Since its opening in 1720, the Caffè Florian has been the meeting place for art and culture. One evening in 1893, Ricccardo Selvatico, the Mayor of Venice, but also a poet and a playwright, while sitting at the tables of “Sala del Senato” (Senate Room) with his friends, artists and intellectuals, had the idea of creating a Contemporary Art Exhibition to be held in the gardens of the Venetian Sestiere Castello. Nowadays, that exhibition is worldwide known as the Biennale di Venezia.
Since then, art has always been at home at the Florian, and from 1988 it is the venue of one important art exhibition hosting works of art by international artists: “Temporanea: le realtà possibili del Caffè Florian”. This event propose the Florian as a unique space for contemporary art, where the artist is invited, not only to show his/her artistic works, but to reinterpret the inner rooms of the historical Café. Bruno Ceccobelli, Mimmo Rotella, Fabrizio Plessi, Gaetano Pesce, Luca Buvoli, Arcangelo, Irene Andessner, Fausto Gilberti, Botto&Bruno, Marco Tirelli, Pietro Ruffo and Omar Galliani are some of the many both Italian and international artists who, over the years, created exclusive pieces of art expressly for the Caffè Florian.
BRUNO CECCOBELLI “Figli d’api” (1988)
L’installazione consiste in 777 piccole-medie sculture-pitture realizzate con tecnica mista (cartone, tela, acrilico, ecc) applicate agli specchi, alle pareti e ai soffitti delle sale del Florian. Le dimensioni dei collages variano dai 5 ai 40 cm. circa.
MIMMO ROTELLA “Rotella al Florian” (1990)
Mimmo Rotella’s installation consisted of 19 torn posters, enriched with “Sovrapitture” that Rotella installed in all the rooms of the Cafè, including ceilings.
FABRIZIO PLESSI ”Cristalli Liquidi” (1993)
La video-installazione di Fabrizio Plessi è composta da centinaia di antichi bicchieri in vetro di Murano, usati nel corso dei secoli al Caffè, che pendono dal soffitto della Sala del Senato, stillando gocce di liquido virtuale in dodici grandi secchi di zinco che, posizionati sul pavimento, sembrano pieni d’acqua ma in realtà contengono dei video. L’opera è completata da una colonna sonora che riproduce il rumore delle gocce d’acqua.
GAETANO PESCE “Un vaso (Goto) per Venezia” (1995)
The creation of world renowned architect and designer Gaetano Pesce, the “Goto” vase is a soft cast resin object-sculpture, named after the local dialect word for tumbler in a tribute to Venice. The object was produced in about 3000 copies in coloured resin, using a steel mould. Each “goto” is unique, as the resin is cast in different quantities and colours, making creation a one-off piece.
LUCA BUVOLI “Not-a-Superhero, I presume” (1997)
Luca Buvoli’s installation (to whom an entire room of the Biennale Arti Visive was dedicated in 2007) was based on an imaginary antithetical comic-book hero (“Not-a-Superhero”), created by the artist. The figure of Not-a-Superhero tumbled across the space of “Sala del Senato” (Senate Room) from the sheets of paper the artist had hung from the ceiling in a short of comic strip hovering over the room.
A TV set on the floor showed an animated 16mm film featuring “Not-a-Superhero” in motion. The installation was accompanied by a flip-book containing the printed version.
ARCANGELO “ANFORE” (1999)
L’installazione è realizzata con l’utilizzo di un ponteggio da cantiere, in tubi “innocenti” ricoperti da nastro bianco e rosso e assi di legno (cm. 25 x 200), all’interno della Sala del Senato. Sul ponteggio sono posizionate quattro grandi anfore di ispirazione etrusco-romana. Le anfore, di terracotta dipinta con disegni sulla parte superiore ed inferiore, hanno sulla sommità come coperchio delle figure-nave stilizzate. L’atmosfera ricreata è quella di un cantiere archeologico al giro di boa tra un millennio e l’altro.
IRENE ANDESSNER “Donne Illustri” (2003)
Irene Andessner is an Austrian artist who used photography as an instrument to portray some of the famous Venetian women of the past.
