I first discovered the sculptor Lorenzo Quinn in 2017. I was in Venice when I saw Quinn’s monstrous white hands being transported slowly and carefully up the Grand Canal, an unusual cargo, on a large, wide barge. These enormous ghostly white appendages were about to be installed on the front facade of Ca’ Sagredo, one of Venice’s iconic historic palaces, and now a luxury hotel. LORENZO QUINN – Lorenzo Quinn’s sculpture was installed, with the two hands leaning against the side of the historic Ca’ Sagredo palace building. The contrast of the luminous, white hands against the warm salmon-pink of this distinctive and typically Venetian palace was mesmerising. Over the next 12 months, every visitor travelling along the Grand Canal saw Quinn’s impressive and thought provoking hands. The official name of the installation was ‘Support’. Although the Venetians instinctively and immediately started to call it, more simply, ‘Le Mani’ (The Hands). In an interview on Italian TV Quinn explained that his intention was to encourage support and protection of our beautiful environment, in the face of threat from climate change. He acknowledged that Venice is a unique and beautiful city, that must be honoured and respected to maintain its delicate relationship with the waters of the lagoon. The white hands with fingers slightly curved pushed against the stone of the palace. These hands were supporting the palace and therefore symbolically supporting the city of Venice against the rising waters of the Adriatic Sea. The installation of ‘Le Mani’ demonstrated perfect timing for a poignant and magnificently positioned art work.
THE IDEA – The idea of a sculpture at Ca’ Sagredo came from the enigmatic director of the hotel Lorenza Lain. As a native Venetian, she is passionate about Venetian heritage and culture. She suggested to Lorenzo Quinn that he prepare something for the Biennale, 2017 to be displayed at the hotel. At the time Lorenzo Quinn was having dinner at Ca’ Sagredo and he began to think about Venice and a piece of work that would fit the city. Venice has a truly unique relationship between land and sea. Lorenzo used this interesting juxtaposition between land and sea to create a powerful and disturbing sculpture. A piece of work that demands the attention of passers-by.
THE POSITION – The position of these death-like white hands against the warmth of the stones of Ca’ Sagredo creates a powerful contrast. The hands are helping, assisting, supporting the mellow stones of this historic palace. The hands encourage the stones to keep on being solid and firm providing a foundation for all that is yet to come. Even better the hands are visible to all, every person making their way along the Grand Canal was able to see the hands just on the left before reaching the Rialto Bridge, whilst heading down towards San Marco. The exhibit became part of the waters of the Grand Canal and was free to be viewed by all. A very democratic approach to art. The result of Lorenzo’s creativity was there for all to see.
LORENZO QUINN – I was so impressed by ‘Le Mani’ and their powerful message, that I wanted to discover more about the artist. I was fascinated by his name and immediately assumed he was half Irish and half Italian. In fact Lorenzo Quinn’s heritage is quite complicated. He is the youngest son of the Hollywood actor Anthony Quinn, who himself was Mexican-Irish. Lorenzo is actually Italian and Mexican with some Irish blood, a feisty concoction indeed. Lorenzo did some acting and starred in a film about the life of Stradivarius, the Italian violin maker, with his father playing the character as an old man and Lorenzo playing the character in his youth. Anthony Quinn of course was a Hollywood Great starring in Zorba the Greek, The Guns of Navarone and Lawrence of Arabia. Although the role that really endeared him to Italian audiences was his role in La Strada for Federico Fellini. A talented lineage indeed!
OTHER SCULPTURES – Lorenzo Quinn has exhibited numerous sculptures in recent years often featuring large hands. His work often comments on the lack of care that we humans show for our precious and delicate environment. For example this silver hand positioned outside The Dorchester Hotel on London’s Park Lane.
MORE RECENTLY – I discovered Quinn’s ‘Stop Playing’ which again shows two giant hands, this time coloured in military green, with a giant catapult. The catapult is loaded with a model of Earth. The title is ‘Stop Playing’. The implication is that, once again, the human population of Earth is not sufficiently respectful of our valuable, delicate and vital natural environment. As always Lorenzo Quinn’s sculptures make the viewer stop and think. The positioning of the sculpture at Forte Marghera, an old military fort on the edge of the Venetian Lagoon is a perfect setting for yet another powerful work by Quinn.
A LITTLE MORE ON THE INSTALLATION OF ‘LE MANI’ – the photos below chronicle the arrival, positioning and finally the removal of ‘Le Mani’ from Venice’s Grand Canal.
THE FINAL CHAPTER – Le Mani were taken down from Ca’ Sagredo and transported back across the lagoon of Venice in April 2018. They were being returned to Lorenzo Quinn’s studio in Barcelona for repairs and maintenance. At this point in time nobody knows where their final resting place will be. Let’s hope that government officials in Venice can agree on a suitable permanent site for this important and thought-provoking sculpture. However, the Venetians, sharp and witty to the last, had the last laugh. A boatman saw the ‘hands’ being transported back across the lagoon and shouted from a passing vessel, ‘Let me know if you need a hand’. It’s probably this caustic and amusing humour that’s kept the Venetians going in their watery, misty, often damp landscape for all these years.
Certainly for me Lorenzo Quinn’s sculptures are important and accurate in today’s world of climate change and environmental pillage. I now make an effort to follow Quinn and his work, I urge you to do the same. The powerful message of respect, honour and enjoy our precious environment applies not just to Venice but our planet as a whole.
- My name is Janet Simmonds – I am a tour guide & travel writer.
- My travel writing can be found at: Educated Traveller Blog
- I run a specialist travel business with a focus on Italy. You can contact me for unique and fascinating itineraries based in Venice & Veneto region
- My business is called http://www.grand-tourist.com Grand Tourist
- You can read more about Lorenzo Quinn at Lorenzo Quinn – artist
- Lorenzo Quinn is represented by the Halcyon Gallery, London.
- To see more about Ca’ Sagredo – a unique palace hotel on the Grand Canal, then visit Ca’ Sagredo Hotel, Venice
- I recommend my recent article on Venice: Venice – respect, honour, enjoy!
- For numerous articles on Venice and the lagoon, explore this blog further.
- I suggest you start with A Perfect Day on the Venetian Lagoon
- Updated: 4th September 2017
- Updated: 20th April, 2018
- Updated: 10th February, 2019