The Salomè has been sold: a tragicomedy in two acts

 We will express, as follows, two different (perhaps anti-prospective) reflections on what is rumored to have been happening in the Venetian administration in recent weeks, while being well aware of the fact that both literary pieces make judgments related to considerations of a personal nature: a view that perhaps lies right in the middle of polar opposites.

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ACT I: PASSIO 

Text by – GIULIA BOCCHIO

Translated by – JULIA PERRY

It’s a story that echoes through the halls of museums and through the wet streets of a Venice that has already seen extinguish the Fire that D’Annunzio gave her in his unforgettable aesthetic pages. Today, 115 years after that painting, it is the city that is in need of selling in order to not drown in debt: Luigi Brugnaro, the mayor, plans to auction Klimt’s Judith II Salomè (the value of which seems to amount to several million, maybe even more than 100) but also other works such as Chagall, the Rabbi of Vitebsk, now kept at Cà Pesaro, the International Gallery of Modern Art, in the district of Santa Croce. Yes, the same Judith of the Salomè eco profile and symbol of pleasure, seduction and splendor, the same that between dances and ruby red jewelry asked for King Herod the Baptist’s head to be served on a platter. Martyrdom of a martyrdom that recurs, and once again Salomè becomes the protagonist of a less malicious ballet and an equally inequitable exchange.

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Of course, the numbers could heal the debt of the city but at the same, sap the artistic heritage all the same. In the wake of comments by Vittorio Sgarbi: “Brugnaro did very well, his idea is very interesting and logical. This is not selling a Canaletto or a Titian. It speaks of works that are not related to the history of Venice, Klimt in Venice is a foreign body, his picture can be anywhere, in Paris as in New York” fumbling between the muddy waters of the shore there is a concept of ‘muddy art’, confused with profit; and that this declaration, be it realized or not, represents the voice of the ventricular need to heal the public finances of the City of the Doges, the lack of real resources will not trigger the change of a political system or help rethink public expenditure and devein, collections of municipal museums. A bit like when indulgences were sold.

Needless the appeal from President Mattarella, “Venice is falling apart,” because the red part of the budget has triggered the green which could offer only a temporary solution, but for a political system that is already pale and sickly, this constitutes neither a vaccine nor a cure.

Only the unaesthetic anesthetic, due to the barter and selling of beauty in order to heal the ugliness of a slow and ineffective, as well as inefficient administration, will not guarantee the immediate revival of the lagoon city, a world heritage site that should therefore be protected just as the works of art that inhabit and decorate it.

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ACT II: MAGNIFICAT

Text by – IL FASTIDIO 

Translated by – JULIA PERRY

We are well aware that what we write can, perhaps at first blush, turn people’s noses up in difference but we want to invite you to the most genuine “reflection” of what will follow, a reasoning that, grant yourselves and grant us, might devoid from preconception.

The point is clear: Venice is selling bits and pieces of its artistic heritage in order to partially settle its public debt.

We are not the first, of course, to be in favor of the maneuver in question, nor, in any case, are we interested in monkeying around the way of thinking that is much more common (or perhaps noisy) all in the name of “culture” (after all, emulating Sgarbian thought would equal itself to a self-inflicted kick in the ass while standing on the edge of a sinkhole at night).

Here we find the affirmation of the media-critical art critic, Vittorio Sgarbi “Nobody goes to Venice to see Klimt and having to choose between Venice and Klimt, it is better for Klimt to die. This is not about selling a Canaletto or a Titian”: harsh, but similar to the way of thinking that is addressed by the mayor of Paris regarding La Gioconda.

On the other hand, a long series of factors must be considered in this case.

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Venice, first of all, is perhaps the most representative example of the scenario “tourist destinations” around the world, a symbol and pride of immeasurable value for Italy. Precisely, this symbolic condition of the ideal “Arcadian” is intrinsically linked to the need for its total alienation from its state in order to offset what it already represents: the totality of the nation in the eyes of the world. In this respect, can we blame the default mindset of its citizens? No. So, given its imminence, what you are willing to do to avoid it? Here is the point to discuss.

It puts before us a fundamental split between an ideal plan of action and one that is factual, practical, pragmatic: the monetization prosaic work of art has still caused a sensation and allergically offend purist romantics. On the other hand it has to consider: doesn’t a work of art in a museum, as guarded and protected, suffer in its own way the same monetization process, constituting an artistic heritage asset? Heritage, remember, is not just a construct ideal of belonging, but has an obvious counterpart in an economic sense. That said, why not be able to freely dispose of what is perhaps, translated in terms of economic potential, one of the most important cash deposits in the entire world, in this case, for our nation?

An ideal plan, as mentioned above, would aim to protect artistic heritage and to enhance it to a more substantial economic fruit by the administration, especially in the long run. The point is that it is faced with an ultimatum: on a balanced scale’s plate, the economic failure of one of the main symbols of Italy and one of the most important and attractive tourist centers in the world on one side; and the other the sacrifice of the head of the Baptist.

Allow me then another small reflection, this time more in line with what has been said by supporters of the maneuver: the works that are on sale ultimately come in third position as protagonists of the artistic circuits/exhibition they are currently placed within. In terms of cost/benefit, a reasoning in terms of “loss of identity art” related to their sale is not totally correct and free from purely romantic reasoning.

Italy is in full, from the Academy of Brera, to the Egyptian museum in Turin just to mention two examples known to the news, of cultural institutions that are claudicant to say the least from the point of view of economic structure perched on their own warehouses, overflowing with works never made accessible to the public.

Would it be acceptable in similar situations to sell the “accessory” in order to enhance and/or protect the ensemble?

Perhaps it is also through the pragmatism of the ability to deal with budgets and assets as they are that, while I understand condolences and gnashing of teeth taste a bit retro, a road can be paved towards fixing seemingly irreconcilable fiscal accounts.

In this sense, give me one last provocation: Is it better to give up a Klimt or open up Piazza San Marco’s artistic mezzanine in order to allow more transatlantic drifting among the pigeons?

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