It’s no secret that Venice is sinking into the northern Adriatic. Sinking under the weight of more than 21 million people that visit the fabled city each year, and, fueled by climate change, drowning into the rising sea. At current rates, it’ll be underwater before the end of the century.
That reality may escape many of those visitors –on average more than 60,000 each day– whose interest in one of the planet’s best known UNESCO World Heritage Sites barely reaches beyond snapping an obligatory selfie in St. Mark’s Square, shopping on the Rialto Bridge for cheap ceramic carnival masks, or going on a short gondola cruise or vaporetto ride.
‘Support’, Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn’s latest sculpture, speaks directly to that, and could go a long way to change that perception — or more accurately, the lack thereof. He’ll certainly have a massive captive audience.
Unveiled on May 13 to coincide with the opening of the 2017 Venice Biennale, ‘Support’ features a pair of stony 5,000-pound hands rising 30 feet above the surface of the Grand Canal seemingly reaching out to protect, support and perhaps even save the historic 14th century Ca’ Sagredo Hotel from the fate it and the city seem to be facing. As the standing room-only crowd on my vaporetto suddenly grew hushed as we approached, its power and impact became obvious and immediate.
Part warning and part call to action, the piece, according to a release from the Halcyon Gallery, which represent Quinn, speaks to “the two sides of human nature, the creative and the destructive, as well as the capacity for humans to act and make an impact on history and the environment” through their ability to “make a change and re-balance the world around them – environmentally, economically, socially.”
“The hands symbolize tools that can both destroy the world, but also have the capacity to save it. At once, the sculpture has both a noble air as well as an alarming one – the gesture being both gallant in appearing to hold up the building whilst also creating a sense of fear in highlighting the fragility of the building surrounded by water and the ebbing tide.”
Quinn told Mashable that he presented the piece to officially be a part of the Biennale, but it wasn’t accepted. So he and Halcyon approached the city directly. The hands, made of a resin-coated polyurethane foam, were completed in just three weeks.
“I wanted to sculpt what is considered the hardest and most technically challenging part of the human body,” Quinn explained through Halcyon. “The hand holds so much power – the power to love, to hate, to create, to destroy.”
Adding an even more personal element to the piece, Quinn modeled the hands after those of his 11-year-old son.
“This sculpture,” Quinn wrote in an Instagram post, “wants to speak to the people in a clear, simple and direct way through the innocent hands of a child and it evokes a powerful message which is that united we can make a stand to curb the climate change that affects us all. We must all collectively think of how we can protect our planet and by doing that we can protect our national heritage sites.”
The hands will be reaching out through November 26.
Ca’ Sagredo Hotel Campo Santa Sofia 4198/99, 30121 Venice, Italy
Easily viewed from any of the vaporetto waterbus lines that ply the Grand Canal.