Amazing Ai Weiwei in Beautiful Venice, Italy

Having just returned from a fabulous trip to Italy and France, I have to tell you about a truly exceptional part of the journey: seeing the artwork of Ai Weiwei in Venice.

The excursion was made possible through my long-time membership and contributions to FAI, Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano, the National Trust for Italy. This wonderful non-profit works “to foster awareness and appreciation of Italy’s cultural heritage through special events and lectures and supports restoration projects for places of outstanding beauty and significance.”

FAI also organizes visits to Italy, with access to homes, people and collections that would otherwise be out of reach. It is thanks to FAI that I was able to visit the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore, in Venice, and see this amazing piece, which is only on display through mid-June.

In its picturesque island setting – a vaporetto ride across the bay – the Benedictine church is normally home to the treasured altarpiece, San Giorgio e il drago (Saint George and the Dragon), created by Vittore Carpaccio in 1516. The Conclave Chapel, where the piece resides, hosted, in 1800, the election to the papal throne of Pius VII, the sole Venetian pope, and is not usually accessible to visitors. The biblical episode pictured represents the triumph of good over evil.

In anticipation of the loan of the Carpaccio to a major international exhibition, the Benedictine Community of San Giorgio Maggiore commissioned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to reinterpret the masterpiece. (The resident monks are committed to supporting the growth of humanism through art and artistic research.)

The visionary artist responded with his own Untitled (Saint George slaying the dragon) constructed entirely in LEGO bricks. Like a pointillist Seurat painting, the “pixels” of the colorful image only become visible as you get close to the piece. The good vs. evil theme seems entirely appropriate to Ai Weiwei, who is artistically daring and outspoken on the subject of human rights.

I am deeply grateful to FAI for this marvelous trip and would love to tell you more if you are interested.

Joyce Rey
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