Old Art Form Captures Modern Global Challenges in Stunning Exhibition

As lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and closed recreation facilities have created a mental health crisis in America, art has become the opposite of ‘non-essential’.

Glasstress exhibit piece from 2017 –Adriano Berengo

Thankfully, on the island of Murano, the home of a centuries-old Italian glassmaking tradition, the intrepid Venetian artist Adriano Berengo has—despite lockdowns, floods, and other pandemic related disturbances—has managed to keep his glass workshop running hot.

And, lucky for people in Florida, the Maestro of Murano, in partnership with the Museum of Art in Boca Raton, is staging a 2021 version of ‘Glassstress’ the world’s most famous glass-art exhibition.

“One thing we know for certain… Life is fragile, just as glass is fragile, yet in this fragility there is also strength,” says Berengo.

The exhibit, in South Florida for a 9-month stay through September 5th, expands Berengo’s dream of teaching the world that glass can be a magnificent material for contemporary art. The show uses an old art form to capture many of the challenges faced by societies around the world, such as man’s relation to climate change, oppressive governments, and racial injustice.

“With 2020 being such a challenging year to coordinate an international exhibition of this size and scope, the effort serves as an important reassurance that art is an essential and enduring part of humanity,” says Irvin Lippman, the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s Executive Director in a press release.

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In fragility there is strength

The scale of the project was immense, and required bravery in spades to set up, with all the uncertainties of the pandemic, especially those related to travel—four visa applications were denied, even while their purpose was to work with Americans, because of lack of “national interest.”

Nevertheless, Berengo’s craftsmen worked over the course of 3 years with 34 artists from around the world to combine their artistic visions with the expert hands of Venetian glassmakers.

Powered by his foundation, Fondazione Berengo, which sponsors a recurring exhibit in the famous Biennale of Venice, Glasstress has also traveled the world, making appearances in Beirut, New York City, and Stockholm.

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“We have brought Glasstress to countries around the world for ten years, seeking to expand and enliven international awareness of the variety and richness of contemporary artists using glass in their creative practices,” says Berengo.

More than a chandelier

Artist Ai Weiwei with his massive glass-blown sculpture Blossom Chandelier – Karolina Sobel

Among the marquee pieces on display is Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s, Blossom Chandelier, a gargantuan installation of 1,600 individual elements of glass, both hand-cut and casted, bursting with unexpected shapes such as manacles, Twitter birds, flowers, and a special nod to his time in a Chinese prison—his own middle finger.

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In a similar expressive tone, Dustin Yellin’s Invisible Sisyphus (below) is a diorama of simple folk living beneath the roots of a great tree, all encased in a giant brick of glass, the impurities within which give the illusion of clouds, sky, and atmosphere.

Dustin Yellin’s Invisible Sisyphus, photo by Francesco Allegretto

Glass Big Brother (below) is a government-inspired chandelier, exquisitely made of glass and metal, teeming with ominous looking cameras, reminding us of the danger of allowing a government too much authority.

Glass Big Brother by Song Dong

“Unlike the past and the present, what comes next for our world presents itself as constant possibility, always transforming as we move forward in time,” says Berengo in a press release. “This concept of transformation has always held an affinity with glass, a medium which—as the name Glasstress suggests—exists in a state of constant tension.”

“Life needs tension, it needs energy, and a vibrant exchange of ideas.”

WATCH the Glasstress video…

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