la galleria del cavallino

Gabriella Cardazzo with artist Giuseppe Capogrossi. Image courtesy of Gabriella Cardazzo.

LUCIJA ŠUTEJ: Your father founded Galleria del Cavallino, one of the first private galleries in Italy. His intuition was to work closely with artists – creating limited editions of catalogues, books, and works of art printed on silk. How and when did your father conceive the gallery in Venice?

GABRIELLA CARDAZZO: Before opening a gallery, my father, Carlo Cardazzo, founded a publishing house, Edizioni del Cavallino, in 1938 in Venice. Before entering the gallery and publishing world, he had worked for a long time with my grandfather, who owned a construction company in the city. With the money he earned, my father started buying works of art directly from artists and slowly assembled a small collection.

Edizioni del Cavallino, was flourishing since inception, and he was publishing various authors, including some Jewish writers who were published under a nom de plume, due to times – WW2. And that is how it all started. My father was always very interested in all forms of artistic expression – from literature music to art and film. He never wanted to focus only on one thing! He opened the Galleria del Cavallino on April 25, 1942, very close to St Mark’s Square. Italy was at war at the time, yet Venice was somehow untouched by it. The gallery was showing contemporary artists like Giorgio Morandi, Amadeo Modigliani, Gino Rossi, and Massimo Campigli with others.

LŠ: This first of your father’s galleries, Galleria del Cavallino (in Venice), was extra special as it was designed by architectural genius Carlo Scarpa.

GC: Yes, it was. My father had an immense passion for contemporary visual arts, and he knew that development of them needed to be shown within a contemporary context. He had met Carlo Scarpa in his student years and he commissioned Scarpa to design the interior of the Galleria del Cavallino. Carlo Scarpa was one of Italy’s finest architects; some years later, he also designed my father’s Padiglione del Libro at the Biennale Gardens (in Venice).

LŠ: How and when did your Cardazzo meet Carlo Scarpa?

GIOVANNI BIANCHI: Carlo Cardazzo first met Carlo Scarpa in the middle of 1930’s. However, their rapport became more concrete in 1941 when Cardazzo commissioned the young architect to design the house where Arturo Martini was to live. Martini moved to Venice to occupy the Chair of the Sculpture Department at the Fine Arts Academy in Venice. 

Carlo Cardazzo, Gabriella Cardazzo, Paolo Cardazzo, in front of Padiglione del libro progettato designed by Carlo Scarpa – Biennale di Venezia, ’50. Image courtesy of Gabriella Cardazzo.

LŠ: Yes, Galleria del Cavallino was the only private enterprise to ever hold a space on the grounds of Giardini at Venice Biennale. How did your father achieve such a massive project?

GC: In the 1940s, my father was a respected and well-known art collector and promoter. He had raised the profile of contemporary art in Venice and Italy, drawing attention to the incredible achievements happening on domestic soil. The fact that Carlo Scarpa designed il Padiglione del Libro was a plus, and also brought positive and additional attention to the Biennale itself.

LŠ: When did Carlo Cardazzo start discussing the design of the Pavillion with Scarpa?

GB: In November of 1949, Carlo Cardazzo proposed to Rodolfo Pallucchini (the then Secretary of the Biennale) to create on the grounds the international bookstore.

LŠ: What was the mission/vision behind it – was it only to show the publications by the gallery?

GB: The Padiglione (Pavilion), in addition to presenting the Edizioni del Cavallino (volumes and prints), was reserved for the sale of national and international books and magazines (including prints), and the organization of exhibitions dedicated to international publishing.

LŠ: Did the Padigilione, in addition to presenting the Cavallino Editions, also do any collaborative projects with curators and/or artists?

GB: Yes, in particular in an external space adjacent to the Pavilion, the “tub” presented the installations created by Bruno Munari, Roberto Crippa, Gianni Colombo, Remo Brindisi, Tomonori Toyofuku, Romano Perusini and Franco Costalonga. We can also mention the Narcissus Garden, by Yayoi Kusama, built outside the Padiglione in 1966.

LŠ: How did Carlo Cardazzo, as an individual, achieve such a project on the grounds of the Giardini among the international state pavilions?

GB: The permit to build the Pavilion is the fruit of an articulated and delicate negotiation between Rodolfo Pallucchini (General Secretary of the Biennale) and Carlo Cardazzo.
At the suggestion of Pallucchini, Cardazzo financially supported the development of the new pavilion, which was to present an “intellectual oasis”.

LŠ: The Padiglione del Libro burnt down in the 80s.

GC: Yes, the Padiglione was burnt! We still need to find out who did this.

LŠ: Who were some of the first artists that your father represented?

GC: One of the first was Giorgio Morandi, who would often visit our home. And later, there were other artists such as Lucio Fontana and Tancredi (through an introduction from Peggy Guggenheim). In the 50s, my father helped create the Spazialismo movement with Fontana, Gianni Dova, Roberto Crippa, and Mario Deluigi, among others.

LŠ: When and why did your father Carlo decide to open a gallery in Milan and Rome?

GC: After the war, my father decided to explore Milan – which was booming! Many artists had transferred there, and suddenly, there was a large community of artists, theatre directors, and writers. Well, my father was very enthusiastic and wanted to explore these new trends in artistic expression. Later, he also considered creating another point of reference in Rome, but he closed it after two years.

