Portrait of Berlinde De Bruyckere. Photo: Lorenzo Palmieri

Berlinde De Bruyckere at the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice

16 February 2024

A Collateral Event of the 60th International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia, the exhibition has been specifically conceived for the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore and will open on 20 April 2024

Taking its title from a Nick Cave song of the same name, ‘City of Refuge III’ is the third in a series of exhibitions by Berlinde De Bruyckere thematizing art as a place of sanctuary and shelter, reinforced here by the venue’s spiritual intensity. It is realized in collaboration with the Benedicti Claustra Onlus—the non-profit branch of the Benedictine Community—and its director, Carmelo A. Grasso who, alongside Ory Dessau and Peter Buggenhout, form the curatorial team. 

Oscillating between transcendence and material immanence, ‘City of Refuge III’ is based on three new groups of works by the artist which uniquely respond to the church’s monumental architecture, function, symbolism and history. On view will be an installation of Arcangeli sculptures in the nave and side aisles, a large-scale installation in the church’s Sacristy and sculptural wall-vitrine works in the hallway of the Monastery’s Gallery.

Berlinde De Bruyckere, Arcangelo II (San Giorgio), 2023–2024 (work in progress), 2024 © Berlinde De Bruyckere. Photo: Mirjam Devriendt 

Throughout her practice, De Bruyckere has rendered hybrid forms with human, animal and organic features. Drawing from the legacies of the European Old Masters, the Flemish Renaissance, Christian iconography, as well as mythology and cultural lore, the artist layers existing histories with new narratives suggested by current events to create a psychological terrain of pathos, tenderness and unease. Investigating the dualities of love and suffering, danger and protection, life and death, her works surpass theological connotations, transferring them to the realm of the universal and profane.