Peace, love and understanding: Luciano Benetton’s “Imago Mundi” – picture feast

“Imago Mundi” – all good things come in small packages.

“Imago Mundi”, an itinerant exhibition of small-scale works of art running from 27 August to 27 October 2013 in Venice, is the brainchild of clothing entrepreneur Luciano Benetton. Collected like calling cards, these diminutive art pieces from artists around the globe tell the story of the world.

Portrait of Luciano Benetton. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Portrait of Luciano Benetton. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

“Imago Mundi”, Latin for ‘image of the world’ debuted at the 55th International Venice Biennale as a Collateral Event. Billed as a “cultural, democratic and global project,” the “Imago Mundi” exhibition includes a thousand paintings from five countries: the United States, Japan, India, South Korea and Australia, all drawn from the Luciano Benetton Collection. The exhibition opened 27 August 2013 at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice, and runs to 27 October 2013.

Jaejune Kang, 'The Astronaut', mixed media on canvas. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Jaejune Kang, ‘The Astronaut’, mixed media on canvas, 10 x 12 cm. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Luciano Benetton, the founder of the Benetton Group, commissioned and collected the art during his frequent travels around the world. He collected works from both established artists and musicians such as Laurie Anderson and Ryuichi Sakamoto, and from emerging artists; the only limitation was that the artwork had to be 10 x 12 cm in dimension.

Naata Nungurrayi, untitled, 2012, acrylic on linen. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Naata Nungurrayi, untitled, 2012, acrylic on linen, 10 x 12 cm. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

An article in ARTINFO explains that it was a chance encounter with a South American artist who gave Benetton two miniature paintings instead of a business card, which sparked the entire project.  The article states that Benetton’s aim is to collect art from 10,000 artists representing a total of 60 countries within the next three years.

Yoomee Cho, 'Modern Times', 2013, mixed media on canvas. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Yoomee Cho, ‘Modern Times’, 2013, mixed media on canvas, 10 x 12 cm. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Benetton stated in an interview published in Aesthetica Magazine, “meeting and befriending artists has always been very important to me, since I believe that through art and artists there would be no wars.”

Nanyuma Napangarti, untitled, 2012, acrylic on linen. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Nanyuma Napangarti, untitled, 2012, acrylic on linen, 10 x 12 cm. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

The overriding theme of the collection is that the diversity of the world cultures is united by a shared common artistic experience. In that way, according to “Imago Mundi’s” press release, the approach of the exhibition differs from a commercial gallery or museum.

Nilesh D. Bharti, 2012, untitled, acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Nilesh D. Bharti, 2012, untitled, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 12 cm. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

The exhibition includes 200 artworks from each country, which is grouped by nationality, regions and continents, to present the collection as an account of Luciano Benetton’s travels around the world. ARTINFO reports that Benetton has a fondness for Australian aboriginal art and his personal art collection includes many paintings by George Ward Tjungurayi.

Seema Ghurayya, untitled, 2013, oil on canvas. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Seema Ghurayya, untitled, 2013, oil on canvas, 10 x 12 cm. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Luciano Benetton states in the press release: “Imago Mundi is a cultural, democratic and global project that looks to the new frontiers of art – personalities, countries, emerging languages and different cultures – to foster openness towards the world and new horizons, and the coexistence of expressive diversity.”

Ngoia Pollard Napaltjarri, untitled, 2012, acrylic on linen. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Ngoia Pollard Napaltjarri, untitled, 2012, acrylic on linen, 10 x 12 cm. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

“Imago Mundi” is also a travelling exhibition, along with a web portal and catalogues, a curatorial structure designed to achieve Benetton’s aim of having the collection reach the “widest possible number of people around the world, in collaboration with private institutions and public museums.”

Moonsub Shin, ‘Soli Deo Gloria’, 2013, acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Moonsub Shin, ‘Soli Deo Gloria’, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 10 x 12 cm. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Architect Tobia Scarpa designed the exhibition to allow the small pieces to be installed on stands that close like pages of a book. The stands of art are easy to transport and install, another salient feature of an exhibition whose aim is to “travel without frontiers.”

Besides the five countries represented in the exhibition, “Imago Mundi” includes art from Latin America, Eastern Europe, Russia, China and Mongolia.

Sanjay Bhattacharya, untitled, 2013, oil on canvas. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Sanjay Bhattacharya, untitled, 2013, oil on canvas, 10 x 12 cm. Image courtesy Imago Mundi Art.

Benetton tells Aesthetica Magazine that the exhibition reveals his ideas on the very purpose of art: “This is – in my opinion – the goal of art: to elicit thoughts, provide clues and suggestions, or to say it differently, encourage us all to open up to the world.”

Susan Kendzulak

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Related Topics: globalisation, biennales, art events in Venice, touring exhibitions, collectors

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