Palazzo Fortuny, Venice
Palazzo Fortuny in Venice is a historical palace and a cultural center especially focused on modern and contemporary art.
History and building
Once called Palazzo Pesaro Orfei, Palazzo Fortuny is an imposing Gothic-style palace built by the Pesaro family in the second half of the 15th century, after a design by an unknown architect.
The building is characterized by its beautiful facade on Campo San Beneto, marked by ogee-arched windows, and for the monumental halls on the first and second floor, each of which is 43 meters / 141 feet long.
Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, the grand halls on the first and second floors; photos © Inexhibit.
Yet, the history of the palace is deeply connected to Spanish-born artist and designer Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo. A man of multifarious talents – he was a painter, a sculptor, a scenographer, a lighting designer, a fashion designer, a textile manufacturer, and an inventor – Mariano Fortuny acquired the palace in 1898, to install its workshop there, and kept on restoring the building in the following decades.
Fortuny’s business fortunes were mostly due to its fashion design and textile production activities, he conducted together with his wife Henriette Negrin, for which he invented new techniques, such as a special type of pleating, and even innovative machinery.
The printed fabric company he founded in Venice, the Tessuti Artistici Fortuny, is still active today. After Fortuny’s death in 1956, the palace was bequeathed to the city of Venice on the condition that “it shall be used perpetually as a cultural center related to art”.
The courtyard of Palazzo Fortuny, photo courtesy of MUVE.
What to see at Palazzo Fortuny
In 1975, the palace opened as a museum and cultural venue dedicated to visual arts; yet, it still retains Fortuny’s original workshop located on the first floor, as well as the artist’s remarkable library filled with rare objects, pieces of furniture, and art books.
The museum contains Fortuny’s eclectic collection of fine and applied art, together with a large number of artworks – mostly paintings, and drawings – by the artist himself and by his father Marià, a well-reputed Romantic-style painter.
Other objects on display on the first floor of the palace include fabric printing plates, clothes, and fashion accessories produced by the Fortuny factory from the early 20th century onwards.
A room on the first floor of Palazzo Fortuny; photo © Inexhibit.
Yet, the center is most known for its innovative temporary exhibitions, often made in collaboration with major international cultural institutions, which, inspired by Fortuny’s eclectism and cross-disciplinary artistic vision, present in the exuberant and cavernous rooms of the palace works by some of the most acclaimed contemporary artists – from Anselm Kiefer to Jannis Kounellis, from Picasso to Antoni Tapiés, from Steve McCurry to Marina Abramovich, to name a few.
Along with exhibitions of modern and contemporary painting and sculpture, the palace also accommodates exhibitions of fashion, design, applied arts, and photography.
The program of Palazzo Fortuny also includes festivals, meetings, conferences, creative workshops, and special events. Fully accessible to physically-impaired people, the building also contains a book and gift shop.
Anselm Kiefer, Am Anfang (In The Beginning), 2003, “Futuruins” exhibition, December 2018-March 2019; photo © Inexhibit.
Cover image: Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, the facade on Campo San Beneto; photo © Inexhibit.
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