There is a beginning in the end… The Secret Tintoretto Fraternity

A key exhibition opens this Summer at the San Fantin Church, Venice, presented by the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the Stella Foundation…

This Summer, join the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and the Stella Foundation as they present an exhibition showcasing the works of a secret Venetian brotherhood…

Jacopo Robusti

Together with the Stella Art Foundation, the Pushkin Museum will present a special project of the “Pushkin Museum XXI” initiative in Venice: “There is a Beginning in the End”, a modern art exhibition in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Venetian artist Jacopo Robusti, aka Tintoretto. This event will be held at the same time as the 58th Venice Biennale.

The Brotherhood

The San Fantin Church, where Tintoretto’s paintings used to be displayed, will host works by contemporary artists Dmitry Krymov (Russia), Irina Nakhova (Russia) and Gary Hill (USA). These pieces will be in dialogue with a painting by Emilio Vedova, a modernist Italian artist and one of Tintoretto’s followers, and the historical context of the venue. An intervention project by the !Mediengruppe Bitnik team from Switzerland will complement the exhibition and stress the atmosphere of participation and affiliation with a secret Venetian brotherhood.

Tintoretto was Venice

As Jean-Paul Sartre once said:-

“Tintoretto is Venice, even when that is not what he is painting.”

The key aspect of Tintoretto’s paintings was space; his works embody the infinite universe in its violent eternal motion. The contemporary artists’ works, created specifically for this project, reinterpret the great Venetian master’s innovative approach and invite viewers to immerse themselves in Tintoretto’s world. Each of them bears insight into Tintoretto’s major artistic motifs, such as the spiritual unity of people and the experience of miracles, as well as evidence of his virtuosity with moving space and expressive light.

Contemporary Liturgy

Gary Hill’s video installation for the exhibition of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts “There is a beginning in the end”, visualization, property of the author, 2018

In contrast to a traditional exhibition, this project is arranged as a kind of contemporary liturgy where each act is a new artwork filling the entire space of the church. In addition to media objects, the exhibition will feature a painting by Emilio Vedova, an Italian abstractionist and main follower of Tintoretto in the 20th century, which is echoed by the works of contemporary artists.

Dmitry Krymov, a theatre director, turns the San Trovaso Church into a performative installation inspired by the Last Supper. As an interpretation of this biblical story, he constructs in the altar of the San Fantin Church an alternative reality based on trompe-l’oeil, an optical illusion, thereby causing the viewers to doubt the correctness of their perception.

Irina Nakhova’s video installation for the exhibition of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts “There is a beginning in the end”, visualization, property of the author, 2018

A media installation by Irina Nakhova consists of three parts, each being a reference to the works of the great master. All of them reinterpret biblical stories from the perspective of contemporary history. For this artist, an important theme of Tintoretto’s works is the vigorous movement of masses of people with their crucial emotional intensity. A swirling material born on earth searches for a way out in the transcendent outer space, which is hardly comprehensible but can be felt through Irina Nakhova’s dramatic media object.

Gary Hill, a classic of American media artis, decomposes Tintoretto’s paintings into patterns and elements and uses those as a basis on which to create a new sounding and shimmering essence. The primary starting point for Hill is the realm of human consciousness rather than architectural space. The combination of visual images and intense electronic tones makes it possible to achieve a deep synesthetic experience.

Emilio Vedova, Tondo ’87, oil on canvas

Tondo, one of Emilio Vedova’s later works presented at the exhibition, is in the shape of a circle. It reflects the concept of an endless loop of time. For Vedova, the mission of an artist was to record and re-translate the eternal themes of disturbing worldwide collisions: wars, injustice, oppression. Like Tintoretto, he handles huge spaces and forces of nature rather than single images. He employs the circular shape to go beyond the depictive environment through the connection between space and time.

The painting “The Origin of Love” (1562) by Tintoretto from the collection of the famous Venetian antiquarian Pietro Scarpa will become the conceptual centre of the exhibition.

The painting was commissioned by Federico Contarini, the procurator of San Marco, one of the founders of the Compagnia della Calza degli Accesi, to become its symbol and to decorate one of the halls of the Marciana Library, which was the important cultural center of the XVI century Venice and the place for the meetings of fraternity members.

Tintoretto portrayed the plot of Sperone Speroni‘s “Love Dialogues”, which were popular at the time. Apollo holds in his hand a brazier with a human soul, in which the sun kindles love. The young god is accompanied by figures of Aphrodite Pandemos and Aphrodite Urania – earthly and heavenly love. The work was in oblivion until 1991, when it was discovered by the Scarpa family.

San Fantin Restoration

The Pushkin Museum exhibition will be the first event to welcome a wide audience to the San Fantin Church after a decade of restoration work. Its construction was finished in the 16th century, while the first local public worship buildings date back to the 10th century.

Another participant of the exhibition is the !Mediengruppe Bitnik team, which will hold a secret intervention project for the viewers to join Tintoretto’s Secret Brotherhood. The atmosphere of secrecy, affiliation and co-creation will connect their project with the Venetian brotherhoods.

