When Will We Return to Venice and Should We?

A Heritage Now Event

This event is part of the Heritage Now series and took place virtually on Thursday, March 25, 2021, at 12 PM (EDT). See below for more information on the discussion, including the event description, and speaker information. 

Event Description 

Venice is living on borrowed time. In 2020, COVID-19 brought tourism in Venice to a halt, damaging the economy while giving the city a respite from the regular onslaught of tourists. The pandemic highlighted the precarity of the city’s position, dependent on a tourist economy that has rendered the city uninhabitable for many and has caused continuous damage to the built environment. At the same time, rising sea levels pose an existential threat, necessitating fundamental changes to Venice’s architectural and infrastructural fabric.

There are numerous proposed responses to the challenges facing Venice, from the sea wall to strategies for sustainable tourism. But will these solutions be enough? In the face of mass tourism and climate change, the question is not how to preserve Venice, but rather, how will it change? And, what needs to happen now to curb its impending loss? 

Join us on Thursday, March 25 for an in-depth discussion on the monumental obstacles Venice is facing and the seismic shifts in mindsets and actions it will take to overcome them. Featuring Jane da Mosto, environmental scientist and Executive Director of NGO We are here Venice; Tomás Saraceno, visual artist and activist; and David Landau, respected scholar, curator, philanthropist, and author. The discussion will be moderated by Bénédicte de Montlaur, President and CEO of World Monuments Fund.

Date: Thursday, March 25
Time: 12:00 pm (EDT) // 4:00 pm (GMT)

This event is presented in partnership with Save Venice.

Background Material

  • Whose City Is It Anyway?, a comprehensive summary of Venice’s relationship with tourism, with specific policy recommendations for how this relationship might be improved. Courtesy of NGO We are here Venice. 
  • Cruise Tourism Intiative, Report by Fondazione Venezia 2000 with WMF support, 2014. 

About the Speakers

Jane da Mosto

Environmental scientist and activist

Jane da Mosto is an environmental scientist and activist based in Venice, co-founder and Executive President of the NGO We are here Venice (WahV). Operating across many different disciplines, WahV has a mission to change the future of the city, highlighting the need to protect the lagoon and rebuild a more resilient resident population.

Jane’s books include The Science of Saving Venice (Umberto Allemandi, 2004), The Venice Report (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Acqua in Piazza (Linea d’acqua 2016). She has also contributed to articles such as “Practicing Civic Ecology: Venice and the Lagoon” in Care and Repair (MIT Press, Angelika Fitz et al, 2019),  and “The Venice Paradox” in Aroop special edition on Failure (Raza Foundation, 2020). In 2017, Jane was honoured with the Osella d’Oro by the city of Venice.

© Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2019
© Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2019

Tomás Saraceno

Visual Artist 

Tomás Saraceno’s floating sculptures and interactive art installations explore sustainable ways of inhabiting and sensing the environment. From collaborations with the air to spider/webs, he envisions ethical relationships with the terrestrial, atmospheric, and cosmic realms. Saraceno’s community projects Aerocene and Arachnophilia furthermore invite all to deepen an understanding of environmental justice and interspecies cohabitation.

Saraceno has most recently exhibited Songs for the Air at Hessischen Landesmuseum, Darmstadt (2020); Moving Atmospheres at Garage Museum, Moscow (2020); and Event Horizon at Cisternene, Copenhagen (2020). In January 2020, his project Fly with Aerocene Pacha set 32 world records, ratified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Saraceno’s Aero(s)cene, presented at the 2019 Venice Art Biennial, seeks to raise awareness about global warming and its consequences and lay out an example of ethical collaboration with the atmosphere and the environment, free of borders, free of fossil fuels.

Saraceno has lectured at academic institutions worldwide and collaborated with MIT, Nanyang Technological University, and Imperial College London among others. He has also directed the Institute of Architecture‐related Art at TU Braunschweig and held residencies including at the CNES and the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (2012–ongoing). Saraceno lives and works in and beyond the planet Earth.

David Landau

Scholar, curator, philanthropist, and author

Co-author of The Renaissance Print, David is a scholar, curator, and businessman on the board of multiple cultural institutions including London’s National Gallery and the Courtauld Institute of Arts, and is a Trustee of The National Gallery Trust.

A passionate collector of glass artwork by Venini, David has undertaken a number of initiatives with his wife Marie-Rose Kahane to celebrate and revitalize Murano glassworks, including founding the Le Stanze del Vetro exhibition and research center with Fondazione Giorgio Cini and establishing Venice Glass Week. In light of Venice mayoral elections in September 2020 and the growing impact of mass tourism on the city, David published an open letter to candidates outlining a 5-point plan for the future of Venice, published in both Venetian local papers and in The Art Newspaper.

Bénédicte de Montlaur

President and CEO, World Monuments Fund

Bénédicte de Montlaur is President and Chief Executive Officer of World Monuments Fund (WMF), the world’s foremost private organization dedicated to saving extraordinary places while empowering the communities around them. She is responsible for defining WMF’s strategic vision, currently implementing that vision in more than 30 countries around the world and leading a team that spans the globe. Her background mixes culture and the arts, politics, international diplomacy and human rights. Prior to joining WMF, Montlaur spent two decades working across three continents as a senior diplomat at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

About Heritage Now

A series of conversations at the nexus of history, culture and current global issues with top thought leaders, activists, artists, journalists, and politicians, Heritage Now explores why monuments and other cultural heritage sites are such a vital part of our local and global ecosystems; the history and relevance of these sites in our contemporary context; the urgent threats to their preservation; and what we can do—individually and collectively—to protect these irreplaceable treasures.