When Italian entrepreneur and fashion guru Luciano Benetton veered his focus from fashion to contemporary art, the result was Imago Mundi, an art project that contains over 1,000 paintings, from artists in Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. The exhibition, currently on display at Venice’s Querini Stampalia Foundation is part of the Venice Biennale, (a major contemporary art exhibition that takes place once every two years in Venice)
and features over 200 paintings by Indian artists.
An artwork by Thota Vaikuntham
Imago Mundi is a cultural, democratic and global project that aims to bring together the diversities of the world in the name of common artistic experience. The Indian collection — Flowering Cultures, along with four collections (Australia, Japan, South Korea and the USA) includes works by Thota Vaikuntham, Lalu Prasad Shaw, Chandra Bhattacharjee, Sanjay Bhattacharya and Seema Ghurayya among others.
“It is not a commercial operation; none of these works has been bought. The artists are involved on a voluntary, non-profit basis — and nothing will be sold,” says the 78-year-old, adding that it is a communications project aimed at offering visibility to the largest possible number of artists worldwide. The project allowed participating artists to express themselves freely, with one rule: the format. Each painting had to be 10 cm X 12 cm.
For this exhibition Benetton selected works from five countries but plans to expand the reach in future, “The expectation was to show new, previously unseen collections. By 2016, we hope to reach 60 countries, with over 10,000 works.” He believes it is important to raise awareness of the art of less visible and more distant countries including Mongolia, Azerbaijan with upcoming projects in nations of Africa.
Benetton has immense appreciation for Indian artists’ creativity, sense of colour and their passion: “A more personal impression directs me to works that have given a contemporary reinterpretation of the great Indian iconographic tradition. I hope that through the exhibitions, catalogues and presence on the website, these Indian artists can achieve widespread visibility and increasingly attract the general and commercial interest of the Western market.”
From art to fashion
At the beginning of Benetton’s career, painters like Paul Klee and Vassily Vassilyevich Kandinsky and their ingenious approach to colour proved to be his inspiration. “So, from avant-garde art to fashion and now, thanks to the Imago Mundi project, a return to experimentation with contemporary art, it’s like an exciting circular journey in the constant and inspiring light of colour,” explains Benetton.