Marina Loshak, Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts has stated:-

“Tintoretto introduced changes into the world of art, changes that contrasted with conventional, seemingly regular and traditional life. The theme of brotherhoods, including the poor ones that ordered Tintoretto’s paintings, is important for us. This exhibition is about the role of an artist who neither deals with rich clients nor looks for means of subsistence or personal comfort. He aims to remove any distractions from a person’s clear view of works which surround the liturgy, works which are the person’s focal point and will change him.”

Whilst Stella Kesaeva, President of Stella Art Foundation also commented:-

“In 2019 our Foundation is returning to Venice for the seventh time. We have represented Russia in the national pavilion at the Venice Biennale on three occasions. Before that, as part of a concurrent program, we displayed projects in the Ca’ Rezzonico Museum and the Tiraoro and Battioro School of Arts, and we held a special event in 2005 at the Guggenheim Foundation. This time, in cooperation with the Pushkin Museum, the Foundation is co-organizing an exhibition where current art echoes the works of Tintoretto, a great Venetian master whose 500th anniversary is celebrated worldwide this year.” 



From 11th May to 11th September at San Fantin Church, Venice (during the 58th Venice Biennale).


MARINA LOSHAK, Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, curator, philologist. Previously, Ms. Loshak headed the Moscow Center of Arts on Neglinnaya Street, the Gary Tatintsian Gallery and the Moscow Manege Museum and Exhibition Association. She is also a founder of the Proun Gallery. She has held the position of Director at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts since 2013.

OLGA SHISHKO, superviser of the 21st Century Pushkin Museum initiative, curator, art historian, researcher, author of many publications. Ms. Shishko has organized many international events, festivals and exhibitions, exploring new media art. She founded MediaArtLab Center, which is the oldest Russian institution dedicated to media art.


GARY HILL (born 1951, Santa Monica, USA), a multimedia artist and one of the pioneers of video art, started his experiments with video and sound art in the 1970s–1980s. In his video art works and installations, the artist explores the connections between images, sound and language (“Incidence of Catastrophe,” “Between Cinema and a Hard Place”), and between the body and technology (“Inasmuch As It Is Already Taking Place,” “Inasmuch As It Has Already Taken Place”). His most famous installations are “Tall Ships,” “HanD HearD,” “Viewer” and “Wall Piece.” His solo exhibitions have been held in the most famous museums in the world, such as the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), Guggenheim Museum (New York), Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, etc. Gary Hill’s art works can be seen in many museums around the globe, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He has been honored with many prizes, including the Golden Lion of the Venetian Biennale (1995), MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award (1998) and an honorary doctorate from the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle (2011).

DMITRY KRYMOV (born 1954, Moscow, Russia) is a theatre director, artist and stage designer. Member of the Union of Artists of Russia and the Union of Theater Workers of the Russian Federation. He graduated from the Moscow Art Theatre School in 1976. His stage plays are performed at prestigious international theater festivals in Austria, the UK and Germany. Krymov’s plays were honored with the Golden Mask award six times. The Dmitry Krymov Laboratory tours around the world, including Brazil, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Since the 1990s Krymov has been involved in art: painting, graphic art and installations. He has had solo and group exhibitions both in Russia and abroad. His works are in the collections of the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Russian Museum, the Vatican Museum, the World Bank. In 2004– 2018 he was the artistic director in the art lab at the School of Dramatic Art theater. As a director, his focal point is the interaction of the actors with the stage spaces and the stage design. His most famous stage plays include “The Death of a Giraffe,” “Opus No. 7,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Tararabumbia,” “Honoré de Balzac. Notes about Berdichev,” etc.

IRINA NAKHOVA (born 1955, Moscow) is an artist and Moscow Conceptualist. Her main art genres are painting and installations. She graduated from Moscow State University of Printing Arts (formerly Moscow Polygraphic Institute). Since 1989 she has had over 30 solo exhibitions in Moscow, London, Barcelona, Salzburg, New York, Chicago and other cities in Europe and the USA. She is a winner of the Kandinsky Award in the “Project of the Year” category (2013). She represented Russia at the 56th Venetian Biennale in 2015.

!MEDIENGRUPPE BITNIK (Carmen Weisskopf, born 1976, Switzerland; Domagoj Smoljo, born 1979, Croatia) is a team of media artists who work primarily with the Internet. In their works they explore the concept of virtual space, specifically the darknet. Their art works have been exhibited in many museums and galleries, such as the Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, City Art Gallery of Ljubljana, Kunsthaus Zürich, Contemporary Art Center of Vilnius, Tehran Biennial, etc. The art group received the Swiss Art Award and an Honorable Mention in the Prix Ars Electronica. Their famous projects include “Opera Calling. Hacking The Opera – Arias For All!” at the Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, “Random Darknet Shopper,” for which they created an automated online shopping bot, “Delivery for Mr. Assange,” and many others.

