Baselitz at Palazzo Grimani is a long-term exhibit that lasts until November 26th, 2022, contemporary to the next “Esposizione Internazionale di Arti Visive La Biennale di Venezia”. The octogenarian German painter is a recurrent presence in the Venetian art scene, but this time his works are meant specifically for the historic Palazzo Grimani.
It never happened before, a challenge both for the artist and visitors.
The Grimani was an influential and extremely wealthy family who had a profound effect on Renaissance Venice. They could boast an Ambassador to Constantinople with Jacopo, a Doge with Antonio elected in 1521, a Cardinal with Marino, and a Patriarch of Aquileia with Giovanni.
He started the renovation of the Palazzo in the mid-16th century according to a Roman-style model, with a central courtyard surrounded by residential wings. As for the interior decoration, Giovanni applied to some Central Italy painters who were successful in Rome at the time of Michelangelo.
To mention a few: the Florentine origin Francesco Salviati, Federico Zuccari, and Camillo Mantovano, known for his ability in depicting flowers, seasonal fruit, and all sorts of vegetables.
Giovanni da Udine was born in Northern Italy, made his debut in Venice, and then moved to Rome in 1514. He soon joined Raphael’s workshop and became one of his most brilliant collaborators.
It took them twenty years to decorate most of the Grimani’s living quarter, with Greek origin stories, episodes taken from Roman history, landscapes, and genre paintings. Giovanni was also a great collector of ancient cameos, rare gems, Greek and Roman statues, valuable marble busts, and several bronze figurines.
His sumptuous house hosted a treasury that was unique in Venice, due to his preferences for classical civilizations and his strict relationships with the Roman Curia, which caused him some troubles too over the decades.
However, in old age, he was grateful to his native place, and in 1587 he bequeathed his private collection of statues and gems to the Republic of Venice. He provided the founding nucleus of the National Archeological Museum, which is today on display at the Correr Museum in St Mark’s Square.
For the Superintendency the project of a Modern Art exhibit at Palazzo Grimani was not simple: Baselitz’s powerful images were based on bright colors, heavy graphics, and intensive use of different art procedures.
After supervising the interior of the building, he designed a series of 25 canvases, sharing the same subjects and pictorial style, which could interact with the original decoration.
Today they appear on 16th-century walls, next to hundred-year-old stucco bas-reliefs, chimneys, frescoed ceilings with lush foliage, flying raptors, and seasonal flowers.
At first glance, the subjects look unclear, almost abstract, but some details reveal the profile of upside-down human figures. Nevertheless, you can tell the age, gender, and size. Energetic brushstrokes enhance the dynamism of the bodies and their different excitements.
Since 1969 Baselitz has inverted the setting of his painted motifs, forcing the viewer to stare at the painting for better comprehension.
Baselitz male and female characters hold a silent dialogue with portraits of eminent Doges and Statesmen, distinguished Cardinals, and Venetian scholars who aspired to eternal memory.
On the ceilings, exquisite frescoes tell the reckless life of Greek Gods, parallel to the Chamber of Antiquities collected by Giovanni Grimani, celebrating absolute values such as beauty, perfection, composure, and the vital impetus of youth.
Georg Baselitz’s specimens of humanity on canvas share with the prominent Grimanis a concept of time passing by, a breath of life depicted in a painting, and a bit of vanity in respect to the idealized, divine figures enlivening the house.
Baselitz at Palazzo Grimani show is an inspiring exhibition. It stands out from the traditional cultural offer in Venice, don’t miss it!
Visit our Modern Art tours in this section