This is a story in pictures of how we went to the antiques market in Piazzola sul Brenta and found an open-air modern art exhibition taking place right next to it. A bit of a strange mix, I know. Let me add that it was all held in front of an opulent Italian villa the size of a palace.
Held once a month the antiques market is huge. What you saw above is just the heart of it from which several arteries stretch out all filled up with stalls and vendors. To cover it all you will need the whole day and then some.
I have been wanting to visit the market since I found out about it a few months back. Several people have sung its praises as a wonderful day out. This is why this past Sunday we piled in our little red car and made the journey to Piazzola sul Brenta.
The road took us through the green fields of the Northern Italian region of Veneto dotted with houses surrounded by huge flowering wisterias and the occasional factory and industrial estate. Exactly 25 minutes after we had left Vicenza we were pulling in the shade of Piazzola’s church where a big parking lot was accommodating the constant trickle of cars.
The market opens at 7:30 am and it goes on until late in the afternoon. We rocked it fashionably late at 11:00 am, so the first thing we saw were the early risers walking back to their vehicles carrying prized purchases – full length paintings, old tin signs and pieces of vintage furniture.
To the left of the church a long lane ran along a canal leading into the heart of the market. Everywhere you looked, it was brimming with stalls and vendors. People were perusing the colourful and random merchandise on display. Filled with anticipation we joined in.
If you are crazy about ‘antiquing’, you would have lost your mind at that place. It had it all!
Jewellery in display cases or in a heap.
Old machines the purpose of which I couldn’t fathom.
Scary looking tools.
Stone birds and stone people.
Murano glass chandeliers.
Simply glorious tat.
It was all piled up high on the stalls, hung on metal poles, spread on the floor, positioned on top of plastic and wooden crates and even attached to the nearby trees, making the whole place look very colourful, cheery and madly eccentric, too.
What makes us buy objects that have been used by other people before? Is it an interest in a specific period? A need to save money? A necessity to recycle? The desire to be different in a crowd of identically dressed people and uniformly furnished homes? Or is it the want to pick up something a bit worn out, even slightly broken, repair it, polish it and find a new place for it in someone’s life, give it a new meaning and form a new emotional attachment with it?
We continued down the lane a bit more. Ahead of us we could now see the circular piazza where the heart of the antiques market was beating. On one side it was flanked by a beautiful quarter-circle building. On the other – and right beyond the long canal – stood the majestic Villa Contarini.
Around the same time we became aware of large objects floating in the canal. Just like this one.
It turned out that a modern art exhibition was set up on water and under the blue Italian sky.
With the antiques market in full force on one side and the imposing body of Villa Contarini on the other, the art installations looked curiously disassociated with the hubble-bubble of life.
Pinned in the water, they finally helped me formulate with words the thing that has always made me feel uncomfortable in the presence of modern art.
Modern art is so… in your face!
It offers you a point of view of the world which is so stripped down and harsh that I find it difficult to identify with it.
The feeling I get when I look at works of art in this vein is the same I feel every time I have overdosed on the Daily Mail – a dread, a fear of being stranded in a world where no hope is left and we are abandoned to live relying on some very basic instincts.
A few years ago I saw a similar exhibition taking place in a similarly incongruous environment. 17 sculptures of Jeff Koons were strategically positioned around the Palace of Versailles. Next to the opulence of the French kings, the smooth reflective surface of the artist’s huge metallic balloon dog and heart helped me re-focus my eyes strained by the overpowering ornamentation of the long succession of royal rooms.
Yet, I have to admit, had I seen these sculptural shapes outside of the context of the palace, hung in a department store, for example, I would have perhaps taken them for a commercial gimmick.
In terms of modern art being appreciated in context, I quite liked the work below.
The colours and the textures seemed to work splendidly within the context of the villa.
Again, I am not sure if I would have been interested in these panels, had I seen them in a different environment.
Art can be so subjective! It can make you think, it can repel you and attract you, it can stir your emotions deeply. I guess that the most important thing is not to leave you indifferent.
Sometimes something very random can become art by virtue of its unexpectedness and grotesque contrast with its surroundings.
What do you think of the piece below?
Even though it looked quite suitable for the modern art exhibition going on around us, the mannequin above was actually placed there by one of the vendors at the antiques market.
It was now past midday and typical for Italy the market was taking its lunch break. The crowds had dispersed. The vendors were slowly enjoying their lunch with a large glass of wine. Some of the stalls were even covered up.
We spent a little longer wandering around, just appreciating the visual randomness of it all.
Having watched the Antiques Roadshow a little bit too much I spent some time trying to spot a long lost masterpiece at some of the stalls.
I was not successful, but the day as a whole was great and I am already planning our return next month.
Tips for Your Visit to the Antiques Market at Piazzola sul Brenta
1. The market is held on the last Sunday of each month.
2. There is ample parking which is free of charge. You will be asked to make a donation at your discretion by one of the volunteers staffing the car park.
3. Wear comfortable shoes. The market is enormous and if you want to see most of it, you will have to walk long distances. Even in spring it can get very hot.
4. Dogs are welcome and were plentiful. All dogs we saw were on leads.
5. There is a spacious playground right next to the antiques market with swings and a fabulous slide structure which was a source of a lot of fun for many kids.
6. Food trucks sell drinks and snacks.