The Most Inventive Examples of Murano Glass Seen at the Venice Glass Fair
At the third edition of the Venice Glass Week, which opened this weekend, more than 180 initiatives were planned to celebrate Venice’s most famous craft, which was first conceived in the neighboring island of Murano several hundred years ago.
Artists and designers have always been attracted to Murano glass. Given its wonderfully flexible quality, Murano glass often produces surprising and beautiful results at the hands of the skilled glassblowers who call Venice home. Such products are cherished in the worlds of art, design, architecture, and jewelry. Wandering around Venice, trying to find the address of galleries and exhibiting spaces without getting lost, I was awestruck by the many striking contemporary interpretations of the historic craft that can be found in the Italian city today.
At Porte Italia Interiors, I admired Silvia Finiels’s collection, a series of colorful lamps made with old pieces she had acquired from different glassmakers, such as Alfredo Barbini, Archimede Seguso, Paolo Venini, and Giacomo Cappellin. Nearby, I stopped at Chiarastella Cattana’s charming shop, where the designer showed me her new glasses. They’re made with a very sophisticated technique, called reticella (small netting), in which the thinnest bacchette (glass tubes) cross with one another, forming an intricate design. There I also met Laura Sattin, who introduced her Glass Threads collection of tubular-style vases. Referencing the world of textiles, Sattin’s pieces show wefts and weaves of threads on the glass surface.
At Palazzo Barbaro, a private residence on the Grand Canal, and one of Venice’s best-kept secrets, I admired the conceptual works of Laura de Santillana. De Santillana descends from the Venini family, one of the oldest glassmaking clans, and is an artist. She presented a series of glass sculptures, made with the particular technique of squashing vases together before they cool. The results are kind of totems—some short, some tall, some wide, and some skinny—in which the original vases’ bases and openings can be seen. They contrasted wonderfully with the ornate, 18th-century rooms at the palace.
Also noteworthy was the work of Massimo Micheluzzi, arguably one of the most interesting designers working in Venice. He uses traditional methods, such as classic murrina and battuto techniques, to achieve something totally new for the craft. For this year’s glass week he created a series of blown-glass mosaic urns. The patterns are mostly graphic and geometric, with some even reminiscent of terrazzo. He has his own ovens at his studio, where he says he enjoys experimenting.
At Palazzo Loredan, I spotted Giorgio Vigna’s Fuochi Boreali—a sculpture of a vase filled with iridescent flowers. “In the alchemic environment of the Muranese furnace, glass captures the changing colors of nature,” Vigna explains. “Blue, yellow, red, orange, green, and purple burst, evaporating in a thousand shades.” In this 15th-century setting, one could also admire colorful plates by Brazilian glassblower Desiree Sessegolo, Peter Borkovics’s sculptures with paper cut–like marks, and Emmanuel Babled’s Azoic bubble vases. At Palazzo Franchetti, Lucia Massari’s trays and plates, made with the glass fusing technique, caught my eye.
Nomad, the traveling showcase for collectible design, inaugurated its Venice edition last weekend too. Among the works shown there, Mattia Bonetti’s lamps, mirrors, and furniture (all in glass) stood out. “I got inspired by wanting to mix classic and neoclassic with the contemporary, and the results are Greek-style pieces that are Pop art at the same time,” Bonetti says. An oversized leaf, actually a sconce, was inspired by the classic Venetian chandelier.
Elsewhere in the show, the AD100 designer India Mahdavi presented Clover, a table, and Pistil, a chandelier. “Flowers have been an obsession of mine for some time now,” she says. “They represent the beauty and fragility of the world. The glass is the perfect material to show that, because I am giving a longer life to the flowers, but they are still in a fragile material.” By using a pouring-glass technique, extra imperfection is embraced in the making of these flora-inspired works.
I ended my Venetian glass tour at the beautiful Ca’ Pesaro museum, where Giberto Arrivabene showed off three vases inspired by the works of Piero Manzoni, Lucio Fontana, and Alberto Burri. All handmade in Murano, naturally—and a fitting representative of the showcase’s many innovative explorations.