There is a Beginning in the End. The Secret Tintoretto Fraternity

Together with the Stella Art Foundation, the Pushkin Museum presented a special project of the “Pushkin Museum XXI” initiative in Venice
Date(s) 11 May — 11 September 2019
Address San Fantin Church, Venice, Italy
About the Project
Curators: Marina Loshak, Olga Shishko

Together with the Stella Art Foundation, the Pushkin Museum presented a special project of the “Pushkin Museum XXI” initiative in Venice: “There is a Beginning in the End”, a modern art exhibition in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Venetian artist Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto. This event was held at the same time as the 58th International Art Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia.

The San Fantin church, where Tintoretto’s paintings used to be displayed, hosts works by contemporary artists Dmitry Krymov (Russia), Irina Nakhova (Russia) and Gary Hill (USA). These pieces are in dialogue with a painting by Emilio Vedova, a modernist Italian artist and one of Tintoretto’s followers, and the historical context of the venue. An intervention project by the !Mediengruppe Bitnik team from Switzerland complements the exhibition and stress the atmosphere of participation and affiliation with a secret Venetian brotherhood.


As Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Tintoretto is Venice, even when that is not what he is painting.” The key aspect of Tintoretto’s paintings was space; his works embody the infinite universe in its violent eternal motion. The contemporary artists’ works, created specifically for this project, reinterpret the great Venetian master’s innovative approach and invite viewers to immerse themselves in Tintoretto’s world. Each of them bears insight into Tintoretto’s major artistic motifs, such as the spiritual unity of people and the experience of miracles, as well as evidence of his virtuosity with moving space and expressive light.


In contrast to a traditional exhibition, this project is arranged as a kind of contemporary liturgy where each act is a new artwork filling the entire space of the church. In addition to media objects, the exhibition features a painting by Emilio Vedova, an Italian abstractionist and main follower of Tintoretto in the 20th century, which is echoed by the works of contemporary artists.


Dmitry Krymov, a scenery designer, turns the San Trovaso Church into a performative installation inspired by the Last Supper. As an interpretation of this biblical story, he constructs in the altar of the San Fantin Church an alternative reality based on trompe-l’oeil, an optical illusion, thereby causing the viewers to doubt the correctness of their perception.


A media installation by Irina Nakhova consists of three parts, each being a reference to the works of the great master. All of them reinterpret biblical stories from the perspective of contemporary history. For this artist, an important theme of Tintoretto’s works is the vigorous movement of masses of people with their crucial emotional intensity. A swirling material born on earth searches for a way out in the transcendent outer space, which is hardly comprehensible but can be felt through Irina Nakhova’s dramatic media object.


Gary Hill, a classic of American media art, decomposes Tintoretto’s paintings into patterns and elements and uses those as a basis on which to create a new sounding and shimmering essence. The primary starting point for Hill is the realm of human consciousness rather than architectural space. The combination of visual images and intense electronic tones makes it possible to achieve a deep synesthetic experience.


Tondo, one of Emilio Vedova’s later works presented at the exhibition, is in the shape of a circle. It reflects the concept of an endless loop of time. For Vedova, the mission of an artist was to record and re-translate the eternal themes of disturbing worldwide collisions: wars, injustice, oppression. Like Tintoretto, he handles huge spaces and forces of nature rather than single images. He employs the circular shape to go beyond the depictive environment through the connection between space and time.


The Pushkin Museum exhibition is the first event to welcome a wide audience to the San Fantin Church after a decade of restoration work. Its construction was finished in the 16th century, while the first local public worship buildings date back to the 10th century.


Another participant of the exhibition is the !Mediengruppe Bitnik team, which holds a secret intervention project for the viewers to join Tintoretto’s Secret Brotherhood. The atmosphere of secrecy, affiliation and co-creation connects their project with the Venetian brotherhoods.