San Giacomo in Paludo

Renaissance of San Giacomo in Paludo island at Venice Biennale

By Region Culture News North-east Italy

Visitors to the Venice Biennale this week got a sneak preview of the island which is being transformed into an artistic centre. San Giacomo in Paludo fell into disuse six decades ago.

San Giacomo in Paludo hosted a performance artist’s show this week. Situated between the more famous islands of Murano and Burano, it was a monastery in the 11th century.

In 1046, Doge Orso Badoer II donated the island for the construction of a monastery. It was used as a refuge for pilgrims and friars, passing through several monastic orders before briefly serving as a quarantine island in the 15th century.

The Franciscans then took it over until Napoleon vanquished them in 1769.

Sale by government

San Giacomo in Paludo later served as a military post and a place to store gunpowder before being abandoned in 1961.  

In 2018, the government put it up for sale with the condition it be used for cultural purposes. The new owners are arts collector, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, and her husband, Agostino Re Rebaudengo.

The couple foresee the island being used as a cultural space for exhibitions, concerts, theatrical performances and artists’ residency programmes. They also envisage it as a base for renewable energy research activities.

“This connection between art and energy is a little bit like a rebirth,” Sandretto told La Stampa. “We like to think that all the layers that make up this tiny islet will re-emerge, with their own character.”

She added: “In some way, this land will return to its origins – it welcomed travellers, and it will do so again.”

Cultural centre

Some of the island is ready to host its first event – a show by the Brazilian performance artist, Jota Mombaça – on 21 April. Part of the 2022 Venice Biennale, Mombaça’s show was a taster before works continue and the island prepares to open. The open date is pencilled in for 2024.

Sandretto said a house for her and her family is also being established on the island. However, the rules of purchase said there could be no hotels.

“We want to spend time there, to live on it, because otherwise we would lose the sense of it,” she said. “We don’t care at all to be all alone in a place far from everything.”

The 59th edition of the Venice Biennale opened on Saturday. Italian curator Cecilia Alemani is overseeing the project, which will run until 27 November.

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