Adriano Berengo – A Double Anniversary

Adriano Berengo has been living in Murano for 30 years. His mission is to establish and present glass as important part of contemporary art.

Berengo, who neither comes from a glass dynasty nor grew up in Murano, studied comparative literature in Venice and New York. Inspired by Peggy Guggenheim, who brought artists such as Picasso and Max Ernst into contact with glass, Berengo founded his studio at the Fondamenta dei Vetrai in 1989 and has been using it as a workplace and an exhibition centre. In more than 30 years, Berengo has collaborated with numerous artists, painters, sculptors, architects and designers from all over the world. In 2009 Berengo created the exhibition series "Glasstress", an international event for contemporary glass, to accompany the Venice Biennale of Art. At this year's "Glasstress" (8.5. - 24.11.2019) he presents works by Jake & Dino Chapman, Mat Collishaw, Tracy Emin, Jan Fabre, Fred Wilson, Ai Weiwei, Tony Cragg, Koen Vanmechelen, Erwin Wurm, Renate Bertlmann and Laure Prouvost. Between the Venice Biennials, the "Glasstress" exhibitions tour the world with great public appeal. The exhibitions have been presented in New York, Stockholm, Beirut, Riga, Ptuj and the Boca Raton Museum in Florida.

Adriano Berengo’s passion for glass began in 1989, when he came to Murano and founded the Berengo studio on the island. Ever since, he has devoted his career to glass with a mission of taking glass to a new level as a medium for contemporary art.

Ai Weiwei, Blossom Chandelier, 2017, glass, metal, 400 x 250 cm diameter, Photo: Karolina Sobel


Adriano was not raised on Murano and does not come from a glass family; he is a graduate of Ca´Foscari University in Venice and studied comparative literature at the State University of New York. His idea to strengthen cooperation between artists and glassblowers was inspired first of all by Peggy Guggenheim, who brought e.g. Picasso’s and Max Ernst’s artistic ideas into the world of glass. The Fondamenta dei Vetrai, where the most famous furnaces are placed, is where the Berengo studio is situated today. It is not only blowing or solid glass crafting, which are used here, but in the casting workshop the technique of “lost wax” is developed too.

Mat Collishaw: "A Different Self", 2014, glass, wood, video, 270 x 150 x 50 cm, Photo: Francesco Allegretto

Close by, one cannot miss an exhibition area in a former furnace which makes an authentic background for Berengo’s glass collection and where the Glasstress exhibitions are shown. Among the oldest art works in the collection are Hans Arp´s relief and César´s object Compression from 1992, made of splicedlll coca-cola bottles. The first Glasstress was presented in 2009 and is now known as the classic collateral event in the Venice Biennale of Art. Until this year Glasstress took place both in Pallazzo Franchetti, an impressive building in Venetian Gothic style close to Ponte dell´ Accademia, and on Murano.

The 5th Glasstress has the best from the previous exhibitions on show as well as the new created works. Over the years the Berengo studio has cooperated with more than 70 artists from all over the world – painters, sculptors, architects, designers, most of them leading personalities in their respective fields. Among the double anniversary highlights are e.g. works of Jake & Dino Chapman, Mat Collishaw, Tracy Emin, Jan Fabre or Fred Wilson.

Tony Cragg, "The Bridge", 2019, 92 x 16 x 30 cm, Photo: Francesco Allegretto


As a returning star, Ai Weiwei should be named. He is exhibiting a 4 m high Blossom Chandelier assembled from hand shaped and cast elements. Cast glass is the technique used in new sculptures by Jaume Plensa (Silence), Thomas Schütte (You and Me) and Monica Bonvicini (In my Hand). Another internationally renowned contemporary artist is Tony Cragg, who exhibits the dynamic sculptures The Tower and The Bridge of clear glass hand-shaped massive segments. Erwin Wurm shows the smiling objects Mutter, Vater und Crystal. Koen Vanmechelen, artist, curator and activist, is represented with artwork created in the Human Rights Pavilion activities, and an older work Black Medusa. Besides him, Vik Muniz also curates this year’s Glasstress and exhibits portraits on sheet glass created in murrine, and an installation of 21 Venetian goblets almost in human size.

Renate Bertelmann, "The Pacifier", 2019, glass, 100 x 47 cm, Photo: Francesco Allegretto

The widely acclaimed artists Renate Bertlmann and Laure Prouvost also take part in the show. Both of them are also showcased within the Venice Biennale of Art. Bertlmann is represented in the National Pavilion of Austria with an installation of over 300 hand-made red roses, pierced by knives. All of them were executed at the Berengo studio, and so were Prouvost´s whimsical works in glass. For the French Pavilion she has created an immersive environment made up of films, performances, and sculptural installations using leftover objects from film, resin, clay, glass, plants and water vapour. At the previous Glasstress edition she presented Cooling System 2 (For Global Warming), while Bertlmann has experimented with glass for the first time and shows an oversized object The Pacifier.

The Glasstress exhibitions travel out of Italy to museums and galleries around the world, very often with the aim to examine areas traditionally considered “craft” with new approaches to the medium. That was the case of the Boca Raton Museum in Florida and it was also shown in New York, Stockholm, Beirut, Riga or Ptuj. Adriano Berengo plans to continue the international tour of Glasstress with new prestigious stops around the world - no doubt his endless energy and strong determination will help him fulfill his goals and dreams.

Author: Pavla Rossini

Cover picture: Koen Vanmechelen, "Black Medusa", 2015, glass, bronze, ø 50 x 88 cm, Photo: Francesco Allegretto

This article was published as part of our cooperation with GLASHAUS – Internationales Magazin für Studioglas 3/2019.


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