FAD only wants the best for you, and so we thought about who would really know their way around visiting Venice and concluded that it would be the people who visit the most frequently, the VIPs of the art world. We’ve been delighted to bring you recommendations from The Auctioneer, Nick Hough of Christies, The Curator, Kathleen Soriano, The Fair Director, Kate Bryan, the Super PR, Calum Sutton, The Collector, Alessandro Possati, The Gallerist, Jack Shaman and The Artist Michael Petry.
Today we welcome our final VIP, The Venetian, gallery owner Cristian Contini
Cristian Contini is the owner of ContiniArtUK in Mayfair. Born and raised in Venice, before establishing his gallery in London, Cristian Contini worked for his family business, Contini Gallery in Venice, considered one of the most important modern and contemporary galleries in Italy. ContiniArtUK is a five thousand square foot gallery space set over two floors in the heart of Mayfair, Central London. www.continiartuk.com
What’s your favourite thing about the Venice Biennale?
I’m lucky in that I was born and raised in Venice by a renowned art dealer so for me the Venice Biennale was like Christmas. I was in a constant state of excitement and awe over the famous artists and art world aficionados that were regularly coming through my house. That level of anticipation hasn’t left me, the Biennale is an art-lover’s playground and I look at what the array of pavilions have to offer with all the excitement of the child I used to be.
And your least favourite?
My only concern with the Venice Biennale is that it is a bubble. I think it is important to make the Biennale accessible to everyone around the globe. They should connect with museums, events and other main point of references in the art world overseas to make it more international. They could use technologies, TV and other media to make it more interactive.
There are two places that come to mind. With the most beautiful terrace in Venice, the terrace at the Monaco Hotel is the obvious choice during the Biennale. I also enjoy going to the Do Forni Restaurant,the owner is like family to me. It’s well known for having a long list of VIP clientele; royalty, politicians, actors, artists… but what is really special is that they’ve held onto the long-standing tradition that Venetian restaurants are cultural hubs for the artists. They started the annual Do Forni International Award for Graphics in 1980’s to help give recognition to one Italian and one foreign artist every year.
When the social world gets too much, where is the best place to get away from the art world for a quiet dinner?
I’m hesitant to share my secret! I disappear by renting a boat and going Torcello Island to have a quiet lunch or dinner at the Osteria al Ponte de Diavolo . It’s blessedly quiet and is empty with the exception of a few houses and a couple of restaurants. It’s also where the first settlement of Venice began so I suppose it’s my own way of staying grounded and going back to my roots when I start to feel like my whole world revolves around entertaining collectors, artists and VIPs. My favourite activity on the island is to visit the cathedral. It was built in 639 and pre-dates the abandonment of Torcello following the malaria outbreak. There’s a historical and peaceful reverence to the place that makes it easy to sit in front of the mosaics and daydream for hours on end. It’s almost impossible to let your frustrations enter the basilica with you.
What should someone visit in the biennale that they really shouldn’t miss?
I would definitely recommend paying a visit to San Lazzaro degli Armeni island, also known as “the Armenian’s Island”. Since 1717 the island has been the home of the Armenian Catholic Monastery of San Lazzaro. It is one of the world’s prominent centres of Armenian culture. Also known for being one of the most important landmarks for Armenian printing, the monastery has one of the richest libraries I have ever seen in my life. The monks are incredibly charming and welcoming, and very enthusiastic about sharing their love for their culture and traditions.
But also I can’t help myself from recommending you visit the unveiling of Helidon Xhixha’s floating sculpture ‘Iceberg’ in San Servolo Island for the Syrian pavilion, I represent the artist and I am incredibly proud of him.
I am sure that the view of a massive floating stainless steel sculpture on the Venice lagoon will be quite an experience.