Cardinal Ravasi’s embrace of art and fashion, the two dominant enthusiasms of secular culture, conveys a this-wordly moralism more theatrical than moral. Of all modern substitutes for religion, art is the most esteemed. It veils contemporary materialism in the language of transcendent values.
The cardinal wasted no time embracing the peculiar nature of the high-stakes art world. Pope Francis was installed in March, 2013. Two months later Ravasi announced the Vatican’s first foray into the Venice Biennale. Beginning with a modest prehistory in 1893, the Biennale has evolved into the ultimate bazaar. Continue Reading
Glancing quickly, I misinterpreted the opening lines of a recent bulletin from Sandro Magister’s Chiesa . My eye fell on a reference to the Venice Biennale and, at the same time, on a thumbnail image of a contemporary chapel. At once devotional and festive, it looked to be a lovely ensemble. My immediate impression was that the Vatican pavilion would contain a model chapel, a beautifully designed invitation to prayer—a challenge—addressed to the international art crowd.
I was ready to recant all my misgivings about Cardinal Ravasi’s foray into the belly of the casino: I take it all back! Continue Reading
My term “engine of evangelization” might have created some confusion. Let me clarify.
God knows, the art world is mission territory. To be sure. But that is not the purpose of Vatican City’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale. No one proposes to proselytize the money changers with a lagoon view at the Hotel Danieli. The Vatican seeks to become a player on the contemporary art scene ostensibly to counter the wider, prevailing drift toward secularization. As Newsweek phrased it, the Vatican “hopes to revive its cultural side” with new interpretations of “tired spiritual art.” Continue Reading
What is it about contemporary art—every international art fair’s signature product—that qualifies it as an engine of evangelization? If the Church’s magnificent patrimony of high religious art has not stayed the attrition of Christianity in its homelands, can we expect today’s fashionable brands to speak more eloquently to the heathen art crowd who turn up at these spectaculars?
The Vatican has abandoned its earlier attitude toward contemporary art as “the breakdown of art in modern times.” Previously misunderstood as a “debacle,” it is now recognized as a “language.” Continue Reading
Fearful lest it become relegated to the position of an isolated sect, Christianity seems to be making frenzied efforts at mimicry [of secular society] in order to escape being devoured by its enemies—a reaction that seems defensive, but in fact is self-destructive.
~ Leszek Kolakowski
This summer Vatican City will have its own pavilion in the Venice Biennale. The idea was first floated five years ago and seemed, mercifully, to have been abandoned. But now it is back. The Holy See will debut in the futures market that is the Biennale Arte 2013 alongside eight other first-time players: Paraguay, Nigeria, Bahrain, the Ivory Coast, Kuwait, the Maldives, the Bahamas and the Republic of Kosovo. Continue Reading