Murano glass designs mesmerise in Venice exhibition

Luca Nichetto curates ‘Empathic – Discovering a Glass Legacy’ at Venice’s Punta Conterie gallery (until 10 April 2022), featuring work by eight international designers made in Murano glass workshops

Colourful glass vessels by Benjamin Hubert
‘Granule’ vessels by Benjamin Hubert, part of the exhibition ‘Empathic – Discovering a Glass Legacy’ curated by Luca Nichetto and presented at Venice’s Punta Conterie gallery (until 10 April 2022). Hubert’s pieces feature chromatic gradients marking the different shapes and textures of glass, from smooth to satin, melted and in granules
(Image credit: Benjamin Hubert)

Italian designer Luca Nichetto presents ‘Empathic – Discovering a Glass Legacy’ at Venice (opens in new tab)’s Punta Conterie gallery (until 10 April 2022), showcasing the work of eight designers experimenting with Murano glass through colour, form and different techniques.

Luca Nichetto and Murano glass

Three figurines made of glass and inspired by Goldrake characters

‘Mecha’ by Luca Nichetto, one of three colourful glass robots evoking the designer’s childhood icons

(Image credit: Luca Nichetto)

‘Murano glass is my favourite material, and a key to understanding my design approach,’ says Nichetto, originally from nearby Venice. ‘From the tools most commonly used in traditional Murano glass craftsmanship, to exploring new techniques, many of my designs are inspired by glassmaking in Murano. I am lucky enough to have access to this universe since my early childhood, and today I incorporate Murano glass into more than half of my projects.’ 

Nichetto asked Ini Archibong, Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, GamFratesi, Benjamin Hubert, Richard Hutten, Elena Salmistraro and Marc Thorpe to each create a piece or small collection experimenting with glassmaking techniques, including blown glass, glass rods and cast glass, and letting memories and emotions guide their work. Each piece was brought to life by the skilled craftspeople of Murano, combining creativity and artisanal excellence.

Eight variations on glass design

Tables made of round green glass tops mimicking the movement of water surface, with geometric concrete bases

‘Down by the water’ by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance

(Image credit: Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance)

The designers’ interpretations are as varied and diverse as their backgrounds and signature aesthetics, from the colourful compositions by Benjamin Hubert and Richard Hutten to the craft-oriented vessels by GamFratesi, merging organic glass shapes with palafitte-like wooden bases inspired by the city of Venice. 

Ini Archibong’s piece recreated traditional African wooden masks (what he calls ‘four empathic and protective spirits that a person can encompass to navigate the earthly realm’) with intricate glasswork: ‘Knowing that there is a historic precedent of Muranese-African cultural exchange, it entertains the prospect of a continued dialogue between the cultures through craft and spirituality,’ he says.

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glasses filled with water

(Image credit: Tom Dixon)

Nichetto’s own contribution to the project featured armoured figurines from his childhood, while Elena Salmistraro’s mirror is flanked by reproductions of Gorgons’ serpents. Marc Thorpe recreated the colours of the lagoon in his striped vases, and the theme of water is also evident in Noe Duchafour-Lawrance’s pieces, small tables evoking the effect of water’s surface in impossibly neat detail.

Glass vessels in grey, yellow and red

‘Palafit’ by GamFratesi. The designers looked at the Venice lagoon and the city’s foundations, creating a small landscape composed of different forms in large blown glass lying on wooden sections obtained from bricole, the traditional poles that mark the waterways across the lagoon

(Image credit: GamFratesi)

‘As a designer, I have wanted to work with Murano’s artisans since visiting the island when I was younger, and I believe it’s important to support craft industries to ensure they don’t disappear,’ comments Hubert. ‘This project is about working with the local makers and helping to protect their irreplaceable expertise, as well as a desire to create an expression of the process that showcases the inherent qualities of glass as a material.’

Adds Thorpe: ‘We could consider this exhibition a tribute to the history, art and craft of Murano. However, this exhibition is actually a love song from Luca to Murano. The works sing, carrying with them an individual resonance of unbridled passion for the spirit of Murano, conducted as a sonate by Luca Nichetto. It is an honour to participate in this passion.’

Mirror featuring sinuous colourful edges

‘Medusa’, by Elena Salmistraro, inspired by the sinuous movement of the Gorgons’ serpents. ‘The mirror then becomes the subject, and as in fairy tales, it enchants, exalts, paralyses,’ she says. ‘Just like Medusa’s gaze, which becomes the narrative device, to give voice to the sinuous flexibility of blown glass.’

(Image credit: Elena Salmistraro)

A stack of colourful glass squares

‘Layered’ by Richard Hutten, a vertical totem featuring multicoloured glass

(Image credit: Richard Hutten)

Five vases of different heights with a striped motif in light green

‘The Family’ by Marc Thorpe is inspired by the colours of the Venetian lagoon

(Image credit: Marc Thorpe)

vase with mask

Ini Archibong’s ‘Africa’, the designer explains, represents ‘the four empathic and protective spirits that a person can encompass to navigate the earthly realm: The General (strategic), The Seer (clairvoyant), The Elder (knowledgeable), and The Beast (instinctive)’. The piece, he continues, ‘is part of my continuing dialogue surrounding the creation of a new mythology for the children of the African diaspora..

(Image credit: Ini Archibong)

Detail of table whose green glass top looks like water surface

‘I created a constraint to the glass using a vertical metal panel,’ says Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance. ‘This element of disruption forced the glass to change its state, from a flat surface to an undulated one. But the glass finally stays as calm as the water of the Venetian lagoon.’

(Image credit: Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance)

INFORMATION

‘Empathic – Discovering a Glass Legacy’ is on view at Venice’s Punta Conterie gallery until 10 April 2022
puntaconterie.com (opens in new tab)

ADDRESS

Fondamenta Marco Giustinian, 1
30141 Venezia 
Italy

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Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.