Baroque Breasts

I’m fascinated in revisiting the debate over bared breasts in the Swedish National Assembly which was sparked late last year by the decision to remove a painting of the goddess Juno from the parliamentary rooms. While the first explanations for the dismissal of the topless goddess claimed awareness and sensitivity towards Muslim guests, Susanne Eberstein, the deputy speaker,  confessed that the real issue at stake was a feminist one;

“It’s tiresome (looking at) a bare-breasted woman when I sit at public dinners with foreign guests. I think it feels a little hard to sit there with men who look at us women.”

Tellingly, the initial parliamentary line was that racial sensitivity was the motivating factor, rather than be upfront about the real reason- that pictures of women, whether page 3, lads mags, or the history of the female nude in European painting are all part of the same patriarchal control of women’s bodies through the perpetuation of a certain type of image, in which women appear, naked, for the visual consumption and viewing pleasure of a male viewer.

Both the mechanism of high culture, as well as the omnipotent machine of mass media have co-opted images of women to create female archetypes of sexual availability and entertainment  and this process is so entrenched that it seems as normal to see a scantily clad or nude woman in a sexually provocative pose on the cover of a magazine, as it as on a bus stop, adorning the hoarding of a building, or in a collection of old master paintings in any respectable institution. Where it is not normal to see women without clothes on is in the workplace, a space from which sexual display and consumption and erotic entertainment are excluded, for obvious reasons.

The decision to remove the painting was answered by a predictable shower of insulting missiles by the online gynophobic community,  where said deputy speaker is judged as  jealous of the breasts in the painting, and deemd another (ugly) disappointment of the no-fun whinging feminist brigade.

Many commentators derided the decision, using the by now extremely tedious platitude ‘political correctness gone mad’, one comparing the paintings removal to the withholding of some of Rodin’s more sensual sculptures (including The Kiss ) from an exhibition of the artists work at Brigham Young university campus in Utah in the late 1990s.

But establishing the difference here is vital not just for validating the feminist concerns over the power of images in the workplace or in public, but for the current campaigns targeting the real harm that is being inflicted by the portrayal of women in the media.

Brigham Young university’s decision not to display the palpably erotic examples of Rodin’s sculpture, (for reasons of upholding dignity on campus) was fuelled by religious fundamentalism – the university is run by the Mormon church and requires a pledge of abstinence from non-marital sex from all students.  Schroder’s bare-breasted Juno does not invite a meditation on the human condition or the ecstasy and torture of physical love, as Rodin’s sculptures do but presents a naked body to leer at from a position of proprietorial dominance. It is an expensive piece of erotic titillation for a wealthy patron.

Sweden’s decision to respectfully remove a nude painting of the goddess Juno is underpinned by the recognition that the display of women’s naked bodies is a matter of sexual prejudice in a context where women are professional equals with the same agency  as men for making decisions about government, and the acknowledgement that the tradition of European oil painting is not innocuous in its power to shape archetypes which have the potential to threaten and undermine that balance.

This is not a prudish denial of the sexual beauty of the body,  nor a call for a Bonfire of the Vanities.  It is a different matter entirely and raises a point which we as art historians must continue to engage with – hat art history is as much to blame as lad’s mags for the normalization of the female body turned into spectacle for consumption and the perpetuation of the politics of the male gaze.

But it’s just a painting, right?  No one gets hurt, or do they?

We have a tendency to consider paintings of the past as inert;  in the era of the digital, immediately rendered image painting is too distant a material to seem linked to the real presence of a body – but imagine the difference if this were a photograph of a topless woman cavorting in a field.

This short film on Beauty by Rino Stefano Tagliafiero reminds us that with with even just a little animation all of those un-troublesome, canonical, two- a- penny nudes to be found in every major city’s art collection seem uncomfortably sexual, vulnerable and exposed.

John Berger’s analysis of the tradition of the nude and sexual politics in the seminal TV programme Ways of Seeing still hits the nail on the head more than forty years later.  One of his summary points about  the visual dynamics of gender in the history of Western art is as follows:

‘Men act, and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”  Watch an excerpt here.

I recently attended a debate on the democratization of art history in the media hosted at the inaugural View Festival of Art History and asked why in forty years nothing similar had been approached or embraced in broadcasting or publishing, surely the route to more democratic would be to revisit art history from this Marxist/ feminist perspective.

