Venice set for summer of art as new gallery opens

Tue Jun 2, 2009 12:04pm EDT
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By Eliza Apperly

VENICE, Italy (Reuters) - Venice's latest contemporary art gallery will open to the public on Saturday after nearly two years of building work and anticipation.

The Punta della Dogana on the tip of La Serenissima's Grand Canal will house major works from the vast catalog of Francois Pinault, a French luxury goods billionaire who has one of the world's largest collections of contemporary art.

Pinault, ranked as the world's 41st richest man according to Forbes magazine, already displays a series of his works at the grandiose Palazzo Grassi which he owns on the Grand Canal. But the new Dogana aims to be something different.

"Whilst Palazzo Grassi is conceived as an exhibition space, the Dogana is designed more as a museum of contemporary art," press officer Paola Manfredi told Reuters.

The Dogana sits on a promontory at the meeting of the Grand Canal and St Mark's Basin, in front of the magnificent baroque church of Santa Maria della Salute.

Completed in 1676, the Dogana was formerly the customs house of the Venetian Republic, once one of the world's great maritime and trading powers.

"The Dogana had been unused and abandoned for many years and had become a historical building at risk," Manfredi said.

The site was redesigned as an art space by Japanese modernist architect Tadao Ando, 67, who worked as a truck driver and a boxer before embarking on an award-winning architectural career.   Continued...