This summer, ‘Glasstress: Unveiled Realities’ will symbolically connect the Venetian lagoon, one of the most important and frequently visited places in the world, and Sopot, the beautiful Polish seaside city. Glasstress is since 2009 a recurring exhibition troughout the world; in collaboration with the Venetian glass masters, the initiative aims to expose the versatility and beauty of glass as a material through the lens of contemporary art. As a co-curator, artist Koen Vanmechelen also participates in the exhibition with his work ‘Cosmopolitan Fossil’.
This edition is curated by Eulalia Domanowska - the director of the State Gallery of Art in Sopot (PL), Adriano Berengo - the founder of Berengo Studio in Murano (IT), and Koen Vanmechelen - Belgian artist and founder of LABIOMISTA in Genk (BE).
The Glasstress philosophy is to create a dialogue between traditional and contemporary art, weaving together two seemingly different worlds and highlighting the importance of preserving traditional techniques and craftsmanship in the face of modern technology and mass production.
For hundreds of years, glass has been seen as primarily utilitarian or decorative. Adriano Berengo, the founder of Berengo Studio in Murano, resolved to change this opinion by inviting many outstanding contemporary artists from around the world, working in various artistic fields, from sculptors to musicians, to collaborate with Venetian glass masters. This initiative aims to expose the versatility and beauty of glass as a material through the lens of contemporary art.
According to the artist Koen Vanmechelen, who is also one of the curators of the exhibition, “the Glasstress philosophy is to create a dialogue between traditional and contemporary art, weaving together two seemingly different worlds and highlighting the importance of preserving traditional techniques and craftsmanship in the face of modern technology and mass production. By collaborating with Murano glassblowers, contemporary artists are allowed to experiment with the ancient practices of glass making, resulting in unique and innovative works of art. At the same time, the glassblowers can expand their traditional skills and techniques, introducing new ideas and approaches to their craft.”
The State Gallery of Art in Sopot, in collaboration with the Fondazione Berengo, presents the works of twenty-six artists from around the world who, invited to Murano, created artworks that are extraordinary, in regards to their beauty and their concept.
Ai Weiwei (China), Vanessa Beecroft (Italy), Monica Bonvicini (Italy), Hussein Chalayan (Cyprus), Judy Chicago (USA), Mat Collishaw (UK), Petah Coyne (USA), Endless (UK) , Josepha Gasch- Muche (Germany), Kendell Geers (South Africa), Maurycy Gomulicki (Poland), Karen LaMonte (USA), Massimo Lunardon (Italy), Vik Muniz (Brazil), Hans Op de Beeck (Belgium), Javier Pérez (Spain), Jaume Plensa (Spain), Laure Prouvost (France) Maria Grazia Rosin (Italy), Thomas Schütte (Germany), Sean Scully (Ireland), Elmar Trenkwalder (Austria), Koen Vanmechelen (Belgium), Xawery Wolski (Poland), Fred Wilson (USA), Erwin Wurm (Austria).
As in the 19th-century plaster cast by Adriano Cecioni from the Uffizi collection, a child holds in his arms a creature that he evidently cannot keep under control. Vanmechelen, inspired by Cecioni's group, transforms the rooster into a hybrid to represent the eternal confrontation between human and animal taken to the extreme of its emotional tension. Suddenly, the irritated child realises that nature, irretrievably, escapes his grasp. Though, one must be very careful: the creature, made of glass, is highly fragile. A balance that risks breaking at any moment, to the detriment of the child, or Nature.
Photo on the right: by Francesco Allegretto
Many outstanding artists have worked in the Murano furnaces. Artists taking part in the exhibition observed issues such as environmental degradation, decreasing biodiversity, destruction of rainforests, pandemics, colonialism, feminism, racial inequalities, totalitarian systems, as well as other, more subtle systems of social control. Thus, glass proves to be as versatile as any other artistic media while revealing and reinterpreting our reality in its various aspects. Substantial ideas combined with the beauty of a traditional material. Among the artists taking part in the Sopot exhibition there are two Poles - Maurycy Gomulicki and Xawery Wolski, both of whom worked with glass for the first time, and interestingly both created animalistic pieces that reference nature.
“In a world full of uncertainty,” Vanmechelen stresses, “more than ever, we need the voice of the arts. In Sopot, we weave the artists' works into a rich tapestry, using different narratives and techniques to provide a language that unveils the future and helps us understand the reality of our daily lives.
The exhibition reveals the visible and invisible worlds, reconstructing the past and present to show us a world we have yet to know. Unveiled Realities is the midwife of the future. The glass symbolizes the elements of water, air, fire, and earth that represent life. Glass also reminds us of the fragility of our planet. The tension and conflicts in this part of the world are skillfully conveyed through this material. Glass lets us dream about endless variations of life
Today the Glasstress project, which was launched in 2009 as an official collateral event of the Venice Biennale, is the world's leading showcase for the collaboration of craftsmanship and creativity, setting a new trajectory for glass and a new path for contemporary artists. Invited artists successfully create great multimedia works combining concept with artisanal skill. All artistic pieces commissioned by Berengo Studio are made in the historic glass works in Murano. Since the Middle Ages Venetian chandeliers and glassware have been highly valued, luxurious products that expressed the city's wealth and power. However, Berengo Studio, established in 1989 and inspired by the experimental approach of Peggy Guggenheim who, together with Edigio Constantini and artists such as Pablo Picasso and Max Ernst, translated the ideas of glass art to contemporary art, rekindles traditional techniques in collaboration with contemporary artists.
Thanks to the cooperation with the Murano Glass Museum, the Sopot exhibition features films presenting traditional Venetian techniques, various ways of producing beautiful glass objects as well as the famous Rezzonico chandeliers.
Glasstress Unveiled Realities
State Gallery of Art in Sopot
Address: Plac Zdrojowy 2, 81-720 Sopot, Poland
9.07 – 22.10.2023
Curators: Adriano Berengo, Eulalia Domanowska, Koen Vanmechelen
The exhibition and accompanying projects are financially supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage - the Culture Promotion Fund, the Municipality of the City of Sopot
Organizer: The State Gallery of Art in Sopot
Cooperation: Adriano Berengo, Berengo Studio, Fondazione Berengo, Koen Vanmechelen, Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Leto Gallery, Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (MUVE).
Co-financing: Municipality of the City of Sopot, Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
Honorary patronage: Italian Institute in Warsaw, Embassy of Italy in Warsaw
Patronage: Sofitel Sopot
Media patronage: Artinfo.pl, Esopot.pl, Szkło i ceramika, Contemporary lynx, Szum, NN6T, Prestiż, Zawsze Pomorze