The short  and disappointing answer was that  there hasn’t been anyone comparable to the genius of John Berger who has come along since. Arts programming in the UK seems to be resistant to deploying a female voice to explore the history of culture, and was recently targeted by feminist writers such as Kathy Lette, who called for a female narrator to present the remake of the epic BBC series ‘Civilization’, which aired in 1969  and was written and presented by a suited and booted Kenneth Clarke.  His journey with the viewer through the Dark Ages to the refulgent glory of artistic achievement and flowering of humanity in the thirteenth century cast in stone the paradigm of the television art historian telling the story of art that was painted, written and narrated by the ‘dead, white man’.

Although the symbolic annihilation of the intellectual faculties of women in broadcasting and media is now diminishing, female historians often seem to be rolled out to present typically feminine angles to history and art history, addressing themes such as the domestic, or the story of courtesans, often assuming a gossipy style in relaying of the ins and outs of the bedchamber while the grand annals of culture are reserved almost exclusively for the male voice of history.

But women beware women; for an example of everyday unveiled sexism and prejudice, merely read Anna Baddeley’s blog post for The Spectator and ensuing comments about the validity of women presenting a series on civilization if they were prevented much from contributing to it. Oh, ok, that makes absolute sense.

I have digressed. Women are socialised from an early age to comply with stereotypes which are presented both in media and ‘high art’ and cultural representations, which consequently are perceived and tolerated because they are fashioned as being normal. Yes, hoards of female gazes devour Michelangelo’s David, as if he were a Renaissance Chippendale stripper, or linger over a full page spread of the equally heroically proportioned and de-robed David Gandy or objectify the tanned torso of the Diet Coke guy. And yes, men do suffer from  societal pressures enforcing an idealised body image (and bank balance.)

But the tradition of the male nude in Antiquity from which all of the above examples are cast was about heroism, virility, the poetry of the body, and nudity as a type of external armour, rather than an exposure of the body for consumption and critique.

When examples of art try to explore female sexuality from a similar point of celebration, petty fears about public decency are invoked as can be seen in the  recent removal of this painting by  Leena McCall from the Mall Galleries in London. 

Feminist artists and historians have been critiquing and addressing the display of the female body in representational art for decades. One of my first art history lessons with the great feminist Professor Tamar Garb covered Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe which I had claimed immediately and naively to ‘love’, as young art enthusiasts are prone to do. But when we were asked to recreate the paintings composition, the penny dropped. Two men, fully clothed, eat lunch and talk among themselves while a totally naked woman sits on the grass beside them, her garments discarded. Without actually stripping off, the mere thought of how it might feel to sit in front of the class with no clothes on, exposed to a crowd of gazes scrutinising my body taught me that paintings are always political.

This is no call for a neo- Mary Whitehouse  censorship of anything fun, sexual or saucy. The question is where it is appropriate- so that an appetite for pornography can be adequately and freely fed legally through made for purpose channels and not next to CBeebies magazine in the local supermarket. The same goes for frothy and sensual painting which is designed to titillate and flatter the master of the owner-spectator, and tease out envy in his friends who saw but did not own the body on display.

But a truly equal society will not lock these works away, nor censor them, but recognise the power of images in shaping our relationships with ourselves, our self-perception and acceptance of what appears to be normal. A truly equal society will raise consciousness to teach our young how women’s bodies have been used and the strangeness of that phenomenon, the disparity between how we are seen and how we are educated to be.  A truly equal society will educate about a darker time in the history of the sexes, where women were consumed as objects or facilitated the status of powerful men.

Yes it has ever been thus, but that is too much of a feeble platitude to stomach, because what has not ever been thus is the widespread access to education and careers, and yet the never decreasing pay gap between genders, the continued sexual violence against women, institutional sexism and the fact that young girls with their anxieties are helpless prey to the irresponsible assaults of advertising and media.

