Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Unmissable: TRA at Palazzo Fortuny - Royal Academy of Arts Magazine

Unmissable: TRA at Palazzo Fortuny
by Sarah Greenberg RA Magazine Editor

Axel Vervoordt's exhibitions at Palazzo Fortuny during the last two Biennales have become legendary for their beauty and, especially, the way they mix ancient and modern art, known and unknown artists, artefacts and masterpieces.

The Belgian art dealer and collector is showing art from the collection of his foundation outside Antwerp, which is touring while he builds a museum for it, due to open in 2014. Vervoordt sees these shows as an invitation to viewers to share his art as we take a journey through this atmospheric Venetian gothic palazzo. He encourages us to follow our senses and discover new works of art and ways of looking. This is exercise for the eyes and it's a fantastic workout.

It was difficult to see how he could top the last two shows, but this year he has, in part by asking external curators to join him for the first time (including the Spanish curator and former Biennale director Rosa Martinez), who have brought loans from other collections to join his. For Vervoordt, the show's title TRA (in between, in Italian) says it all.

Inspired by Buddhist thought, he is concerned with the energy created by the space in between objects - how they relate to each other, speak to each other and the viewer.

This means that the viewer's experience is privileged. We are invited to explore and look constantly from one piece to another, guided not just by Vervoordt's connoisseurial eye, but a strong curatorial vision concerned with beauty, discovery and the human emotions of experiencing art.

Everywhere I turned, I was stopped in my tracks. I saw artists I thought I knew (Antony Gormley RA, Marina Abramović) in new ways and discovered artists I'd never heard of (Fernando Garbellotto's wonderful birds' nest sculpture with bird sounds, Dominique Stroobant's elegant, evocative sculptural forms). But the show is more than the sum of its gorgeous parts: it encourages us to become immersed in art. It also serves as a valuable antidote to the Biennale, which can be a contemporary ghetto, by reminding us of the ancient roots of mark making and expression and connecting them to the art of today, from around the world.

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