By Jill Lowe
Chicago based curator Dieter Roelstraete conceived the project “EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT THE WEATHER” for Fondazione Prada’s Venice venue. His enormously engaging presentation at the Arts Club in Chicago in July 2023, described the research exhibition which explores the semantics of “weather” in visual art, using contemporary and historical artworks, and highlights the urgency of climate change.
It runs parallel to Venice Biennale Architecttura, opened 20th May until 26th November 2023, in the historic Palazzo Ca’Corner della Regina, Santa Croce – the cultural arm of Prada. This exhibit was an anchor point in revisiting Venice, in this current climate of excessive heat in the summer past in the northern hemisphere, and predicted heat coming in southern hemisphere, not to mention the ongoing threats of flooding of Venice with rising sea levels and the dire consequences for Venice.
Fondazione Prada Venezia located at Ca’Corner della Regina
The exhibition is not only located in Venice, but uses the notion of Venice as a sinking city as a lesson. Dieter Roelstraete says the banal subject of weather is used to talk about the more dramatic subject of climate emergency.
Some fifty works by contemporary artists (including Chicago artist Theaster Gates) and a complementary selection of historical artworks trace the various ways in which climate and weather have shaped our histories and how humanity has dealt with our everyday exposure to meteorological events.
Despite some of the dire warnings and depictions of weather and climate, it is however a hopeful exhibition urging us all to have more conversations about the weather.
The climate is not often the subject of art but here we see moments in our history where artworks speak to the influence of changing climate patterns on our culture. For example Claude Monet’s Sunrise from 1871 depicts air pollution. Coal smoke from the smokestacks is yellow, the color that predominates in the top of the painting. In the early morning it encounters the blue morning light and the red of the rising sun producing the array of reflected color that makes the painting stunning. There is no unseeing the foggy omen of industrialism.
Claude Monet Sunrise
Hunters in the Snow 1565 Pieter Bruegel
This downcast scene painted the so-called Little Ice Age resulting in harsh winters which led to repeated harvest failures.
Rain, Steam and Speed- the Great Western Railway approx. 1844
Joseph Mallord William Turner – peerless master of painting “weather.” The vertiginous quasi-abstract landscape captures the railway as one of the the most potent symbols of the era of Industrialization.
The success and popularity of the exhibit “Everybody talks about the Weather”.
The exhibit opened 20th May 2023 to coincide with dates of Venice Biennial Architecttura, to high acclaim and attendance, so curator Dieter Roelstraete told us in July.
But since then, not so much attendance. Why?
For an answer, one only had to look at the high temperatures in Italy in the summer of 2023. How ironic the high temperatures kept those away from such an exhibit. Further, as the year progressed and with a planned visit to Venice, one was faced with the possibility of aqua alta (“high water”) Typically occurring for a few days between October and January, how to prepare? Temporary walkways are created in the occurrence, but the notion of walking with trash bags as boots was not appealing. Bare feet are not permitted, so packing of some lightweight boots seemed prudent. YES we are indeed all talking about the weather!
An option is to prepare
and pack these
Too, your Venice hotel would be prepared, and would have footwear options in the case of aqua alta.
The Laboratory of the Future : Biennale Architecture 2023
Not surprisingly, pavilions at the Venice Biennial Architecttura are also focussed the state of the world, and is working concretely towards the crucial goal of fighting climate change, by promoting a more sustainable model for the design, installation and operation of all its events and installations.
So good to arrive in Venice by boat
One of many, this serene, welcoming pensione in the Dorsoduro near the Accademia Bridge was perfect for navigating Venice
A room with a view: what more to ask?
Inviting restaurants, Venetian spritzes
Dine by the water
or in a piazza or town square
With unlimited time in Venice, one can see gold, jewels and frescoes as far as the eye can see, in the many sumptuous palaces, and art museums even beyond the Ducal Palace and the glorious shimmering Basilica at Piazza San Marco. With limited time, and this return visit to the city, the focus was on two art museums : the Ca’Rezzonica and the The International Gallery of Modern Art Ca’ Pesaro.
The Ca’Rezzonica has just re-opened in June 2023 after major restoration needed after exceptional high water in November 2019. In the Dorsadoro, this magnificent museum houses 18th century Venice paintings and furniture.
One of the two early masterpieces by Antonio Canal detto Canaletto in Ca ’Rezzonico which can be seen in public collections
Rio dei Mendicanti (the Beggars’ Canal)
Portrait of Pope Clement X111 Rezzonico
The most illustrious member of the Rezzonico family was portrayed by the German neoclassical painter
Anton Raphael Mengs in 1758
As we all do, the Rezzonicas have family portraits on their wall!
The marvelous, astonishing, splendid marble bust of veiled woman is the work of the Venetian sculptor Antonio
Corradini 1658-1752, and represents the allegory of Purity. The detail with the face and veil carved in stone is hard to
So many of the rooms in Ca’Rezzonica have frescoes painted by Giandomenico Tiepolo. The Punchinello Room, a
bed chamber, was the last one to be painted. The Swing portrays the popular soul in an eternal parody of Man and
Ca’Pesaro, the most important baroque palace in the city, designed by Baldassare Longhena, has been the seat of Venice City Council’s collection of Modern Art since 1902. With its facade on the Grand Canal, it houses 19th and 20th century paintings and sculptures, including masterpieces by Klimt, Chagall, Kandinsky, Klee and Moore.
The International Gallery of Modern Art Ca’Pesaro
Gustav Klimt, Judith II (Salome), 1909
Henry Moore, Helmet no. 2, c. 1950
Not only gold, but arches, water, bridges, reflections and gondolas fill the Venice scene.
The merchants of Venice encourage shopping as well as in nearby Murano and its Murano glass.
In the Arsenale area, is the impactful “Building Bridges” sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn with 6 pairs of hands, bridging the basin, with a message of world unity and peace.
The dilemma in considering Venice is that despite many worldwide organizations to Save Venice, all pouring money, ideas and initiatives to deal with rising waters, it is still predicted that by the end of this century Venice as we know it, will be quite different.
Even in this visit you can see from photographs that many lower parts of buildings are under water and any steady rain with high tide sees water on the walkways. AND just visiting, increases the issues, as one needs jet fuel to get there.
NEVERTHELESS the following quote seems to sum up this enchanting city.
If I had to look for a word to replace music,
I could only think of “VENICE”. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
Notes and Links.
Photo of Jill : Joe Mazza Bravelux inc.
Photos copyright © 2023 Jill Lowe. All rights reserved
Images with Shutterstock license and Wikimedi
Images : kind permission of Andrea Goffo : fondazionprada.org
Click here for Dieter Roelstraete, curator of the exhibition “Everybody talks about the weather”