On entering the famous Berengo Studio in Venice, you get the shock of your life, when you see an exquisite blood red murano glass chandelier lying shattered on the floor and some stuffed ravens picking on the debris. Then you glance around the studio to see a bunch of unconventional shapes around you. It finally dawns on you that somebody is trying to convey a message through this shattered chandelier. That somebody is Adriano Berengo, the founder of the Berengo fine arts. He is conveying the unmistakable message that the Murano glass art is going to resurrect from the ashes (debris) of this shattered chandelier which symbolizes the near extinction of the art.
Venice is a country which has occupied an important position in the map of the world from the 8th century as the center of incredibly artistic glass works. From the 13th century its fame soared to unprecedented heights due to the Island of Murano, which was exclusively allotted to the glass blowing industry. The murano glass arts flourished through the centuries that followed. Going through a number of ups and downs, by the end of 20th century, murano glass industry began to suffer.
A revival was most necessary. This is where Adriano Berengo comes in. He realized that apart from being mere decorative and functional items, glass can be used to convey ideas and messages. So he decided to bring about an amalgam of artistic ideas of great artists, who are not glass blowers and the age old expertise of the Murano glass blowers. This is how the Berengo fine arts took shape.
He invited artists from all over Europe to come and work with the glass maestros of Murano. Even if these artists who did not work with the medium of glass, they were able to convert some of their pet ideas into three dimensional figures in glass. So as per the dream of Berengo, glass broke free of its traditional function as a container or a décor piece, and it became a dynamic medium, which produced articles and images that force you to think beyond what you see in front of you.
Now Berengo studio, which was established in 1989 by Adriano Berengo, has become a treasure house of magnificent art pieces that combine the techniques of Murano glass blowing and contemporary art. It contains the works of more than 200 artists from all over the world, converted into stunning glass figures and objects.
Berengo did not stop at the establishment of a single studio in Murano. He went on to set up similar establishments in Venice and Tokyo. In 2009 Berengo started a new cultural project called “Glasstress”. This is a travelling exhibition and it was well received at the Biennales of Venice in 2009 and 2011. It has already travelled all over Europe.
In 2011 an old glass furnace was taken over by Adriano Berengo and converted into a museum. You go into the Berengo studio you will feel that art pieces are conversing with you about the most profound ideas and philosophies. This museum is not at all a silent proposition. Some of these figures are installed with light and sound effects also. The exhibits in this museum encompass individual pieces and large installations.
As a result, Murano glass art has once again become the talk of the world now. This gives a new lease of life to the artisans as well as the art.
by Marina Chernyak