Since I have been living the city for work, I have realised that Venice is the city of the future.
It seems a paradox, but the most ‘difficult’ elements of its urban structure are now its fortune, because they make it a very liveable place.
If I imagine the metropolis of tomorrow, I imagine it as Venice: a city where you can walk, meet, that is rich in places for socialising, for relating; safer, more suited to raising children independently.
In its interpretation of an idea, a model, a utopia, Venice is certainly not lacking in contradictions; first of all the difficulty of managing – up to now – the large number of people who arrive here. But governing this flow is not impossible. Recently, at the Festa del Redentore, there was a first attempt at controlling it, which I think was a success, in any case it was an interesting effort. If the canals had been asphalted over, as the futurist writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti provocatively wished, we would have lost it forever. By contradiction, its ‘form’ also offers the solution.
Its now predominantly tourist economy produces and attracts an enormous cultural offering. Something even more astonishing to me is that the quantity of proposals does not cause an overlapping.
Considering the activity of our twelve civic museums, and their other excellent competitors – from Fondazione Cini to Guggenheim, Palazzo Grassi, Fondazione Querini and Gallerie dell’Accademia, not to mention the Biennale, which is the mother of all – in six years I have been directing the Fondazione MUVE, I have noticed that the Venetian cultural institutions do not replicate one another, but each one has managed to cultivate a specific identity.
For example, the contemporary art museums around the world are almost all alike – those in the big cities in particular are very standardised: same artists’ exhibitions, same programmes. Here, the personality of the institutions is rescued probably for the same reason that Venice is a ‘utopian’ city. They have an appeal able to satisfy an absolutely diversified demand: in this they express their vitality, their strength. From year to year there are some basic orientations in the visual arts, in architecture that pass through us and cross-pollinate us, but there is also freedom and respect for each cultural body.
And when Venice reads history, it does so in a contemporary way. We should not expect anything else from a city of the future. In Venice it is not history that helps understand the present, but vice versa: it is the contemporary that deciphers the past.
Here the different initiatives are coordinated, and this fertile coexistence expands the offer, rather than flattening it onto a single theme, to the point of completely cancelling it.
The Biennale is an important resource, our ‘conductor’. It indicates themes, gives suggestions, and is a powerful magnet; but then each institution consistently follows its own vocation. None of us want to lose our identity, aware of the fact that it is the network of identities that keeps the city on its feet. Men pass. The institutions, created from great collections remain, if they do not betray the role for which they were set up and the people who founded them.
Venice is a must for art, because it is a kind of ‘precipitate’ of what happens in the rest of the world; it is capable of receiving the signs of the times; it is not a city that trails behind, but one that anticipates.
If I imagine the city half a century from now, I see it as today, its infrastructure necessarily upgraded but without distorting itself; capable, as it has managed in the past, of a compatible updating. I trust in its congenital, structural resistance to the affronts that modernity can inflict on it.