For her artistic project at the Florian, the Austrian artist decided to re-interpret ten among the city’s most famous women. Andessner’s portrayals, taken during a specially arranged photo shoot, were the result of extensive historical and iconographic researches.
The large-size prints of the portraits were mounted on back-lit display panels for greater impact. Using a particular technique, the panel were then superimposed in transparency to the portraits of the ten famous Venetian men that hang in the room called “Sala degli Uomini Illustri” (Room of the Illustrious Men), thus creating a puzzle-like effect.
The Venetian women from the history of the Serenissima portrayed by Irene Andessner are: Agnesina Morosini, Catarina Cornaro, Cecilia Venier-Baffo, Veronica Franco, Marietta Robusti, Moderata Fonte, Barbara Strozzi, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro-Piscopia, Elisabetta Querini.Valier and Rosalba Carriera.
FAUSTO GILBERTI “Beautiful People” (2005)
For the eight edition of Temporanea, Fausto Gilberti chose the “Sala Cinese” (Chinese Room) to mounted a large wood panel on which he pinned a series of ink drawings, forming a long line of people (men and women) with toothpick-thin arms and legs that are recurrent in the work of this artist, like a sort of ironic-grotesque “Fourth State” by Pellizza di Volpedo.
The work was self-supporting on two of the Chinese Room walls and looked suspended in air.
BOTTO & BRUNO “The garage-kids resurrection” (2007)
La coppia Botto & Bruno, che usa come mezzo espressivo la fotografia spesso di grandi dimensioni, ha completamente reinterpretato la Sala Cinese trasformandola, per contrasto, in una periferia urbana degradata.
L’opera è composta da una serie di pannelli con serigrafate le immagini di una periferia urbana. L’installazione ruota attorno ad un garage in particolare, “The garage-kids resurrection”. Il lavoro è accompagnato da una colonna sonora, registrata appositamente da un gruppo musicale rock diretto dai due artisti, diffusa all’interno dell’installazione.
MARCO TIRELLI “Marco Tirelli al Florian” (2009)
The artist chose the ‘Sala Cinese’ (Chinese Room) to exhibit his artistic work: a huge black canvas with a gigantic white satellite-sphere at its centre, which completely covered the back wall of the room.
Impressively suggestive, this large composition almost seemed to trascend the confines of the Florian to spill out onto St. Mark’s Square.
PIETRO RUFFO “Negative Liberty” (2011)
Pietro Ruffo, a young but established Roman artist, with his installation in the “Sala Cinese” (Chinese Room) carries us into a graphite forest, a forest we perceive as if we were lying on the bare ground.
Dragonflies swarm out of this forest, their four wings propelling them horizontally in frenzied flight. With their speed and flight ability, these slender-bodied yet fearsome predators feed on other insects, and their shot lifespan and frenetic movement cause us to ponder the concept of freedom, the “positive liberty”, which is potentially totalitarian, and “negative liberty” which, according to the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, stems from the absence of external constraints.
A quotation from the Lebanese poet Gilbran Kalhil on one of the walls of the room offers further food for thought: “…if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed”.
OMAR GALLIANI “Il sogno della Principessa Lyu Ji al Florian” (2013)
It lasts a little more than one summer’s night, Omar Galliani’s “Dream of the Princess Lyu Ji” at the Venetian Caffè Florian. Instead of the exotic and sensual female figures painted by Pascutti in the “Sala Cinese” Chinese Room, there will be only her, evoked by a double image, or better still, a Siamese image. And all around, from floor to ceiling, including tables, sofas and chairs, an abundance of symbols, the kingdom of a princess dream: flowers, books, scrolls, musical instruments, pieces of paper belonging to a realm of earth and water. In Lyu Ji, the artist Omar Galliani focuses on his recurring female characters strengthening his passion for the East. The installation at the Florian is a intense tribute to femininity and China, , beautiful places where the artist has been for years the well-known protagonist of important art exhibitions in all the major museums.