There is no shortage of exhibitions for those looking for a bit of design among the art at this year’s Venice Biennale. These five shows are the best places to discover both local and international design in the city, on the Biennale grounds and beyond.
Dysfunctional by Carpenters Workshop Gallery
Pushing the boundaries of art and design is Carpenter Workshop Gallery’s Dysfunctional, which includes 50 works by the gallery’s esteemed stable of designers. Viewed within the context of the Ca’ d’Oro’s Italian masterworks, the exhibition invites visitors to question the historical relationship between form and function. Some of the pieces are inspired by the city of Venice itself, such as Virgil Abloh’s sinking seating and Ingrid Donat’s golden sideboard, the latter of which celebrates Byzantine and Renaissance art and the former, a commentary on the city’s rising sea levels.
Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro, Cannaregio, 3932, May 8 to November 24
For those looking for more of a historical bent, Carlo Scarpa’s 1958 showroom for Olivetti typewriters is a modernist’s dream. In the words of founder Adriano Olivetti, the space was meant to be the “business card” of the company. Aurisina marble, rosewood, and African teak are combined with traditional Venetian mosaics and stonework to create a space that is both contemporary and harmonious with its situation in the arcade of the Procuratie Vecchie around St. Mark’s Square. The showroom is preserved exactly how it stood in 1958, with models of Olivetti’s most famous midcentury typewriters on display in the two galleries on the second floor.
Piazza San Marco 101, Procuratie Vecchie (Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00am to 6:30pm)
Venice Design is a concentrated injection of international contemporary design into the traditional Venetian craft scene. With multidisciplinary projects ranging from fashion to furniture, there’s a bit of something for everyone. The works explore new processes, like large-scale 3D printing, as well as contemporary issues, such as climate change and personal identity. Though Venice Design features around 60 designers from 30 different countries, it doesn’t lose sight of its local creators. The exhibition is accompanied by a map which lists 42 independent designers and craftspeople working within Venice, encouraging visitors to discover how design has always been a part of the city’s culture.
Palazzo Michiel, Strada Nuova 4391, May 11 to November 24
Caterina Tognon Gallery
Caterina Tognon represents the most innovative contemporary glass artisans working in Venice and around the world. Currently on view is COLLAPSE, which features the work of LA-based artist Brian Rochefort. Rochefort’s glazed stoneware and glass pieces evoke natural forms, mimicking the texture of sand or the jewel tones of a lagoon. His large craters are most the spectacular, having all the “energy of a volcanic explosion,” describes Tognon.
San Marco 2158, COLLAPSE May 8 to July 27
It’s About Time by V&A Pavillion of Applied Arts
In the Arsenale, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s special project at the Pavilion of Applied Arts, It’s About Time, is an installation by Polish-born, London-based artist, Marysia Lewandowska. Documentary footage from a 1978 film about the V&A (which shows mostly men parading through the halls in suits and ties) is paired with an audio recording of Italian women discussing their role in the founding of the first Biennale in the 19th century. The piece is a powerful evocation of the past and its echoes in archival materials and present-day events.
Arsenale, Open 10 am to 6 pm, May 8 to November 24.
Header image: Studio Drift’s Fragile Future chandelier installed next to a work by Mantegna in the Ca’d’ Oro. (Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery)