The latest edition of The Venice Glass Week, now in its fourth year, shone a spotlight on the production of glass with the aim of relaunching the sector after closures amid COVID-19.
This year’s The Venice Glass Week festival ran from 5 September to 13 September. It marked an important opportunity to revitalise a sector that has been hit hard by the coronavirus emergency. COVID-19 lockdown forced glass production on the Venetian island of Murano to halt for nearly three months and subsequent travel restrictions have drastically reduced the number of visitors to the island.
The fourth edition of The Venice Glass Week “places a special focus on the production of glass, and aims to help relaunch and revitalise the sector – primarily that of Murano – which has faced extreme difficulties as a result of months of closure due to COVID-19,” the organisers said. “Especially this year, when talk about the crisis in the sector has been widespread, there is an even stronger desire to react positively.”
One 2020 initiative was the Floating Furnace which travelled around the Venetian lagoon stopping in iconic locations to demonstrate the art of glassmaking. The furnace-boat was inspired by a similar spectacle in 1574, when the visit of King Henry III of France to Venice was marked by glassmaking demonstrations on a barge in front of Ca’ Foscari.
Throughout the week, the Floating Furnace gave two-hour long demonstrations of different glassmaking techniques accompanied by a running commentary. “The aim is to (re)ignite the passion for the ancient art of glass amongst citizens of Murano, Venice, the Veneto and Italy,” said the organisers.
The festival also saw official guided tours by Nexa, a Venetian company specialising in organising high-level events and international projects. The tours took visitors to furnaces, workshops, ateliers and companies “with the aim of helping visitors to understand and appreciate the value of an ancient art and craft that is in constant evolution, through the hands of masters and artists at work.”
A series of digital initiatives aimed to include an international audience too, conscious that many “visitors” would not be able to come to the events in person. The Venice Glass Week YouTube channel live-streamed conversations with high-profile speakers from Italy and abroad. They sought to “provide a platform for reflections and discussions about the world of glass … from the relationship between glass and contemporary art to collecting, as well as the impact of Murano glass in the world.”
Beyond COVID-19, one of the Murano glass sector’s more enduring problems is how to encourage young people to choose the glassmaking career path. This year’s The Venice Glass Week HUB, situated in Palazzo Loredan in Campo Santo Stefano, featured a special HUB Under 35 with works and projects of twelve young Italian and international artists and designers under the age of 35.
Benjamin Lintell, a glassblower from the UK, wrote on Instagram, “I’m incredibly happy, proud and honoured to be here, exhibiting at the @theveniceglassweek user [sic] 35 exhibition which opened this evening, along with 11 other incredibly talented artists from around the world.”
The festival also chose to celebrate women artists working in glass. The Unbreakable: Women in Glass exhibition, which will continue until January 2021, celebrates female artists who have collaborated with Berengo Studio in Murano. “Although the art of glass has historically been dominated by men, over time more and more women have measured themselves against the infinite creative possibilities of this material,” writes the studio.
Murano’s “pearls”, glass beads historically threaded into jewelry by women, were celebrated too. Muriel Balensi, who produces pearls using lampworking, explains the significance of having her work featured in a video at the festival: “Glass week was important for me because for the first time in the world, pearls were projected on a screen. They move, intertwine and paint the wall, they become frescoes, a living picture. It is a new way of presenting pearls and showing the world of miniature in a big way.”
Through innovative onsite and virtual events, the fourth edition of The Venice Glass Week celebrated and revitalized a sector with over 1000 years of history in the area.