Friday, May 6, 2011

Laguna modern

After Positano, it was off to Venice! I went there once on a school trip when I was 15 and always wanted to go back and wander through the alleys and canals. Last summer I attempted to go but my efforts were crushed by an Italian train strike (NEVER trust Italian trains).
We stayed in a gorgeous Bed & No Breakfast right smack in the middle of Venice, but just off the annoying touristy traffic. It was in a 15th century house so we had a view on a courtyard, exposed beams, classic terrazzo flooring and moldings. So much better than staying in a generic hotel on land or a dingy hostel. Of course Venice is breathtaking and all, but the ridiculous amount of tourists made me feel like I was in a giant tourist ant hill, it really takes away from the charm of it. Positano might have been the definition of touristy, but there people are elegant and sophisticated. In Venice you are surrounded by every single tourist stereotype, everywhere. And the food is not as delicious... however we did find a great bakery near our flat where we got our morning cappuccinos and cheap sandwiches for lunch.
Going to Venice I had two things that I REALLY wanted to see: Palazzo Grassi and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Upon arrival I found out that Palazzo Grassi, a foundation created by French luxury tycoon Fran├žois Pinault (LVMH) showcasing an incredible collection of contemporary art and installations, was unfortunately closed until June. However I found out that they had a sister museum called Punta della Dogana that just opened last year after an extensive renovation by starchitect Tadao Ando. Finding that out made my spidey sense tingle.

The building is incredible: it is airy, modern, ancient and timeless at the same time. Perfect for showcasing large scale contemporary art installations by the world's most influential and shocking artists.
I fell in love with Jeff Koons for the first time, I had always thought his work to be too easy and tacky, but it really has an eerie presence that captivates you. There were also installations by one of my longtime favorites Bruce Nauman (his retrospective at the MAC in Montreal a few years back is the first contemporary art exhibit I remember being moved by), Paul McCarthy (crudely thoughtful), Julie Mehretu (epic, intricate images that I could stare at for days) and Maurizio Cattelan (I was familiar with the name but not his work, his marble "gisant" sculptures were really haunting, loved it).

Julie Mehretu

Maurizio Cattelan

Jeff Koons

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is probably one of the best modern art collections of the 20th century. It really is a must see even if it is kind of a zoo (the tourists know about this one...) because a who's who of art is assembled here and creates a deliciously eclectic mix.

The food in Venice was good, but not great. I blame the tourists, I feel that restaurateurs got lazy. But I did have a mean crab gnocchi, this being once again a fishy kind of town. My favorite food moment thought was walking thru the Rialto market everyday, the fish and produce on display was salivating! The fact that it is housed in the same building for the past 500 years helps too. 
Anyways thats it, Venice really is a place to see because it is absolutely unique and charming, but an extended stay is really not necessary, the smells and hoards of tourists are quite suffocating. However, be sure you check out the contemporary art there and not just the palazzos! 

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