“Art, being designed for the future, is the way to foster and project new narratives in the world. Art has always been the connective tissue of human existence. It clarifies, opens perspectives, and connects us through diversity.” – Koen Vanmechelen

Berengo Studio and Fondazione Berengo are honoured to announce the opening of Seduzione, the new solo exhibition by the artist Koen Vanmechelen. The fantastical creatures of the Belgian artist, crafted in combinations of Murano glass and Carrara marble have found an unlikely new home this year in the Gallerie degli Uffizi, and the exhibition opens the 2022 season for the famous Florentine venue. After working in secret over the past year on these dynamic hybrid sculptures in collaboration with the artist, we are delighted to finally be able to share the thirty new works made in collaboration with the Studio that make up the unique exhibition.

Koen Vanmechelen installing Domestic Violence at the Uffizi Gallery

Koen Vanmechelen installing Domestic Violence at the Uffizi Gallery – Photo credit Francesco Allegretto

The series of original hybrid sculptures are set amidst the collections of the famous Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence. Mixed-media works, they combine the “two titans” of marble and glass sourced from two leading art fabricators in Italy from the areas of Carrara and Murano, that come together to create a stunning artistic dialogue. “If you’re around these great masters you have to become modest,” Vanmechelen noted at the press conference yesterday, “you have to go slowly but you also have to know what you have to do.” With thirty specially commissioned works integrated into the ornate halls of the famous gallery the sculptures on display present an array of fantastical imaginary beasts, from huge horned iguanas and serpentine chickens to a lounging red tiger sprawled in the middle of the Niobe room.

Seduzione. Koen Vanmechelen - Gallerie degli Uffizi, Firenze

Seduzione. Koen Vanmechelen – Photo credit Francesco Allegretto

Each contemporary sculpture forges a connection with a historical one, a prime example on the first floor sits in the main Caravaggio room that holds one of the master’s most famous portraits of the mythical figure of Medusa herself. In this room Vanmechelen flanks the classical artwork with a pair of hybrid Medusa heads. Both sculptures are made of a combination of glass and marble elements, one in shades of black, the other shades of white. This striking contrast is further emphasised as we come to recognise how Vanmechelen has altered the writhing glass forms that crown their marble features. Snakes become transformed under Vanmechelen’s gaze into monstrous mutagenic chickens, bristling with sharp beaks and claws. For those who know Vanmechelen’s work this choice of animal comes as no surprise. The humble chicken has long pervaded the work of this pioneering artist as a key example of the potential for life and the ways in which humans have been careless with its limitless potential. In mythology the venom of Medusa’s snakes held the power to awaken the dead, Vanmechelen draws a cunning parallel noting how chicken eggs are used in modern medicine as a basis for vaccines and medicines. The Medusa for this artist acts therefore as a metaphor for humanity itself, imbued with the power to kill as well as the ability to bring new life.

Koen Vanmechelen's Temptation - Socrates, 2021

​​Koen Vanmechelen, Temptation – Socrates, 2021 – Photo credit Francesco Allegretto

Koen Vanmechelen's Temptation - Augustus, 2021

​​​Koen Vanmechelen, Temptation – Augustus, 2021 – Photo credit Francesco Allegretto

“Artists like Koen bring contemporary art in glass to a wider international audience” says Jane Rushton, the director of Fondazione Berengo, “we have always appreciated his forward-looking vision and his philosophy for how art can change the world.” Don’t miss this unique opportunity to view these thirty sculptures by Vanmechelen dedicated to the themes of evolution and hybridisation, set among the Uffizi’s classic masterpieces. The exhibition runs from 18 January till 20 March 2022. For more information click here.

Seduzione. Koen Vanmechelen - Gallerie degli Uffizi, Firenze

​​Seduzione. Koen Vanmechelen – Gallerie degli Uffizi, Firenze – Photo credit Francesco Allegretto