August 12, 2021

Public Art in Venice: A Floating Violin Plays Tribute to Pandemic Loss

The very best public art has layers of thought and discovery embedded in it. And that’s the case with this evocative piece, The Floating Violin, which explores a complex and emotional subject:  how do we  mark the pandemic as a historical event in public art, and how do we record what the impact has been to the lives of so many around the world?

In Venice, artist Livio De Marchi who is known as “the carpenter of Venice”  worked with the Venice Development Consortium to create a public art piece that would pay tribute to the people who have died from COVID-19.


Mr. De Marchi had created a floating Ferrari several years ago as a commentary on the overuse and congestion of the canals, and uses wood as his artistic medium.

Called the “Violin of Noah” Mr. De Marchi built a twelve meter (40 foot) boat in the shape of a violin, designed to carry an entire musical ensemble to play music as the boat navigates the city’s Grand Canal. While Mr. De Marchi has not outlined his rationale for the title of his work, there is the allusion to survival and rediscovery of live music, performance, and art, visual and auditory.

The violin was developed in Cremona Italy in the 1500s. It it is a shape that is universally recognizable, uniquely of Italian heritage and is the foundation of classical music, as well as the platform for this art piece.

The Violin boat was unveiled last week to an excited crowd, and the size and detail of the boat can be seen in the first YouTube video below. The sea trial of the violin boat with a cellist on deck is in the last YouTube video, with the cellist performing Bach’s cello suite No. 1.

And there is a secret message in that-this  Bach piece was not popular and not really performed until the 20th century when Spanish virtuoso Pablo Casals mastered it. As there was no musical markings or notations by composer Bach on the piece, it is open to interpretation of how to play it.

Mr. Casals used it as a piece of political protest, refusing to play it in countries that supported the Franco regime.

Subsequently it was played in 1989 at the fall of the Berlin Wall. The sarabande, part of the piece played in triple slow time, was performed by Yo-Yo Ma at the tenth anniversary of the 911 attack.

It is a song of lament, thought and hope, much like this floating public art piece which will be in performance this Fall.





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