LŠ: Why?

GC: Because the philosophy of my father’s work did not coincide with the atmosphere of the city.

LŠ: How did he meet Peggy Guggenheim?

GC: Well, there were so many good artists, curators, journalists and writers in Venice. So, meeting her when she moved to Venice and bought Palazzo Venier dei Leoni was not hard.

LŠ: When did you take over the gallery?

GC: My father died in 1963 and I started working in our Venetian gallery in 1964. The beginning was very difficult for me as a woman, and due to my young age – the art world was not an easy place. I had no connections, as they all died with my father. So, I had a very steep learning curve to master to continue my father’s legacy.
My brother, Paolo, came to the gallery in 1966, after completing his degree in architecture.

LŠ: How did you divide the roles in the gallery with your brother?

GC: The beginning was very difficult because we were both very affected by my father’s death. We decided to share our roles, as I liked to travel abroad and my brother preferred to stay in Venice. I knew English, and I started corresponding and collaborating with galleries and artists all over the world.

I must say, the following years since take over were hard. If in Italy we had enjoyed an economic boom in 50s, in the 70s we saw a lot of economic and political problems. Also, the contemporary art world was changing. However, these changes were very appreciated by my brother and me. So, between exhibitions of paintings and sculptures at the gallery, we also gave space to film and video projections, performances and installations.

Jesus Raphael Soto, Margit Patelli, Gabriella Cardazzo and Paolo Patelli – Vernissage of exhibition by Jesus Raphael Soto ar Galleria del Cavallino (23 March 1966). Image courtesy of Gabriella Cardazzo.

LŠ: In a way, the gallery took a very different role – there was a shift in the approach and of perception of art to one of experimentation.

GC: My brother Paolo was always interested in technology, ever since he was a student. When he started out as co-director at Galleria del Cavallino, he already knew the work of Nam June Paik, who was then already famous as a video artist travelling between Germany and New York. Our interest in video art started after 1970 with some experimental videos, but it also coincided with the widespread use of this technology in the art world in Europe and U.S.  And Paolo also created a video laboratory as part of our gallery.

In the 70s, Paolo bought a Sony Portapak and it greatly simplified the work of filming because it offered the possibility of working outdoors. Regardless, the Cavallino videos, for the most part, were made mainly the spaces of the gallery while, particularly during the Meetings in Motovun, they were filmed outdoors. He shared Sony Portpaks with artists to create videos together. He invited artists to come to the gallery after opening times to create new experimental workshops. We worked with many artists – from Marina Abramović to Goran Trbuljak. We also were one of the first galleries in Italy to show Andy Warhol’s videos.

LŠ: Between 1970 and 1980, Italy played an important role in video art production as private and public institutions such as yours, Art/Tapes 22 and Palazzo dei Diamanti all offered a space for introduction to the new media. How did you all work together?

GC: It was a very fruitful collaboration, especially with Art/Tapes 22 led by Mariagloria Bicocchi, at Palazzo dei Diamanti, which became one of the most important and vital video centres for all of Europe. Between the 70s and the 80s, conceptual art and performance had a great impact among contemporary artists and galleries. The discovery of new technologies created a new vision and forms of creativity. In the philosophy of the Cavallino Gallery, this event was a great stimulus and involved the collaboration with many artists and private centres who were pioneers in this field, in Italy and abroad. Some years later, this video collaboration was continued with Lola Bonora (always with the Palazzo dei Diamanti).

LŠ: Did you work with galleries around the globe?

GC: I collaborated in New York with Jill Kornblee, and in Los Angeles with the Cirrus Gallery directed by Jean Milant. In Europe, I had a very long friendship with Richard Demarco with whom I regularly organised exhibition exchanges.  I was not very successful in presenting Galleria del Cavallino exhibitions in England.

LŠ: Why?

GC: I wanted to have an exhibition of Italian art in London but it was impossible because the English were mainly showing American artists. And someone told me one day: “Don’t waste your time in London because there’s very little you can do here. Go to Edinburgh!” And that is how I met Richard Demarco. And together we exchanged many shows between Venice and Edinburgh. What he was doing was absolutely incredible! He brought amazing people to Scotland from all around the world, including Joseph Beuys who was one of his main attractions during the years he appeared at the Edinburgh Festival.

LŠ: How and when did you meet Brian Eno?

GC: I knew Brian Eno as a composer through Marc-Camille Chaimowicz who performed in our gallery in 1977. He used one of the tracks from Eno’s album “Discreet Music” to accompany his performance.

In 1983, Brian Eno’s video, “Mistaken Memories of a Mediaeval Manhattan,” showed at Cavallino Gallery.  But, I only met him in person in 1985 when he came to Venice for the opening of his installation “Crystals”.

Brian Eno in Venice (1985) photographed by Gabriella Cardazzo. Image courtesy of the artist.
Brian Eno with Michael Brooks making the video for the installation at Galleria del Cavallino in Venice (1985). Image courtesy of Gabriella Cardazzo.
Brian Eno with Duncan Ward and Jeremy Briggs, shooting the film Imaginary Landscape by Duncan Ward and Gabriella Cardazzo in San Francisco (1987). Image courtesy of Gabriella Cardazzo.