Palazzo Fortuny is without doubt one of Venice’s finest and most fascinating museums, housed in an atmospheric gothic palace that once belonged to the legendary 19th century fashion and textile designer Mariano Fortuny.
This Spring the palace is hosting a highly thought-provoking exhibition that explores the concept and representation of ruins – objects suspended between past and present, life and death, destruction and creation – as an allegory of the inexorable passage of time.
Organised in collaboration with Russia’s State Hermitage Museum, the show features over 250 intriguing and incredibly eclectic art works and objects that illustrate the manifold meanings that have been attributed to ruins over the centuries. Arranged by affinities and contrasts without geographical or sequential limits, the exhibits on view range from evocative sculptural artefacts from Greco-Roman, Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilisations to site-specific contemporary art works that investigate the “physical and moral ruins” in today’s society.
In between these chronological extremes is a series of masterpieces drawn from Venetian and international collections, including over 80 loans from the State Hermitage museum, by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Paolo Veronese, Parmigianino, Ippolito Caffi and many more. The show also features a number of exhibits relating directly to Venice – arguably one of the world’s most perfectly preserved yet precariously fragile cities – including a series of rare archival photographs of the fall and reconstruction of the bell tower in St Mark’s Square.
Today the concept of the ruin is especially pertinent, not least in light of recent historical events such as the collapse of the Twin Towers and the devastation of Palmyra, and the increasingly extreme threats of climate change. However, far from simply proposing a gloomy image of decay and catastrophe, this powerful exhibition also looks resolutely towards the future, encouraging us to consider ruins as a source of new awareness – stimulating on the one hand the exercise of memory and reflection, and on the other, of planning for what may lie ahead.
FUTURUINS is on view at Palazzo Fortuny until 24th March 2019.