Palazzo Grassi, Venice
Palazzo Grassi is an art center in Venice hosting major temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art.
History and architecture
The palace was built by the Grassi, a family of wealthy merchants, in 1772 after a design by architect Giorgio Massari. An imposing neoclassical building on the Grand Canal, the palace was also intended as a demonstration of the power and prestige of the family. At the time of its construction, Palazzo Grassi was one of the largest residences in Venice; it is also the last monumental residence built in Venice before the end of its Republic and, therefore, can be considered the “swansong” of a glorious era.
Based on a trapezoid plan, the palace comprises a sequence of spaces, private rooms, and large halls arranged around a relatively large rectangular inner courtyard, rather unconventional in the dense urban fabric of historical Venice, which was covered by a semi-transparent roof in the 1950s in order to convert it into a performance space.
Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog, “The World Belongs to You” exhibition, Palazzo Grassi, 2011; photo Lux & Jourik
Due to financial problems, in 1840 the Grassi sold the property which, after various vicissitudes, was eventually bought in 1949 by Italian industrials Franco Marinotti who converted it into a venue for art exhibitions, theatrical performances, and cultural events.
In 1983, the palace was sold to automobile manufacturer FIAT, which substantially renovated it after a design by architect Gae Aulenti, and finally to French art collector François Pinault, who commissioned a complete redesign of the building, completed in 2006, to Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
Ando also designed a 225-seat auditorium and multi-functional performance space adjacent to the palace, known as Teatrino (Small Theater), opened in 2013.
The “Teatrino” auditorium designed by Tadao Ando; © Palazzo Grassi, photo: ORCH orsenigo_chemollo
Program of activities
Together with Punta della Dogana, Palazzo Grassi is one of the two contemporary art centers in Venice managed by the François Pinault Foundation.
Each year, the center accommodates a number of special exhibitions. Most exhibitions present works from the over-3.000-piece Pinault Collection, on the world’s largest private collections of contemporary art; yet, the center also hosts retrospective and thematic exhibition based on works on loan from international museums and institutions
Along with special exhibitions, the program of activities and events of Palazzo Grassi includes creative workshops for kids and families, educational programs, and guided tours, as well as concerts, screenings, live performances, conferences, and talks held in the Teatrino.
Completely accessible to physically-impaired people, the center also contains a bookshop and a cafe. The waterbus stop closest to Palazzo Grassi is San Samuele, at about 50 meters from the palace.
Palazzo Grassi, the entrance on Campo San Samuele, and the covered courtyard; photos Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Damien Hirst, Demon with Bowl, “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” exhibition, 2017, photo Prudence Cuming Associates © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd., all rights reserved, DACS/SIAE 2017
Giuseppe Penone, Breathing the Shadow, 1998; and a room with works by David Hammons and El Anatsu,”The World Belongs to You” exhibition, 2011; photos Lux & Jourik.
Palazzo Grassi, interior view; photo Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Cover image: the facade of Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal; photo © Riccardo Bianchini / Inexhibit.
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copyright Inexhibit 2019 - ISSN: 2283-5474