Thursday September 10, 2020 | by Arina Novak

With Venice Glass Week 2020, the historic center of glassblowing tentatively reopens to the world

As the art world reopens while keeping a watchful eye on the COVID-19 pandemic, postponed public art events are finally taking place, museums are reopening, and a few art fairs are tentatively welcoming international visitors. Venice Glass Week 2020, an annual celebration of this important and historic Venetian art and industry is currently holding its fourth edition, with the tagline #TheHeartOfGlass. Taking place now through September 13th, 2020, the event includes more than 180 physical and digital events around the city of Venice, and the island of Murano.

Venice Glass Week was co-founded in 2017 by David Landau and his wife Marie-Rose Kahane, who are also the founders of the Le Stanze Del Vetro, an exhibition and research center devoted to glass. Landau is a respected scholar, curator, and author who has spent the past decade elevating the study and celebration of Venetian glass. (The twice-rescheduled Stanze Del Vetro exhibition "Venice and American Studio Glass" opened on September 6th.) When the collector and philanthropist couple moved to Venice, the activity in glass art had a very limited presence in the area. Landau commented on his experience in a 2019 interview with Artsy, where he said: “[we] were expecting to find a tremendous amount of activity around glass… and when we arrived, there was absolutely nothing at all.”

With the Stanze Del Vetro well established, Landau has turned to the festival as a way to promote and celebrate the art of glassmaking through extensive program including exhibitions, demonstrations, guided tours, and online events. Last year, the festival welcomed 103,000 people from all around the world. This year's focus is to revitalize the glass community, primarily in the Murano region, after the economic and health costs of the pandemic. “The art and craft of 'making' glass is deeply embedded in Venice’s DNA, and thanks to the knowledge and skills that have been handed down and evolved over the centuries, Murano glass continues to be one of Italy’s most famous exports, admired and celebrated around the world,” according to the event’s website.

Seeking to raise Murano glass’ international profile, Landau stated in an open letter to the Venice community, “Murano must also become the most important experimental art center for glass in the world, inventing colors made with substances that harm neither man nor environment, and new artisanal and industrial processing techniques for glass.”

While honoring history, Venice Glass Week is also looking ahead, and this year has doubled in size to accommodate a section dedicated to young artists and designers under the age of 35. Palazzo Loredan, a home for the fourth edition of the event, is hosting two major exhibitions during the week. The first floor is reserved for a selection of 17 Italian and international projects elected by the event’s committee chair the curator and glass historian Rosa Barovier Mentasti. The ground floor shows, also elected by the jury, showcases the works by the artists under 35 years old.

Glass Week will also be awarding two glass prizes, the second edition of the Bonhams Prize for the Venice Art Week and the first edition of the Autonoma Residency Prize (see Tina Aufiero's artile on the Autonoma project in the Winter 2019 edition, Glass #157) . The Bonhams Prize is a cash award awarded for the best glass art project. The Autonoma Residency Prize is specifically awarded to the glass artists between the ages of 18-35, providing a recipient with a residency at the Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle. Additionally, the Glass Week is hosting a series of live streaming education programs on the Venice Glass Week Youtube channel. The series is dedicated to a reflection of the impact of Murano glass on the art world.

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.