I have a short attention span, which probably explains why I write headlines and not novels. It definitely explains why I was so surprised when I went to the Musée Maillol exhibition on Murano glass. After waiting in a short line, and entering the main room I was rather shocked to find a room filled with contemporary art. This would not have happened had I taken the nano-second required to read the show’s full title; MURANO, masterpieces from the Renaissance to the 21st Century.
On the other hand, I would have been totally lost had I read the press release which claims the work is shown in chronologically order. It is not. The show begins with a collection of work by contemporary artists, many of them alive and working today. Some of it bizarre, some of it beautiful. My favorite piece, by the Recycle Group is a bed of crushed glass with footprints that would appear and disappear. It is fun and has something to say, although I am not entirely certain it is art.
As much as I love contemporary art, I was happy to head upstairs to start appreciating the intricately gorgeous works from the Renaissance. Glass blowing became an important contributor to the Venetian purse strings in the 12th century. It was so essential to the local economy that the doges decided it was at great risk of industrial espionage. The entire industry was moved to the island of Murano where the glass blowers had to live for the rest of their lives. They were not allowed to leave the island unless it was in a casket.
There are some truly stunning pieces in the Maillol exhibition, cups that look like lace, bowls with an opalescent glow. You start to wonder how they survived through out the centuries. The stories they could tell. The work gradually gets more and more modern, ending with the mid-20th century. The colors become vibrantly rich, with bold shapes and touches of humour that having you leave the show in a good mood.