Sunday, June 02, 2013
I have been looking for pictures on the net of the Holy Sees Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, all I can find are a few sketches. It is first year the Holy See has been present at the festival.
In a papacy that is visually bland and less artistically rooted than the previous one I am a little worried about the future of the Church's involvement in the arts. Possibly they are not as important as they were in the medieval and post-reformation period. "Art" especially the visual arts have become more conceptual and less Incarnational and "art" that is often more about the artist than the subject sits uneasily with the Church's understanding of liturgy, which has been its normal context. Whilst Banksy might well speak to the man in the street, most contemporary art has become specialist and speaks only to an elite.
Anyhow, Fr Eamon has a report on the Biennale, apparently the Holy See spent 750,000 euros on the temporary pavilion and its contents, as we are urged to reach out to the poor by Pope Francis. Apparently Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said that it was time for the church to re-establish its role as a major patron of contemporary art. "Art and faith are sisters," he said. "They both have the same aim of discovering the foundations of reality – not just reflecting the superficial.". He said that the "Church", I am never quite sure what that means, intends to commission new Churches by outstanding architects and to fill them with liturgical objects by contemporary artists.
On one level that is fine, I would love to see Pope Francis wearing a beautiful contemporary chasuble, instead of mass produced cheap vestments we have seen so far at his liturgies, and perhaps holding a modern chalice which speaks of the sacrednes of the mystery of the Eucharist. However, I am not quite sure how it will sit with his understanding of his Papacy, where everything seems to depend on his personal charm and charisma. What I hope we do not get is a celebration of the ugly or frankly ridiculous as we did with Abp Piero Marini's absurd and wasteful contemporary commissions, which spoke of nothing but a fracture with the Church's own artist and liturgical heritage and the vanity and silliness of the artist and commissioning patron.
The problem with contemprary artists, unlike their predecessors, is their lack of formation in the faith and the liturgy of the Church, invariably rather than serving they desire at best to "challenge" if not subvert.
Poor Pope Benedict!
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