Artforum reports that the city of Venice has acquired the historic Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation, which was founded in 1899 by duchess Felicita Bevilacqua to support young artists. The foundation has since provided residencies, work- and exhibition spaces to emerging local artists. The news that the city of Venice will restructure the foundation has been met with uproar from the Venetian art scene, culminating in an online petition (available below or on change.org here).
Artforum writes (in full here):
Following the announcement that the city of Venice will acquire the Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation and act as the institution’s executive manager, beginning September 1, the city’s artistic community responded with protests, culminating in a petition published on change.org.
The Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation was founded in 1899 when the duchess Felicita Bevilacqua bequeathed funds and real estate to support “young artists, who often lack access to major exhibitions.” The foundation currently provides local artists with workspaces and residences, presenting, as the petition states, a “coherent system of places, geographically spread throughout the city,” including twelve artist workshops, two guest houses for international artists, as well as two exhibition spaces, an historical archive, a library, and an archive documenting the work of over two thousand artists from the Triveneto region.
The government’s interference was met with an outcry, with a spokesperson for the foundation telling Artforum.com’s Lauren Cavalli, “The issue is political control and business-style centralization.” The petition, comprised of five demands to guarantee the foundation’s autonomy, is addressed to the Mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, the commissioners, and city councilors. Those who have signed include Elisabetta di Maggio, Maria Morganti, Tobia Ravà, and Caterina Erica Shanta, as well as Italian TV-host and writer Alessandro di Pietro.
Dear Mr. Mayor, Honorable Commissioners and City Councilors,
Bevilacqua La Masa not only provides local artists with spaces and residencies. It does much more. It connects them to the international circuits of the art world.
In fact, Bevilacqua La Masa is a coherent system of places, geographically spread in the city: twelve workshops for young artists, two guesthouses for international artists; two exhibition venues, one of which with an excellent library, an historical archive and an archive documenting the work of over 2,000 artists from the region. Such a cultural ensemble has brought to Venice world-class artists and exhibitions, supported by high-profile sponsors, earning worldwide acclaim and renown, maintaining ongoing relationships with universities and academies of fine arts, building networks with other entities in the metropolitan area.
For young artists, Bevilacqua La Masa represents one of the best studio programs in Italy. For Venice, it is one of the most important cultural workshops, a key element in the project – now increasingly threatened by mass tourism – to make Venice a cultural capital, open to the world and the present.
Bevilacqua La Masa practices must by all means be preserved.
Therefore, we demand:
- the City Government to strengthen and protect the world-class system of cultural institutions in Venice.
- the three members of the Board of Governors of Bevilacqua La Masa to be appointed by the Mayor on the designation of the provosts or directors of the three public educational institutions in Venice, which work in the field of Contemporary Art, Art Critique, Curatorship and Management: i.e. the Academy of Fine Arts and Ca’ Foscari and IUAV universities.
- for Bevilacqua La Masa, the appointment of a president or art director of proven competence in contemporary art and in the management of educational and exhibition venues, including fund raising. The candidate can be chosen after a public call and the appointment of a selection committee capable of evaluating the candidate CVs.
- that all of the centers of the institutions are preserved (Piazza San Marco, Palazzetto Tito, Giudecca, San Stae).
- that a clear budget is guaranteed, in such a way as to allow Bevilacqua La Masa to continue all its diversified, but interconnected activities: exhibitions, residencies, education, awards, conferences, relations with enterprises and local entities, from prisons to hospitals, museums and cultural centers at home and abroad.
It is in all our interests not to undermine this human capital and a brand of excellence with over a hundred years of history. The end of Bevilacqua La Masa’s as we know it would be a serious blow to the Venice that still works and produces.
Venice, July 25th 2016