EMILIO VEDOVA (1919, Venice, Italy – 2006, same) is the main Tintoretto “emulator” in the 20th century. In 2013 curator Germano Celant organized an exhibition at Scuola Grande di San Rocco to illustrate the artistic dialog between Vedova and Tintoretto. After years of being absorbed in expressionism, in 1942 Emilio Vedova joined the “Corrente” movement, which formed an opposition to totalitarian art. In 1946 he founded the “New Italian Secession” movement in association with other artists. In 1948 he debuted at the Venetian Biennale. In 1960 he won a Grand Prize for Painting, in 1954 he won a fellowship that allowed him to spend 3 months in Brazil, and in 1997 he received the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement. He taught art in Salzburg, Venice, and a number of universities in the United States.


VIKTORIA MARKOVA, Historian of Art, Deputy Director for Scientific Research at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, globally renowned leading expert on Italian Renaissance art.

ARCH. DON GIANMATTEO CAPUTO, Director of Pastoral Tourism and Cultural Heritage, Archdiocese of Venice.

GIUSEPPE BARBIERI, Historian of Art, Head of the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

GABRIELLA BELLI, Historian of Art, Director of the Foundation for the Municipal Museums of Venice.


Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts The Museum has some of Russia’s most prominent foreign art exhibits. It opened on May 31 (June 13), 1912. The Museum was founded by Ivan Tsvetaev, a professor of art theory and history at Imperial Moscow University and the father of poet Marina Tsvetaeva. Today, it houses around 700,000 works of art from various eras: from ancient civilizations to the beginning of the 21st century. The Museum complex includes 27 buildings, and the Museum’s Main Building is an architectural monument from the turn of the 20th century. The Museum collections consist of paintings by French impressionists previously owned by the Moscow merchants Sergey Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, pieces of art from Ancient Egypt from the collection of Vladimir Golenishchev, masterpieces of the old masters, and other valuable artifacts.

“Pushkin Museum XXI”  Since 2014, the Pushkin Museum has been implementing an initiative aimed at making conventional exhibition spaces more attractive to a diverse audience by incorporating modern art works into them. In 2017, we launched the “Pushkin Museum XXI” program, designed to acquaint visitors with modern art and its most outstanding representations. The mission of the program is to display art works of “new classical” artists who communicate with the world in the language of modern art.

The “Pushkin Museum XXI” program seeks to combine traditional masterpieces of the world’s artistic heritage with contemporary art. “21st Century Pushkin Museum” is an innovative program that makes it possible to create a mix of all forms of art, from painting and sculpture to virtual reality and video art.

Thanks to this program, the first Russian collection of media art is being developed. This collection will include art works created from Museum collection items, site-specific projects and art works that reinterpret classical art by using new technologies. The first acquisitions include video installations by Jonas Mekas (USA) and Gary Hill (USA), video paintings by Marianne Heske (Norway), and a trilogy by the Russian art group “Provmyza” (Sergey Provorov and Galina Myznikova) – “Despair” (2008), “Inspiration” (2010), and “Eternity” (2011).

Stella Art Foundation This foundation is a non-profit organization established in Moscow in 2003 by Stella Kesaeva. Its mission is to support modern art, in particular to sponsor projects exploring the legacy of the Moscow Conceptualist School. The collection of the Foundation includes over a thousand art works from the 20th and 21st centuries. Stella Art Foundation has completed about a hundred projects both in Russia and abroad, including the Venetian Biennale, promoting the art of Russian and international artists. The Foundation has successfully organized six exhibition events. In 2011, 2013 and 2015 Stella Kesaeva was a commissar of a Russian pavilion; in these three years Stella Art Foundation presented three exhibitions featuring art works of the Moscow Conceptualist School: “Empty Areas” by Andrey Monastyrskiy (curator Boris Groys, 2011); “Danaë” by Vadim Zakharov (curator Udo Kittelman, 2013); and “Green Pavilion” by Irina Nakhova (curator Margarita Tupitsyna, 2015).

San Fantin Church This church is situated on the Teatro La Fenice square near San Marco Cathedral in Venice and bears the name of the venerable Fantinus the Wonderworker. Neither its age nor the name of its architect is known for certain. Some historians believe it dates back to the 6th century, while others argue that it was built in the 10th century. It is known that the church burned several times. In the 12th century it was rebuilt by the Pisani family, and in the early 16th century the redesign was completed based on plans by architect Scarpagnino, with the chapel by Venetian architect Jacopo Sansovino added in the middle of the 16th century. Based on the archival data, the following art works were displayed in the church until the early 20th century: “Liberation of Venice from the Plague” and “Pietà” by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, “Holy Family” by Giovanni Bellini and “The Visitation” by Tintoretto. These art works are currently displayed in various museums.

Partner of the performative program of the exhibition — Russian Institute of Theater Arts – GITIS


[Credits:  Feature image – Irina Nakhova’s video installation for the exhibition of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts “There is a beginning in the end”, visualization, property of the author, 2018 (FG Communicazione – Venezia); Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts; the Stella Foundation; San Fantin Church; 58th Venice Biennale]


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