After a long and busy Thursday day trip to Verona, it was only natural that our Friday in Venice would be a lighter and quieter day. So we had a relaxed leisurely morning, sleeping in and lolling around the apartment, followed by a late lunch and visits to two relatively small art museums in Venice, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Punta dell Dogana.
Our lunch was at Ristorante Diana, a return to this restaurant, and yes, I did order their Linguine alla Veneziana, aka al nero di seppia, with lots of black ink sauce. After having had this dish at a few other restaurants since the first time I ate it here, I can honestly say that Ristorante Diana makes this dish the best in Venice.
Our fairly relaxed lunch, which included chatting with a couple at a table next to us who were only visiting Venice for a few days, concluded with us beginning to feel a sense of urgency. If we wanted to get some sightseeing in that day, we better skedaddle before everything started closing down! So we walked to our Vaporetto stop, San Marcuola, and took it to the Accademia stop, and walked the few blocks to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
If you love art from the mid-twentieth century, as we do, then this art museum is for you. All the usual suspects are well-represented here – Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, etc. – and there were some new ones to discover, like Mirko and Germaine Richier. The cool thing is that, as an art collector who lived through the middle of the century, Ms. Guggenheim got to know many of these artists and was often a big supporter of their work as well as a patron.
To get to our next destination, we walked past the imposing and beautiful Church of Santa Maria della Salute, often called simply “Salute.” I would’ve liked to go inside and see more of the church, but since the afternoon was on the wane, I had to move on.
Punta della Dogana, along with its sister museum/gallery Palazzo Grassi, was hosting the massive Damien Hirst show called The Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable. My nephew Neil had warned me that Hirst’s work can be galvanizing, as in some love it and some walk away from it grumbling and screaming. But he also said that whatever his reservations about Hirst, if he were in Venice, he would probably want to see the show. We were happy to give Mr. Hirst a chance.
The concept to the show is certainly equal parts ambition and whimsy. The idea is that a fictional shipwreck that took place in the first or second century A.D. has been dug up, and it contains a cross-section of art, much of it covered in barnacles and corral, from every culture and corner of the world that was known for making art at that time. So Mr. Hirst has created huge sculptures and made them look aged and sea corral encrusted.
In addition, for most of the pieces, he has created a second sculpture, supposed to be an attempt to create a new piece based on the sunken treasure, but making whole what was broken and aged by the sea.
Since the show is split between two galleries, we only saw half of the show here at Punta Della Dogana, but we were impressed with what we saw. This space, with its many trapezoidal rooms on two levels fitting into a triangular building on the southern point of the Dorsoduro neighborhood, was used very well in placing the pieces from the show. There were places on the upper floor where you could turn from seeing several pieces in a room next to you to look over a railing and see a larger room below and its contents as well.
To supplement the works of art displayed before us, and continue the fictional pretense, periodically there were video monitors set into the walls displaying videos showing the works you see before you being rescued by divers from the ocean floor. Just as the works of art are executed with great precision (some too perfectly, in my opinion), these videos are high definition with lots of bright colors, very attractive.
The question, after seeing and enjoying the first half of the show here at Punta della Dogana, was whether we would also enjoy the second half two days hence at Palazzo Grassi – or whether it would be repetitive and boring. We would certainly find out!