“Dysfunctional” or the fine line between art and design, poetry and function on show at the Ca ‘d’Oro in Venice

Every two years in May, collectors, artists, curators and lovers of contemporary art flock from all over the world to Venice to try to decipher the new trends of current artistic creation through the 79 participants and the numerous events around the Biennale.

We will present our top list of the official pavilions in an upcoming article, but today we wanted to focus on an exhibition of the external circuit that has particularly fascinated us and transported us to a dimension where the boundaries between art and design, poetry and function are loose.

We are talking about “Dysfunctional”, an exhibition of collectible art-design organized by the Carpenters Workshop Gallery and visible until November 24th 2019 at the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti at the Ca ‘d’Oro.

As the title suggests, the exhibition invites the public to forget function to celebrate the power of artistic expression and unique savoir-faire.

In the astonishing location of Ca ‘d’Oro – architectural jewel of the Florentine Gothic style overlooking the Grand Canal – 21 artists and designers of the Carpenters Workshop Gallery create a dialogue between contemporary creation and artistic heritage. In a single space, Vincenzo De Cotiis, Rick Owens, Maarten Baas, Nacho Carbonell and the Verhoeven Twins – to name but a few – confront the great masters of Italian and Flemish art such as Andrea Mantegna, Van Dyck or Gian Lorenzo Bernini, present in the collection of Giorgio Franchetti.

And what can we say? The results are simply extraordinary.

If the theme and the works of this 58th BiennialMay You Live In Interesting Times– seemed to us rather gloomy for their often pessimistic look at precariousness and the numerous threats that dominate contemporary society, “Dysfunctional” made us live moments of pure wonder and poetry, as if we were in a bubble where joy and beauty still have a reason to exist.

And speaking of bubbles … the work for which we fell in love at first sight was undoubtedly “Moments of Happiness” created by the Verhoeven Twins in collaboration with Maison Piaget (and we do not say this because Piaget invited us, but because it is a really sublime sculpture!).

These two Dutch designers (real twins, if you were ever in doubt! Ed), visionaries, eccentric and playful, have installed on the roof of the Ca ‘d’Oro some wonderful iridescent glass soap bubbles that seem about to burst. Combining poetry, technology and an incredible artisan skill – reminiscent of the Swiss watch and jewellery brand Piaget– the Verhoeven Twins make the dream of many children (including us! Ed) reality: seeing an ephemeral bubble of soap – a “moment of happiness” – becoming tangible and lasting over time. In a blink of an eye, craftsmanship forgets its function and becomes pure poetry. Furthermore, the choice of borosilicate glass for bubbles, with its golden shades – another reference to Piaget? – adds an even more magical touch: the whole city of Venice is reflected in this iridescent surface, symbolizing a metaphorical fusion between the present of the work and the history of the city and its many artists.

Among the other works we had the pleasure to see, how could you forget “Inside a forest cloud chandelier” by Nacho Carbonell! The artist has transformed the 15th-century court of the Ca ‘d’Oro into a large luminous forest with its organic chandelier-sculpture with a sparkling texture, a tribute to the golden decorations that covered the facades of the Ca’ d’Oro in the past and of which today unfortunately only the name remains. Once again, function is eclipsed to make room for magic; the present embraces the past.

In the same way, “Fragile future chandelier Venice Mantegna” by Studio Drift associates Andrea Mantegna’s famous Saint Sebastian (a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance that we studied and venerated during art history courses at university! Ed) with an enchanting installation composed of hundreds of real dandelion flowers turned into a delicate cascade of lights. A work of great elegance and visual impact.  Still a great WOW!

Last but not least, the work “Real Time XL” by Dutch designer Maarten Baas has greatly amused us: a large clock whose hands are nothing more than black stripes of paint traced by the artist in real time. Every minute, Baas stops time for an instant in which he erases the hand of the previous minute before drawing that of the next minute. In short, his work perfectly represents the idea of dysfunction as an “interruption of normal social relations”.

A clock that does not know how to indicate the time, a bubble that does not want to burst, a forest that illuminates instead of shadowing … and what if art and wonder were to hide themselves precisely in these dys-functions? We are not sure we have the answer, but we definitely recommend going to see this show to get an idea!

Description: Sara Waka 

Photo: Tomaso Lisca