Innovation and tradition, creativity and technique. These are the standing points of Luca Nichetto’s curatorial project hosted at the InGalleria / Punta Conterie Art Gallery in Murano until 10 April 2022.
By gathering together the results of an original collaboration between eight international designers and Muranese glass masters, the exhibition “Empathic. Discovering a glass legacy” aims to rediscover Murano’s glass tradition in a new and international perspective after the difficult months of the pandemic.
In his new role as a curator, Luca Nichetto’s intention was to deliver the innate ability to generate involvement and participation: empathy. No briefs or constraints were given to the designers, who were left free to create and experiment empathically with glass in all its forms, guided only by the expert hands of glassmakers.
The limitations due to the pandemic have slowed down the production processes and prevented the designers from closely following the work, but the instant trust and empathy born with the Muranese professionals was such that every piece (produced in limited edition) ended up being an unexpected yet well-achieved dialogue between the two counterparts.
Much of Nichetto’s exhibition project strength lies in the dialogue that it established with the space that hosts it. The very history of Punta Conterie stands as a symbol of innovation within Murano’s reality.
InGalleria Art Gallery is the large exhibition space of Punta Conterie, the hub which is the result of a renovation project carried out by two entrepreneurs, Alessandro Vecchiato and Dario Campa, between 2017 and 2019 and that fits into the former manufacturing complex of Conterie.
The origins of the so-called “conterie” date back in the late 19th century, when some glassmakers started to specialize in the production of little perforated glass paste beads, obtained by cutting a thin and long cane of glass.
Since the production process of these tiny pieces actually required large workspaces, some local companies decided to move in a 22,000 square metre building complex located between Palazzo Giustinian and the Basilica of San Donato in Murano. It was the official birth of the Venetian Society for the Industry of the Conteries, whose profitable productive effort shut down in 1993, due to the crisis that overwhelmed the sector as a result of the ruthless Eastern competition.
After the acquisition by the Municipality of Venice and following an international competition, the “Ex Conterie” turned into residential and commercial buildings, that now host, among the others, Punta Conterie’s reality, a space that has been designed with the dual intent of preserving much of the original structure while at the same time framing everything into a contemporary picture.
The vision of the two founders, allowed this space to acquire its own autonomy within the already defined world of glass production in Murano. In September 2019 Punta Conterie opened as a polyhedric space in which glass art, design, art, culture, food, and wine blend to create an experiential dimension that can be meaningful for the visitor.
In this context, “Empathic. Discovering a glass legacy” fits perfectly. The works of the eight artists (including Luca Nichetto himself) play with the different possibilities offered by a versatile material such as glass, in a game of shapes, colors, emotions and cross-references.
Some lean on a traditional decorative object like the vase to give it a new life. If the American designer Marc Thorpe chooses to transfer colors and shades of the Venetian lagoon in a series of little blown glass vases (La Famiglia), Benjamin Hubert exploits the skills of master glassmakers to investigate in his Granule how various shapes and textures bring to different chromatic effects.
A further reference to the Venetian landscape is also embodied by Palafit, the work proposed by the duo GamFratesi (the Danish architect Stine Gam and the Italian architect Enrico Fratesi), who placed wide forms of blown glass on a wooden pedestal obtained from real “bricole”, the traditional poles that mark the waterways in and out the city.
Other pieces of furniture have then been reinterpreted by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance and Elena Salmistraro. The French designer created a series of coffee tables on whose surface the water seems to ripple as in Lucie Jean’s photographic series “Down by the water” that takes place in the small Venetian Island called Madonna del Monte. Medusa is instead the feminine and colorful touch of the Italian designer; the massive mirror recalls the impetuous movement of the Gorgons’ serpents and it is an example of how ancient techniques of glass processing can be revisited in a contemporary way.
The colorful and bright horizontal stripes of Richard Hutten’s totem, Layered, are then a powerful and instant eye-catcher that welcomes the visitor. Ending result of a volumetric research are also the works proposed by Nichetto himself: Mecha are three little glass busts that take the form of robots, a reminiscence of the author’s childhood memories.
To conclude, the American designer Ini Archibong made a personal reading of his Nigerian origins, with Africa, a reinterpretation of the traditional African masks in a new and unconventional form, that of glass.
Beyond the appealing design objects, the exhibition opens a window on the future of Murano.