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Filthy Feet: Dirt as Relic and Text in Seicento Rome


Filthy Feet: Dirt as Relic and Text in Seicento Rome

This paper on dirty feet in Caravaggio’s ‘Madonna and the Pilgrims’ and the relationship between dirt and representation in the city was published earlier this year by Dandelion Arts and Humanities journal in a special issue on ‘filth’, which brings together a wide range of scholarly articles on the topic. In my research on the foot and representation in early modernity I am continue to find the topic of walking a very rich area, especially Michel de Certeau’s seminal essay ‘Walking in the City’.

La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)


The term ‘bellezza’, and it’s adjectives ‘bello’ and ‘bella’  punctuate almost every part of the Italian language. Used to describe women, parties, fine art, fashion, cars, food, manners, football (‘the beautiful game’), the label is arguably overused to the point of becoming facile, empty, spent. This itself is interesting as it is also used idiomatically to signify deceit and mischief (‘dirne delle belle’,  ‘farne delle belle’ ) and the lazy good life (‘fare la bella vita’), which are in turn cultural stereotypes that Italy and the Italians are criticized for, both within the ‘bel paese’ and through a foreign lens.

Paolo Sorrentino’s latest film explores this rich semiotic terrain of beauty through a cavalcade of  characters set against the backdrop of the Eternal City. At the helm is Jep Gambardella, self-confessed misanthrope and jaded journalist whose reputation revolves around one elegant acclaimed novel from his juvenalia.  Played by the sardonic and reptilian Toni Servillo, Jep is denizen of a hedonistic set of middle-aged ravers in Rome’s demi-monde. These range from pseudo-marxist beauties to dwarf newspaper editors, a glamorous stripper in her forties, and a frustrated playwright. Quoting Dostoevsky one minute and filling their boots bunga-bunga style the next, it’s hard not to see these grotesques as representative of modern Italy, luridly rotten to the core and spiritually famished by bloated self-indulgence.

While the film seems an obvious satire of the decadent and fraudulent recent Berlusconi era where a committment to the frivolous and ephemeral was almost an injunction, ironically it’s produced and funded by Mediaset, the TV behemoth and cash cow owned by the former Prime Minster, and an empire that is now getting directly into porn with three erotic channels.

We are led on a thrilling Dantescan descent into this vortex of debauchery by Jep, accompanied by his own angsty existential crisis, much in the same vein as Marcello Mastroiani’s character (also a journalist) in Federico Fellini’s 1960 masterpiece La Dolce Vita. In fact, La Grande Bellezza is haunted by the neo-realist classic and connoisseurs will observe direct quotes, from the motif of the recurrent dawn signalling the passing of time, to the atmospheric lull of baroque city fountains at night. Like Mastroianni’s character, Jep too is haunted by the innocent loveliness of a young girl on a beach, whose message to our protagonist remains ever opaque to both our ears and his. It seems that the great beauty that he seeks is, like the sublime, literally unknowable.

This is not a love-lorn eulogy to the Eternal City, but a magnifying glass on a zoo, full of threat, poison, sadness and wonder in equal measure. The Romans, clamouring for the next new thing share an ovine appreciation for avant-garde performances that range from the ridiculous ( an artist headbutting a stone wall), to the tragic and exploitative (a crying young girl hurling paint onto a canvas in front of an international art set well past her bedtime).

Romano, hapless buffoon and best friend to Jep reflects on the delusional power of the city as he decides to return to the countryside after a failed career and empty love-life; ‘after forty years, Rome has disappointed me’.

Among the cultural capital, parties, power,  and endless beauty the city fails to satisfy and Jep considers that the great beauty is in fact the profane, the everyday, the courage to be normal, forgoing the pursuit of the extraordinary in exchange for the quiet peace of ironing and a glass of red wine before bed.

And still, knowing all of this, the path of wrecklessly distracting hedonism seduces him, and equally so, us the audience- in all it’s trashy, spectacular, Roman rooftop bunga bunga glory, I was left thirsty for an Aperol Spritz and revelry til dawn. When it comes down to it, we are all gluttons for the great beauty however we can get it.

Wapping Project Summer Show

Steam-Bath-1984-Deborah-TurbevilleSummer season group shows can be a sluggish and bland affair, but the Wapping Project Bankside has brought together a clutch of work form their best international photographers for their end of season Gallery Artists’ Review. This looking back, forward and now seems well-suited to these last dog-end days of summer, as autumn looms with renewed responsibilities and fresh vigour.

