n the early sixties, a young, forward-thinking artist met Venini, a Murano glassmaker. This resents the background story to “Thomas Stearns alla Venini”, an exhibition held on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, organized by Le Stanze del Vetro (a cultural project started by the Giorgio Cini Foundation and Pentagram Stiftung in 2012 to study and promote twentieth century glass making) and curated by Marino Barovier.
Born in Oklaoma City, Thomas Stearns arrived to Murano in 1960 as a young graduate with a grant awarded by the Italian government to study glass. The director of Venini, the forward-thinking architect Ludovico de Santillana, who succeeded to Paolo Venini, was instrumental in enabling this young artist carry out his experimental studies on glass. Stearns' ideas, in fact, were reckless and revolutionary to say the least and in the Venini furnace only one master, Checco Ongaro, was available to create them.
Running until 1962, this partnership gave life to several one-of-a-kind pieces and small series that are now exhibited together for the first time in Venice: from Cappello del Doge to Facciate di Venezia, from prototypes to lamps, all of the 80 pieces rely asymmetrical shapes and bold colour combinations and explore new ways to employ traditional Murano manufacturing techniques. It is no coincidence that Stearns' works have become true icons in the field of glass manufacture, with record prices at international auctions (La Sentinella di Venezia, a real abstract sculpture in homage to Venice, is the most paid Murano glass, with a price of 737 thousand dollars).
In 1962 Thomas Stearns was hired by Venini as a guest designer to develop projects for mass production and at the XXXI Biennale the company decided to exhibit six of his extraordinary works, which by a nose were not awarded the gold medal (despite being recognized for it) just because the author was not Italian.
Thomas Stearns at Venini retraces all the phases of the collaboration between the brilliant American artist and the Murano brand, underlining his extraordinary creative ability and recounting his experiments in manufacturing techniques, but also his research on the use of textile fibers, to which the artist dedicated himself with passion on his return to the United States.
To capture all aspects of this extraordinary journey, in addition to visiting this unmissable exhibition you can browse through the catalogue dedicated and edited by Marino Barovier and Carlo Sonego (published by Skira): among its pages you can find not only images of the works kept in private collections that in museums, but also unpublished documents from the archive Venini and from the personal artist.
Where: Le Stanze del Vetro, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
When: until the 5th of January 2019