The windows frame the Grand Canal and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. “It is a place that I hold in my heart. Although, after all, who would not see it that way?”, confesses Paolo Baratta, who accompanies the sense of wonder in his face with a wide sweep of his hand.
He welcomed us to his studio at Ca’ Giustinian, the headquarters of the Venice Biennale; he has been the president of the Biennale for many years now, yet his eyes still shine with childlike enthusiasm.
Until 25 November, the Giardini and the Arsenale, and various places around the Lagoon
are hosting the 16th International Architecture Exhibition designed by its curators, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, to lead a reflection on Freespace, understood as that sense of generosity and humanity that architecture puts at the heart of its agenda.
At what stage did art enter your life?
As a child my parents took me to see La Bohème and my world changed. There was a time when parents gave their children a useful kick up the backside, forcing them to watch something “boring” at the theatre. And that was the start of a new life.
The Venice Biennale gives all manner of interpretations of the word “culture”. Which do you feel more, responsibility or adrenaline?
The Biennale brings out vital, energetic feelings, from adrenaline to the satisfaction of being seen by the whole world. Our work is to enable contact with all forms of art and to kindle a desire for it. Every day we are bombarded by messages pushing us to follow specific models of existence, in a conformist way. But by contrast we want to be an opening towards a free desire for what is new. We do not build events, but rather places where people can come together and be enriched in some way by the experience.
What is it in art that you still find exciting?
When I find myself faced by a work of art, I feel like I am on a fencing piste, faced by somebody I have to deal with. Feeling engaged is the right approach.
Are you a good fencer?
I have never even stepped onto a proper piste. My passion for fencing stems from the shows where it is the artist's reality that is engaging, rather than something “beautiful”, which is one of the most generic terms I know.
“When I find myself in front of a work of art I feel as if I were on the fencing piste faced by somebody that I have to deal with”
Can you describe the smell of your childhood?
The very delicate scent of apples and grapes in the room where my grandmother Margherita kept fruit for the winter. That was in Voghera, where I spent the war, and when it was over I did the second year of primary school. And then I can remember the intoxicating smell of my grandfather.
Homepage © Andrea Avezzu - Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia
Pag. 1© Giulio Squillacciotti - Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia
Pag. 3 © Alvise Nicoletti