Fashion photographer Deborah Turbeville, the 76-year-old New Yorker and regular contributor to Italian Vogue soaks her images in characteristic opiate nostalgia. Gazing mannequins and poised marionettes hang suspended in the powdery soft focus of ‘Steam Bath’, while others resonate in Eastern bloc tableaux, fading like retina burn behind a filmy surface as fragile as crumbling plaster. Fellow photographer and nonagenarian Lillian Bassman’s monochromatic pictures are often described as stylised and calligraphic, but these fashion images show miraculous and haunting beings, a touch vampish, shot against grainy clouds of backlight, like beautiful nocturnal creatures against the never dark sky of a white night. This eerie chord finds echoes in the precise and orchestrated interiors of young British photographer Annabel Elgar; ‘The Rally’ shows a grizzly bear’s head staked to the wall, it’s peeled open mouth  preaching at an empty makeshift outdoor auditorium with ghostly lectern and red chairs menacing in the near dawn light. In her world, smudged window panes, dirty sinks and cloudy mirrors absorb the light and whisper a gentle anxiety, similar to that of summer closing and the autumnal nights creeping slowly in.

Peter Marlow’s reportage series of filmic night shots of the East End document scenes of abandonment; from alleyways iridescent with the sheen of rain soaked concrete, to cars, construction sites and street corners. His images coerce the mundane quotidian furniture of life such as streetlights and pylons, window frames and bus shelters into narratives pregnant with suspense and intrepidation, as if seen through the eyes of a pulp fiction flaneur. Stephen J Morgan does something similar, but more kitsch and in muted technicolour , documenting  autobiographical details of working class, inner-city life such as the working man’s club in ‘Where my Grandfather Sang’,  that are reminiscent of Richard Billingham.  Morgan frames a lonely Madonna, staring beseechingly from her perch, nodding in the direction of two stills from Susan Meiselas’  Pandora’s Box series, where stilettoed hookers hang around in neo- baroque interiors, waiting for sex or recovering from it, boxed into carpeted rooms of sea blue crushed velvet, like mermaids trapped in formaldehyde.

Which leaves the cooling balm of Finnish photographer and filmmaker Elina Brotherus, next in line for a solo show at Wapping bankside, which opens on 16 September. Brotherus plays with landscapes and the body, documenting the lush glades and pools of her motherland, in scenes that echo 20th century late Impressionist painting. A refreshing invitation to Wapping Bankside’s autumn programme indeed.

Catherine McCormack

Louise Bourgeois at Hauser&Wirth

bour-11369-cb_lglr-L0Puf5It is a familiar sight at this time of year – a rather large spider has crawled indoors and taken up residency, provoking extreme reactions. The space in question is Hauser and Wirth’s latest gallery on Savile Row, and the gargantuan arachnid is bringing the crowds in rather than sending them cowering. It is the steel centrepiece of the gallery’s inaugural exhibition: Louise Bourgeois; The Fabric Works.

The ‘fabric works’ were created by Louise Bourgeois between 2002 and 2008. They comprise the last body of work the nonagenarian worked on before her death earlier this year, aged 98. Surrounding the spider – produced after its iconic 1999 counterpart, Maman – are the ostensible fruits of her weaving handiwork. As ever, Bourgeois’ late works are extremely autobiographically informed, but the spider (Crouching Spider, 2003) is not a reference to the artist’s own ego, but again to her mother. Bourgeois elucidates by saying:

“Like a spider, my mother was a weaver… Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences… spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.”

Like the fabled Arachne from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, fabric and weaving had been an influential motif in Louise Bourgeois’ life. As a child she was surrounded by the textiles of her parents’ tapestry restoration workshop and herself became a life long collector of clothes and household linens. It is these everyday cloth fragments that she has gathered and reworked into geometrically inspired collages. The nostalgic palette of ice cream and baby pastel candy stripe hues are innocently monogrammed with the initials LB, as if collating a trousseau of her life’s memories to take with her in her twilight years. Fabric is a convincing medium for the retelling of a personal narrative: it soaks up atmosphere, covers and protects the body while registering its sweat and tears, all the while inhaling the years of use into its weave.

