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Report 1936: Our Month in Italy - Spring 2011
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2011
Page 10 of 30: Giovedi 5 Maggio 2011 - There's Modern Art and then there's Modern Art
Santa Maria della La Salute freed from scaffolding
It is such a glorious day, and I am feeling so energetic that we decide to have our coffee and kiefers at Ciak's and then go down to the new museum at the Punta della Dogana. It is owned by the Francois Pinault Foundation; the same foundation that also owns the Palazzo Grassi. When Francois Pinault bought the building and decided to turn it into a museum, he asked the Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, to do the renovation of the building.
We crowd onto a Numero Uno. I am grateful to find a small corner in which to stand where I can breathe without inhaling someone's hair or backpack. I don't even try for a photo. I'd just capture backs of heads, shoulders and backpacks.
At the Ca' Rezzonico stop there seems to be a new hotel in a building that has been under scaffolding "forever." It looks quite nice with tables and chairs and umbrellas on a terrace overlooking the canal. According to the sign, it is called the Palazzo Hotel Stern - not very Venetian sounding but then neither is Bauer, or Bauer Grunwald, as it used to be called.
The original Palazzo was built during the 15th Century by the Malpaga Family. The Rio Malpaga runs along one side of the building. Early in the twentieth century the Stern family bought the Palazzo and completely rebuilt it. The original Palazzo of two floors was expanded to four, but many pieces of the original Palazzo were used throughout. The Stern family collected paintings, sculpture, mosaics and even rescued architectural elements from other old Venetian buildings. The collection spans different eras and centuries and much of it is visible within the twenty-four room hotel. A big attraction for me would be the roof top Jacuzzi because we really miss our nightly dips in our own hot tub/spa when we are in Venice. The hotel has only twenty-four rooms ranging from a standard double to a junior suite and the prices vary according to the season. The location is wonderful, and if we were ever to give up renting, this would be a tempting option.
The Accademia stop is a disaster; they have finished working on the bridge, but are now working on the Accademia itself. The museum is still open, but I don't know if all the rooms are open as well or if the ones under scaffolding are closed off. It looks as though it would be a tricky walk just to get from the vaporetto to the front entrance. Of course, I am looking at all this from the vaporetto, and not even from the railing; it might be quite different on land.
Santa Maria della Salute is finally out of her shell of scaffolding, but work is still going on all along the canal front. In the book, "Secret Venice," there is an entire page dedicated to the numbers 8 and 11 and how often they occur in the architecture of this church. I won't attempt to repeat it here except to note that there is an interesting connection to the Jewish Kaballah that I had never before encountered.
I am quite excited to get some photos of the beautiful church before entering the museum because the scaffolding had prevented that on our last few visits. Many years ago when we used to stay at the Savoia e Jolanda, I shot nearly two rolls of film as the sun set behind La Salute.
We know the museum is ultra modern; the write ups all have said that this art collection makes Picasso, Matisse and even Warhol and Pollock look like ancient history. It features works by Jeff Koons, and Cy Twombly to name two of the very few artists with whom I am familiar.
My favorite piece in the entire building is in one of the very first rooms. It is a crystal basket ball net hanging from a crystal chandelier and was made by David Hammiai, who was born in Springfield, Illinois in 1945. It is an ironic comment on both the symbol of the ghetto and the symbol of the gilded cages of the upper class. This is one piece of very modern art with which I can connect despite never having lived in either a ghetto or a gilded cage.
Another exhibit of light bulbs both coiled on the floor and hanging on cords from the ceiling makes me wish I could walk through them and set them in motion. Bad girl! We visited a museum once in Calais that was very hands on. One of the exhibits consisted of different hanging filaments and as each viewer walked through the room, that person's pace, size and shape created different sounds. This is clearly not intended for such a purpose, but it would be fun to try.
