studied as a painter. He moved to Venice in 1889 at the age of eighteen, and here – in this most theatrical of cities – his interest gradually shifted from painting to set design and stage lighting. Profoundly influenced by the theories of German composer Richard Wagner, his goal was to achieve a total union of music, drama, architecture and visual effects, and over the following years his revolutionary lighting and set designs earned him commissions in some of Europe’s most important theatres, stately homes and museums. His most significant achievements, however, were in the field of fashion and textile design, and following the establishment of his couture house in 1906, Fortuny designs became famous throughout the world – celebrated for their simple lines, luminous colours and flowing fabrics that liberated women from the constricting corsets, buttons and girdles that had previously been in vogue.

Towards the end of the 1930s Fortuny retired from his busy textile factory on Giudecca to his private palazzo, where he once again took up painting and began compiling a record of his remarkable and varied career. Following his death at the palazzo in 1949, the building was left to the city of Venice by his widow Henriette, ensuring that his beloved home and workshop would be preserved and enjoyed by generations to come.


Situated on Campo San Beneto, only a few minutes’ walk from our VE306 Stunning palazzo apartment Santo Stefano with two terraces property on Campo Santo Stefano, Museo Fortuny offers a wealth of insights into Fortuny’s life and legacy, as well as an immersive introduction to his very particular aesthetic. Darkly lit by Fortuny lamps, draped in rich fabrics and filled with an eclectic array of antiquities, curios and artworks, the enormous first floor atelier has an extraordinaryfin de siecle atmosphere that vividly evokes the spirit of Fortuny’s bohemian lifestyle. As well as displaying a number of his iconic dresses, thepiano nobile also presents examples of his stage sets, photographs and textile designs (still produced to this day in the Fortuny Factory on Giudecca) – while on the second floor Fortuny’s Private Library has been preserved, complete with his collection of statuary and taxidermy.

For more information about Museo Fortuny, visit