top of page

The modern patrons of Venice (I)

Beyond the ancient Gothic, Renaissance or Baroque artworks, Venice has an important presence in the world of contemporary art. Do you dare to know it?

In this article we invite you to learn about the new artistic trends of the 20th and 21st centuries, through the Pinault Collection at the Palazzo Grassi and at Punta de la Dogana. Enjoy it!


The word "patron" has its origin in the politician Gaius Mecenas, a Roman nobleman born in 68 BC who was the promoter and protector of young talents, especially poets and writers. The term was associated with the sponsorship of artists.

Since the Renaissance, the art world in Western Europe was linked to the great family elites, who financed and promoted the art of the time, as patrons.

In principle, this help is disinterested, but it obviously has its personal benefits for the patron: aesthetic pleasure, moral pleasure from giving something to society, satisfaction of vanity, improvement of social position, good image, improvement of reputation, appearing within of the work for posterity…

The Medici of Florence come to mind as patrons of the Renaissance. On the left, we have Juan de Medici (1360-1429), the first patron of the Medici family.

There were also Renaissance patrons in Venice, despite being a republic rather than a princely city. Thus, the Venetian nobles were patrons of artists such as Titian or Veronese.

Currently, patronage is carried out mainly by organizations, both public and private, to carry out various projects.


François Pinault is one of the richest men on the planet. His family owns firms such as Conforama, FNAC, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, ... They have a football team, a theater, a weekly, an auction house (the famous Christie's) and two contemporary art museums in Venice: the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana.

In 2003 he presented the scepter to his son François-Henri Pinault. It will surely sound familiar to you, because he is married to actress Salma Hayek.

Cayo Mecenas (c. 68-8 a. C.). Cgheyne / CC BY-SA (
François Pinault. Photo: S. Plaine / CC BY-SA (
Henry-François Pinault. Photo: Georges Biard / CC BY-SA (

Among the funds owned by the Pinaults, the names of Pablo Picasso, Kandinsky or Jackson Pollock are mixed with Jeff Koons, Sigmar Polke, Cindy Sherman, Cy Twombly, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Paul McCarthy or Thomas Schütte. In total, more than 3,000 works from the 20th and 21st centuries!

And together with all these celebrities, young artists and artists from the international art world are invited to take part in either of the two museums Palacio Grassi or Punta de la Dogana

The concept is not that of a permanent exhibition where all the owner's works are displayed. Rather, it is based on projects, in which a story is created about the owner's funds and other foreign pieces that complete the exhibition program.


And how to avoid the hackneyed phrase Anyone can paint that! Many of us find it difficult to understand it, but it is still art.

Brushstrokes to understand a little better what this contemporary art is:

  • The Feeling above what we think, since there is nothing to understand

  • It does not have to please. This art is not to be liked but to convey

  • The challenge is part of the game. It is pure provocation.

  • Art can also generate rejection. Not all art is beautiful, nor does all art have to like us, it doesn't have to generate positive feelings. Rejection, hatred, anguish can be an equally valid feeling in this current.

Let's open our minds and also enjoy contemporary art. Behind there is a technique, an intention, a narrated story ...

Take a look at some of the currents of contemporary art in this photo gallery:

GRAFFITI. Phto by Elliot Harmon / CC BY (
HAPPENING. they artificially recreate a situation to provoke the reaction of the spectators. Photo by Petra Irrenwald / CC BY-SA (
CONCEPTUAL ART: the important thing is the idea, the concept, they are usually ephemeral works like the JavaCheff wrappers of buildings
MURALISM : expressive realism with social and political themes. Rivera: the controlling man of the Universe
NEOFIGURATION: Recovers the representation of figures. Bacon: seated figure
DADAISM: rebel against the established. They even use the garbage. Duchamp: LHOOQ
EXPRESSIONISM: seek the expression of the interior. Munch: the cry
MINIMALISM: geometry with simple shapes
FUTURISM: they capture the passage of time. Balla: the hand of the violinist
CUBISM: objects and spaces as geometric shapes. Picasso: young ladies of Avignon
HYPERREALISM: reality with the fidelity of a photograph or greater. Antonio López
KINETIC ART washbasin: works seem to have movement. Photo by Rklawton / CC BY-SA (
ABSTRACT PAINTING: expressive force in shape and color combination. Kandinsky: transverse lines
FAUVISM: chromatic violence. Exaltation of color. Matisse: dance
POP ART: means of expression of the consumer society. Andy Warhol: Campbell soup
SURREALISM: dream images. Salvador Dalí: The persistence of memory

In addition, the artistic currents of the 21st century are framed within the information age. They revolve around science and technology and the social awareness of globalization. Some currents that can be mentioned are: ephemeral art, the 8-bit movement, the Bioart, the interactive art, among many more.


The Grassi Palace (1748) is an imposing white marble building that is located on the Grand Canal. It was built for the wealthy Bolognese family of the Grassi and was the last palace to be built on the Grand Canal before the end of the Venetian Republic.

During the 15th century, the development of commercial activity in Venice brought Customs to this point from its previous location near the Arsenal. The building in its current form was completed in 1682. It continued to be a customs office, and is therefore intrinsically linked to the history of the city, until the 1980s.

In 2009, Punta de la Dogana abandoned its commercial customs function, and it is inaugurated as an exhibition center for contemporary art with some pieces from the François Pinault Foundation.


Let's see what we would find right now in these two art exhibition spaces:

At Punta de la Dogana: 'Untitled, 2020. Three perspectives on the art of the present'

At Grassi Palace :

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'The Great Game'

Youssef Nabil.'Once upon a time a dream'

It is worth watching this video of the spectacular installation in the atrium of Palazzo Grassi in 2017 of a work of art 18 meters high:


Venice is also committed to art modern, not only through patrons like Francois Pinault, but also with the Peggy Guggenheim collection;the international gallery of contemporary art in Venice;the Giorgio Cini Foundation; various art galleries and exhibition spaces in different parts of the city, and mainly with the Biennial of Art, a world reference.

From left to right: exhibitions of the Biennial (photos 1-3); a room of the international gallery of contemporary art (photo 4); the facade of the Peggy Guggenheim museum (photo 5)

The Biennial is not a mere exhibition, it is much more, they are events, presentations of countries, works of art scattered around palaces in the city and a lot of creativity from the different participating artists, it is a “megaexhibition” that is all over the city. It is celebrated every two years.

I hope this article has encouraged you to discover the contemporary art galleries in Venice and in other cities you visit. Venice has always inspired the best of creativity. To be continued...

202 visualizaciones0 comentarios

Entradas relacionadas

Ver todo


bottom of page