Adel Abdessemed has several interesting works including a clay cast of a car vandalized during the 2005 riots in Algeria, a taxidermy cube made of abandoned stuffed animals that were gathered and burned representing the silent victims of all sorts of violence, and a wall drawing of eight large circles made from the razor barbed wire used in the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
There is also an arrangement of music stands with drawings of stick figures throwing what might be Molatov cocktails - it was called Cocktail 2007, and the viewer is left to determine if it refers to social or Molatov.
For me, some of best parts of the exhibit are the gorgeous wooden ceilings. They have either been restored or remade with the rafters in the shape of an inverted ship's keel, a very traditional ceiling in Venice especially in churches. Woodworker’s from the Arsenale, who normally built ships, constructed the ceilings. There are also spectacular wooden arches that open to the sky.
Several rooms offer breathtaking views of Il Bacino and the Giudecca Canal. Jeff Koons has a huge - three meters high - one and a half ton - red heart suspended from a gold bow hanging before a series of these windows. Another room is filled with his Popeye water toys.
The exhibit covers two floors, but what makes the biggest impression on me is the building itself and how beautifully it has been restored. There is also a cafe - rather pricey, - a gift shop - even pricier - and modern, clean bathrooms - blessedly free.
Even though we have not seen every piece on display, we are going into overload so we decide to leave and head home for lunch. It is nearly 3:00 before we sit down, and shortly thereafter my tummy begins acting up again. I spend the rest of the afternoon resting my legs and trying to calm my digestive tract.
By evening, I am over whatever it was, and we are able to keep our reservation at Locanda Montin. We take the vaporetto back to Ca' Rezzonico and then walk down the long calle to Campo San Barnaba. Once again we notice that a number of shops have changed since our last visit in 2008. Three years may seem like a long time, but most of these small stores had been there since we first started visiting Venice twice a year in 1997.
A left turn brings us through a pair of arches and past Il Casino dei Nobili, another restaurant we have always liked. They now have a second place on the Giudecca which has also become very popular. We cross the bridge and walk along the fondamente passing a solid line of moored motor boats which bob gently in the water.
We enter the Locanda under the hanging lantern that marks its status as an inn and are seated inside. We look at the menus and select our dinner. Martin begins with spaghetti with clams (out of the shell) and prawns (in the shell). He would have preferred them the other way round, but says the tomato sauce is one of the best he's ever had. I opt for the prosciutto e melone. The prosciutto is excellent - not too salty or fatty, and it is that perfect pale pink color. The melon is extraordinary; I learn it is from Sicily. Almost everything I taste from Sicily is delicious; we really should make a return trip there and stay longer than four days. The melon is truly worth rhapsodizing over. Mamma Mia! Pure heaven.
We both order the vitello al limone, but when it arrives, I see it is covered with a beautiful - and according to Martin delicious - lemon, butter, and cream sauce. I can't possibly eat it. I ask the waiter if it can be scraped off in the kitchen, and he insists on bringing me a fresh piece of veal simply grilled.
The more I say it is my fault for not asking if there was a sauce with butter or cream in it, the more he insists on bringing me another dish which arrives quickly and is excellent. The veal is tender and flavorful and although the sauce may have been heavenly, the grilled veal is delicious unadorned. This waiter has been at the Locanda for a long time, and I am afraid he is part of a dying breed - servers who really care about their customers.
Martin also enjoys his contorno of spinach and the Zibibbi con esse di buranelle he has for dessert. I finish with a grappa-under the guise of wanting a digestive. It is an excellent choice.
As I leave the restaurant, I point to an enormous container of corks that stands on the bar and reaches nearly to the ceiling. I ask the young woman at the register if she drank all the wine they held in the bottle, and she replies with a twinkle.
"Certo! Ogni giorno."
I giggle about that all the way home. We maintain our tradition of just missing a vaporetto, but it is early enough that we only have a ten minute wait. It is a pleasant evening and the grappa really did its job so I am very content to sit on the gently bobbing pontile and await the next #1. Ever so much nicer than Penn Station!
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