Helping Hands

One of the attractions in Venice–as if it needs any more; indeed, it could use a few less–are the works of contemporary art produced for the Venice Biennale (which takes place every two years, not twice a year…I’m putting this part in for me because I can never tell). This is a picture taken from the spectacular terrace atop the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which is now an upscale mall with fancy shops. The building was originally the German traders’ inn and warehouse during the renaissance and its sides were once decorated with frescoes by, no less,  Giorgione and Titian. The fondaco had a huge cortile or open courtyard (now roofed over). The large ground-floor rooms were used for the storage of goods, while the upper stories were residential rooms, which numbered about 160. German merchants were required to stay there during their trading junkets so the Venetians, ever vigilant, could keep track of them. Its position on the Rialto also marked the importance of German trade relations. It was built in the first decade of the 16th century, replacing one that had burned down (that one built in the 13th century). For most of the 20th century the building served as the Central Post Office of Venice, but renovations by Rem Koolaus have now returned the building to a commercial function. Happily, the view from the terrace is free; you take the escalators up to the top floor then take some stairs and wait in the upper room to get to the terrace. This view is to the northwest, up the Grand Canal. Look closely and you can see the ‘Hands’, a work by the artist Lorenzo Quinn for this year’s Biennale. I think you can figure out the meaning of the work.