Ever since it opened in the heart of Venice, the lifestyle department store, Fondaco dei Tedeschi has promoted art and culture by offering a rich programme of literary events, art shows and concerts. On the occasion of the Venice Art Biennale this year, Barnaba Fornasetti and Valeria Manzi present “La regola del sogno – The rule of dreams”, will run from May 8th to November 24th 2019. 

 Fornasetti's Iconic Figures Fill T Fondaco dei Tedeschi Department Store In Venice

The site-specific artwork will permeate throughout the entire Fondaco building, from the fourth floor, to the courtyard down to the waterfront entrance. Featuring silhouettes of female faces, irreverent monkeys and hands slicing through the air, this installation interacts with the spaces around it and indeed with the very reach of the historical place itself, trifling with its ancient symbols. 

“No obscenities or insults, no gaming, uproar or brawling. Otherwise do business as you will”: these strict rules, engraved in marble at the entrance to the Fondaco building, were imposed by the Serenissima Republic of Venice on travelling merchants. Here in the work of the two creative artists, the rules are “enforced” by the monkeys that hover over visitors and seem to taunt them from on high with their irreverence. 

 Fornasetti's Iconic Figures Fill T Fondaco dei Tedeschi Department Store In Venice

In a similar play of returning and overturning ideas, of métissage between different meanings and different eras, the female faces, reproduced on large discs and depicting the iconic Fornasetti muse Lina Cavalieri, pay homage to the poignant beauty of the works of the great Venetian Masters, Giorgione and Titian, which were to be seen on the facade of the building in the sixteenth century. Silhouettes of arms and hands swipe or caress the air, as they drop their ancient ducats containing an invitation to prudence and to consider the final outcome: “Respice finem“, originally engraved on an office door of the Visdomini who administered the Fondaco on behalf of the Serenissima. 

The work of the two creative artists draws on the rich history of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi to play hypnotic and perturbing games with the visitor, as does Fornasetti’s language itself, disseminating the space with arcane references and historical messages tinged with topical irony. By reassembling historical symbols in this playful logic, memories are vibrantly recreated through the individual experience of the visitor. 

Instead of the scientific rigour of historical reconstruction, there is an imaginative explosion: Fornasetti opens up the space to the emotional, expressive and narrative side of history, bringing it back to being a place of feeling and experience. 

 Fornasetti's Iconic Figures Fill T Fondaco dei Tedeschi Department Store In Venice

T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, Venice
8th May – 24th November 2019
Open 10:00 –20:00, admission free