The Vatican takes a stab at re-entering the art world

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The Vatican takes a stab at re-entering the art world

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican is getting back into its centuries-old tradition of arts patronage with its first-ever exhibit at the Venice Biennale, commissioning a biblically inspired show about creation, destruction and renewal for one of the world’s most prestigious contemporary arts festivals.

The Holy See on Tuesday unveiled details of its Venice pavilion, which marks the Vatican’s most significant step yet in a renewed effort to engage contemporary artists and intellectuals in ways that once created masterpieces such as the Sistine Chapel, rather than inadvertently inspiring blasphemous art like Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ.” The exhibit “Creation, Un-Creation, Re-Creation,” which opens June 1, is not religious art: There are no crucifixes or images of the Madonna or sacred objects that might find themselves on a church altar. Rather, the works explore themes like creation that are important to the church and were executed by internationally recognized contemporary artists, including Czech photographer Josef Koudelka, who were given broad leeway to create.

The initiative is the brainchild of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican’s culture minister who quotes Hegel as easily as Amy Winehouse and has forged a new Vatican initiative of reaching out to atheists and people of other faiths in regularly scheduled panel discussions around the globe.

“This for us is a germ, a seed to return to the hope that there can be even more commissions between churchmen, ecclesial figures and artists - quality contemporary artists,” Ravasi told reporters. Ravasi has long lamented that the Holy See, whose artistic treasures fill the Vatican Museums and then some, has all but severed its ties with a contemporary art world that frequently finds in the Catholic Church inspiration for headline-grabbing, shock art rather than sublime works of beauty. AP
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