The decision by the French billionaire François Pinault to fill his entire Palazzo Grassi gallery in Venice with works by Rudolf Stingel—the first time the space has been given over to a single artist—will no doubt boost the Merano-born artist’s commercial (and possibly critical) profile. The exhibition includes more than 40 paintings with almost half (15) from Pinault’s personal collection.
“Taking on the entirety of Palazzo Grassi for a monographic exhibition is a major challenge,” says the art adviser Elena Geuna, who has assisted Stingel in organising the show (the artist has curated the exhibition himself). “Furthermore, there is a close relationship between Palazzo Grassi and Stingel, who has been present in every exhibition of [Pinault’s] collection at the palazzo since its reopening in 2006,” Geuna says.
Works dating from the 1990s and 2000s will be shown alongside new pieces created specifically for the exhibition. A new series of abstract paintings will be presented alongside figurative works, which were created through a photo-realistic technique Stingel adopted to depict portraits, self-portraits, alpine landscapes and images of Gothic sculptures, Geuna says.
Among the show’s highlights is a 2009 work, Untitled (Madonna), which is painted on linen. It depicts a statuesque, meticulously structured Virgin Mary gazing skywards. Another piece, Untitled, 2009, is more abstract. Made from oil and enamel on linen, the piece shows a contemplative, unsettling figure peering out from beneath a mesh of amorphous shapes. Both works come from Pinault’s collection.
The relationship between figuration and abstraction has long been a preoccupation of Stingel’s. The artist is known especially for his various attempts at redefining the medium of painting. According to Frieze Magazine’s Michelle Grabner, “Rudolf Stingel has made a career dancing around the idea of painting. He skirts its authority by looking at its components, its physical identity, it’s visual language and its history.” In the early 1990s, he transformed carpets into works of art, “an example of his unconventional concept of painting”, Geuna says.
Stingel’s experimental works on show in Venice are inspired by the historical, architectural and artistic context of La Serenissima itself. The city is also thought to have inspired an ambitious, large-scale installation featured in the show (the organisers declined to discuss this work in advance of the opening).
• Rudolf Stingel, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 7 April-31 December
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Stingel prettifies Pinault’s palazzo'