In another section, abstract collages are stitched together like Modernist sea and sky-scapes. They are reminiscent of the views from Matisse’s window in the south of France, or indeed fabric reinventions of the experimental fields of colour that gave abstract expressionists Rothko and Barnett Newman such critical acclaim and commercial success in the 40s and 50s – eclipsing the endeavours of female artists such as Louise Bourgeois.

It is difficult not to see the work in this exhibition as being part of the canon of twentieth century feminist art; although gallery director Sara Harrison believes that Bourgeois was a lone figure who retained an acute sense of her own identity and aesthetic, and resisted falling in with any movement. She believes that her work is informed by ‘underlying themes of pain and a struggle to come to terms with her complex childhood family dynamic’ (her father made her governess his mistress).

Bourgeois herself was a woman whose artistic importance had been cloaked and concealed until late into her life, eclipsed by her husband’s career as a dazzling art critic. And despite the benign nature of the materials, the show is punctuated by moments of quiet horror, revealing the threatening demons that lurk behind the saccharine façade of female domestic tranquillity. A sinister fabric body (Single 2) – stitched from pieces of black and grey cotton – hangs suspended from the navel, with oversized trailing limbs stuffed like a surreal taxidermied diving suit. Two of the ‘cell works’ also feature; manifestations of caged psychic space in which bizarre and sinister objects reside.

And of course, the duplicitous spider, site of many fears and phobias, and yet symbolic of the weaving and nurturing mother seems representative of the hollow fears at the heart of domestic femininity, the conundrum of sanctuary and a slow death, trapped in its own web of sewing. An outstanding, and psychologically provocative opening for Hauser and Wirth’s new W1 space.

by Catherine McCormack

You can see this published here in Glass Magazine

Dance, Magic Dance

11.Imagine the best party you can possibly fathom in let’s say, 1920, with a guest list made up of the cream of artistic vanguards from the collective realms of literature, music, dance, fashion and art, in one of the most exciting places to be on the planet at that time. Add a punch of old world Russian glamour and verve, and you have the invigorating focus for the V&A’s autumn show;  Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes.

The exhibition charts the journey of artistic director and cultural impresario Serge Diaghilev and his troupe of dancers, who fled their native Russia on the brink of revolution. In doing so they unleashed their own creative revolution upon the modernist cities of Europe between 1909 and 1929 with the maxim: “Art is free, life is paralysed”.  It was in Paris that this tornado of modernist expression reached its apogee, with the various collaborations of Henri Matisse, Coco Chanel, Igor Stravinsky, Andre Derain, Joan Mirò, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, and was later felt throughout Europe and the USA through associations with James Joyce, Marcel Proust and TS Eliot before Diaghilev’s untimely death in 1929.

As can be expected at the V&A, costumes and textiles take centre stage, ranging from the fauvist prints of Matisse proudly emblazoned on tunics, to photographs of the bathing costumes designed by Coco Chanel for the 1924 production of Le Train Bleu; written by Jean Cocteau and named after the eponymous night train from Paris to the French Riviera. It is the same ballet’s proud curtain however, after 80 years in storage, that steals the show. Pablo Picasso, the ubiquitous agent provocateur of the period, designed the curtain backdrop for the ballet, after Diaghilev saw his painting Two Women Running on a Beach.

The curtain itself, stretching at over 34ft, was described by a former Diaghilev dancer as both “moving and alive”.  Amazons as monumentally worthy of any Michelangelo ceiling soar weightlessly across it; brazenly ecstatic in their empty landscape, like figureheads sailing triumphantly into the unknown seas of the new century,  yet so tragically unaware of the horrors that man’s new age would bring.

This proud piece is juxtaposed with the largest object in the V&A’s collection; a tapestry glittering with the onion domes of an imperialist Kremlin, designed for the 1910 ballet The Firebird. Illuminations and projections dance around the surrounding walls like the opening to a Bond film, silhouettes burning white against an avant-garde rainbow of sound and movement. It is the fiery liberation of dance as an art form, unshackled from its sentimental and cloying traditions of the previous century.

For the uninitiated, it becomes quickly apparent that this is not the ballet as experienced through the Impressionist pastels of Degas, but an exotic, disarming concoction that had riots erupting in the aisles of the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in 1913, with tangible evidence of the dancers’ provocative fervour in the cabinet of bruised ballet shoes in the second gallery.

