I Santillana

By invitation of the MAK19th November 2014 — 29th March 2015

In collaboration with the Permanent Collection Vienna 1900 at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art (MAK), LE STANZE DEL VETRO and the Fondazione Giorgio Cini present, for the first time ever in Austria, an insight into the fascinating glass works of the Santillana siblings.

Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana have chosen glass as their medium, and their work is consciously aligned with contemporary art practices. Their fascinating works can be seen in the exhibition I Santillana, which is being presented in Vienna’s MAK by LE STANZE DEL VETRO and the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice. Based on the exhibition “I Santillana – Works by Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana“, conceived by Martin Bethenod, and shown at the LE STANZE DEL VETRO, this exhibition at the MAK offers the very first insight into the works of the Santillana siblings ever presented in Austria.

Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana epitomize the ideal synthesis of a perfect understanding for the craft, extensive knowledge of the material, and free artistic form-finding. They are the grandchildren of Paolo Venini, founder of the Venini glass company, which was established in 1921 on the island of Murano; the siblings were raised in one of the most significant glassmaking families in Venice. They both worked as designers in the family business, which was run by their father Ludovico Diaz de Santillana from 1959. After Venini had to be sold, they founded the company EOS together with their father in 1986.

From 1993, after selling EOS, they turned their attention away from functional objects and devoted themselves exclusively to art. They understand glass as an autonomous material of artistic expression, which—like other materials—can serve as form-finding. Both have individually evolved their works beyond the glass blowing workshop to reach new dimensions in important centre of artistic glassmaking: in the USA and Venice, and recently also in the Czech Republic and France. They are represented by various galleries; their works have been shown in group and solo exhibitions, including the Venice International Art Biennale – and can be found in the collections of the world’s most prominent museums.

Freestanding, space-taking sculptures and anthropomorphic forms dominate Laura de Santillana’s work presented at the MAK. A large steel table with a group of abstract glass Buddha heads stands alongside a white bookcase holding 40 “books” made of glass. Just like a library, there is a synopsis of the numerous colors and surface textures developed by the artist under identical production conditions in a series over the last 15 years. Also on display are Laura’s voluminous slabs, which have a powerful physicality suggesting that the space which is enclosed has the potential to be crushed.

The wall objects by Alessandro Diaz de Santillana shown at the MAK reflect the history of hand blown window glass and the effect of ancient, “blind” mirrors. Paintings of black mirror glass reduce a subject to diverse shades of black and grey, conveying the impression that they are part of a larger aesthetic dialogue. By experimenting with glass as a medium, the artist tests its limits: undefined forms behind reflective glass are reminiscent of the light and dark areas on celluloid film and of the magical effect of images appearing on photographic paper the moment it is submerged in liquid chemicals in a darkroom.

Alessandro’s wall objects enter into a spatial dialogue with Laura’s sculptures. A series of videos in the exhibition shows visitors how the glass works are made by the maestro and his assistants in the glass furnace. This facilitates an understanding of the creative process and the manner in which the artists push the boundaries of material and craft in the name of artistic expression.

It is no coincidence that “I Santillana” is being displayed in the MAK Permanent Contemporary Art Collection in close vicinity to the MAK Permanent Collection Vienna 1900. “In dialogue with the MAK Permanent Collection Vienna 1900, the works of Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana are given a separate, new meaning. One can’t help but see the huge influence that Viennese modernism—particularly Josef Hoffmann—had on the work of Carlo Scarpa. Between 1932 and 1947, Scarpa designed glass works for Paolo Venini. The way the Santillanas evolved into autonomous artists has many parallels with the artistic design of everyday objects in Vienna around 1900. At that time, artists and architects transformed everyday objects into radically modern forms. In the case of the glass designs by Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann, for example, artistic design prevailed over the demands of usability. “Viewed in this light, the works by the Santillana siblings recall the positions of Viennese modernism,” explains Rainald Franz, MAK Curator of the Glass and Ceramics Collection, who  conceived the exhibition at the MAK.

The work of Fondazione Cini and Pentagram Stiftung in the conservation, archiving, and digitalization of the Venetian glassmakers’ archives as well as the globally renowned exhibitions at LE STANZE DEL VETRO, find their counterpart in the exploration of the Wiener Werkstätte legacy at the MAK. Press photos of the exhibition as well as the biographies of Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana are available to download at MAK.at/presse. The exhibition opening took place during the VIENNA ART WEEK 2014.

  • Installation view, 2014-2015. MAK Permanent Collection Contemporary Art. MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art © the artists. Photo © Alessandro Diaz de Santillana
  • Installation view, 2014-2015. MAK Permanent Collection Contemporary Art. MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art © the artists. Photo © Alessandro Diaz de Santillana
  • Installation view, 2014-2015. MAK Permanent Collection Contemporary Art. MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art © the artists. Photo © Alessandro Diaz de Santillana
  • Installation view, 2014-2015. MAK Permanent Collection Contemporary Art. MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art © the artists. Photo © Alessandro Diaz de Santillana
  • Installation view, 2014-2015. MAK Permanent Collection Contemporary Art. MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art © the artists. Photo © Alessandro Diaz de Santillana
  • Installation view, 2014-2015. MAK Permanent Collection Contemporary Art. MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art © the artists. Photo © Alessandro Diaz de Santillana