Vittorio Urbani

Visiting Artist - Vittorio Urbani

    We brought Vittorio Urbani from Nuova Icona in Venice to Vancouver in September of 1999 for two weeks. He conducted studio visits and attended a public reception that we arranged. The visit built on the relationship that we established with Urbani during our 1999 Biennale project. The aim is to set up new opportunities for exhibiting Canadian artists in Italy. We have discussed this project with Elena Solari, the Cultural Officer at the Canadian Embassy in Rome, and she has enthusiastically supported it as a much-needed initiative.

    Vittorio Urbani is a prominent curator, based in Venice, Italy who has been organizing contemporary exhibitions since 1993 at the non-profit gallery Nuova Icona. He is the driving force behind Nuova Icona. In fact, it is located on the first floor of his house on the Giudecca. It is a contemporary art gallery, run by a non-profit private-funded cultural association of the same name. Under his artistic direction, Nuova Icona has held 40 shows, and published 30 catalogues since being formed in 1993. For two editions of the Venice Biennale, Nuova Icona organized the national official participation of Ireland in the show and is appointed again for the 1999 Biennale to host the Irish artists.

    Since 1996, Nuova Icona launches a Prize for young artists living in different regions of Europe. The first edition has been dedicated to the Veneto Region, the second (1998) to the region of Berlin (Germany) in collaboration with Kunstlerhaus Bethanien.

    The gallery is located in a XVI century house. They produce installations and exhibitions on and off site. Their mission is to create an environment "where different projects and experiences, without preclusion of tendencies, in the field of contemporary visual arts find a place for their realization". Past international projects have included works by Daniel Harvey and Heather Ackroyd, Jaki Irvine and Alastair MacLennan as part of the 1997 Biennale.

    We worked with Urbani on the off site exhibition and performance for the Venice Biennale in June 1999 of "Walas Kwis Gila" by David Neel.

    We want to expand on our cultural connections with him and a visit to Vancouver was a great first step. The public presentation/reception was an invitation to meet and discuss ideas with Urbani in a relaxed setting.

    We received a Canada Council Visiting Curator's grant to bring Urbani over in September 1999.



    We will continue to look for ways to present Temple of My Familiar, the monumental mural by Vancouver artist Nhan Duc Nguyen in Vancouver. We first presented this enormous mural (97' x 15') in a disused warehouse in West Belfast in September, 1994. It had never been exhibited in Canada, or anywhere else for that matter. While in Belfast, we made a 20-minute videotape document of the mural, the artist, its placement and site, and the city itself. We propose to exhibit the videotape alongside the mural to provide a context for its placement.

    The special feature of this proposed exhibition will be the Canadian and Vancouver premiere of Nguyen's mural Temple of My Familiar. When exhibited in West Belfast, a local arts critic stated:

    " stood out as a highlight, if not the highlight, of the 1994 programme of visual arts in Northern Ireland."
         Damien Coyle

    It was perceived locally as a 'peace wall' in that its Buddhist themes somehow transcended the religious divides of Belfast. Its mural format was also very much in keeping with Belfast's muralist tradition, and therefore the local audience was able to relate to it better. The mural's colossal size - 97' x 15' - has made it difficult to exhibit this beautifully evocative and eloquent work.

    It has been difficult to find a site in Vancouver. One possibility is the BC Pavilion on the Expo Lands on the water in False Creek. The huge glass hall, approximately 200 feet long by 100 feet wide is one of the few, if not the only site, in Vancouver where this work can be shown. It could be shown in conjunction with the Dragon Boat Festival held every June - an event that draws a crowd of over 100,000 every year.