The impact of the Ballet Russes in an age of political and social upheaval has not been forgotten, and to accompany the
exhibition echoes of this inspiration are on offer ranging from Tata Naka’s Firebird T-shirt to Erdem’s silk scarf inspired by the art nouveau patterns of the ballet Narcisse. In amongst these thrilling visual fragments of past creativity is perhaps the most evocative reworking of the Ballet Russes aura: a scent by Roja Dove, named ‘Diaghilev’, that reawakens the heady mix of bygone magic.

Catherine McCormack

Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes is at the V&A, London, until 9 January 2011.
All images courtesy © V&A Images
This post was published here in Glass magazine

Peter Marlow at the Wapping Project

pm10_0You might expect a photo journalist to take photographs of people; not just portraits (although Marlow has captured a wide range, from sportsmen to politicians), but people actually doing things. That expectation is greater for someone whose 30-year career with photography agency Magnum, and previously Sygma in Paris, took him to Northern Ireland, Lebanon, and the bleak decay of 1980s Liverpool.
But in this current Wapping exhibition, Marlow’s interests reveal themselves to be quite other to what we might anticipate – the solo show is characterised by a conspicuous absence of people. What we see instead through Marlow’s lens are the often bizarre out-takes and non-spaces that have interested him throughout his career; an awkward view from behind a porta-cabin, discarded cans under the belly of a concrete flyover, a few telephones sat wearily on the carpet tiles of an abandoned office.  Although there may be no figures to offer a narrative, there are signs of life in scenes that whisper of melancholic loneliness, the in-between, the discarded, the abandoned, the off-key – it is this disharmony that binds together all the images in the show.
On the one hand, his work derives a certain philosophical energy from looking between the gaps, championing the oft-overlooked and the potential poetry in the peripheral. On the other, the thread that unites them can at times feel arbitrary, and the images themselves force-fed with laboured meaning and nuance.  Marlow is at his best when scrutinising the superficially meaningless patterns, like the rooftops of a non-descript suburban town that become reified against a grey sky with a sense of order and divine proportion.
The title itself is pithy and derives its name from a photograph of a lonely sign stating ‘Point of Interest’ in a forest of uniform fir trees. Although as an independent image it has a degree of wit, as a unifying theme it rather lacks the conviction of the ironic overtones it aspires to.  Some of the better pieces have a surrealist undertone – in Derek Jarman’s Garden, a washing line of overalls turn into blow-up dolls or blustering anthropomorphic windsocks.
Perhaps the abandoned supermarket trolley in a Milton Keynes reservoir is a bland reminder of Banksy’s overproduced street art (when he appropriated Monet’s Giverny water-lilies and filled it with urban detritus), making the poetry feel unfairly cliched. Likewise for the enigmatic wardrobe left standing in a stripped and barren room. The pervading emptiness feels at times a touch too contrived, but without reducing the atmospheric and valid interrogation into objecthood.
Link to this article as published in Glass Magazine

Real Venice Somerset House



From its glittering zenith as mercantile republic to hedonistic decline, Venice has for centuries been a source of fascination, spectacle and intrigue to outsiders, day trippers, and grand tourists looking in at the city that rises out of the sea. All have brought with them their own fantasy projections but what constitutes the real Venice?


A new exhibition of photography at London’s Somerset House explores this theme as taken up by fourteen contemporary artists including Nan Goldin and Philip Lorca di Corcia and is curated by Ivorypress and the Venice in Peril fund, an organisation dedicated to the future sustainability of the city and a pressing question for the heritage sector as Italy’s economy strains.


Most of the works on show have resisted the expected carnival cliches, some instead looking at forgotten spaces of the banal; safety instructions in a budget hotel room out of season, an empty conference centre, resonant with potential and past narrative, or the strange stillness of La Fenice between performances. Others celebrate rather than deny the saturation of tourism and its sale of cheap and crude souvenirs that is as much part of Venice’s contemporary identity as high culture and history.


On the whole, the show strikes a note of darkness and seductive melancholy, reminiscent of du Maurier and Thomas Mann, with misty vistas and mirrors made opaque by years of damp and desertion, harnessing both nightmares and desires. Despite peeling back the edges, the ‘real’ Venice however remains ever, exquisitely, elusive.