News / USA

Vatican Revives Role as Premier Art Patron

Exhibit of contemporary works features 60 living artists

A visitor admires US artist Max Cole's 'Saltflat,' which is on exhibit at the Vatican.
A visitor admires US artist Max Cole's 'Saltflat,' which is on exhibit at the Vatican.

Multimedia

Audio
Jean Marino

The Vatican - once the world’s premier art patron - is again reaching out to artists, organizing an exhibit of contemporary works. Sixty living artists, including two Americans, were invited to reflect on the theme of truth and charity.

U.S. artist Max Cole, 75, was one of them. She found herself shaking hands with Pope Benedict while standing in front of the painting she submitted to the Vatican's exhibit.

“I thank you very much for embracing the spirit of art and the artist,” she said to the pontiff.

Most of the artists in the exhibit are European. The second American in the show is photographer Jackie Nickerson. The artists were asked to reflect on a particular theme: the splendor of the truth and the beauty of charity.

US artist Max Cole, 75, shakes hands with Pope Benedict in front of the painting she submitted to the Vatican exhibit.
US artist Max Cole, 75, shakes hands with Pope Benedict in front of the painting she submitted to the Vatican exhibit.

"We asked these 60 artists to reflect on this theme," says Richard Rouse, who helped organized the show for the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Vatican body behind the exhibit. "Some of them asked for a bit of a dialogue and a conversation, so we sent them some of the texts that the Holy Father has written on this theme."

In addition to painting, sculpture, and jewelry, the exhibit features photographs, poems and music.

The exhibit is part of the Vatican’s bid to reconcile with contemporary art.

The Vatican was once the world’s most important art patron. In the 16th century, Pope Julius the Second commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Raphael was hired to paint the pope's portrait.

Sixty living artists, including two Americans, reflect on the theme of truth and charity in the Vatican's contemporary art exhibit.
Sixty living artists, including two Americans, reflect on the theme of truth and charity in the Vatican's contemporary art exhibit.

But in recent centuries, art and the Roman Catholic Church have gone their separate ways. The secular world - governments, foundations, collectors and museums - have taken over as patrons. Additionally, contemporary artists have often used religious symbols to provoke rather than inspire.

The Vatican show has received mixed reviews.

"If really the Vatican wants to deal and wants to have a dialogue with the international audience of contemporary art," says Ludovico Pratesi, an art critic for La Repubblica, a daily newspaper in Rome, "maybe we have to do something more carefully on the real range of international artists in the world."

Independent art curator Sergio Risaliti is more forgiving. At least, he says, the Church is trying to engage with artists. "It is not entirely experimental, but you have to understand that it is the Church. It's not a museum of contemporary art."

In any case, artist Max Cole is grateful. “I think that Pope Benedict is extraordinary in his welcome and it’s much appreciated.”

Her entry, in acrylic on linen, called ‘Saltflat’, is made up of horizontal lines cross-hatched with intricate strokes. The stripes seem to vibrate, giving the impression of a dry salty lake bed, shimmering under a blazing sun.

Cole says her paintings are inspired by the harmony in nature. “In a sense they become ritualistic. They're a bit like prayer or a rosary or eastern meditation."

Cole's paintings are in collections around the world. And now, she's at the Vatican.

Her painting, along with the work of the 59 other living artists, is on view at the Paul VI Assembly Hall at the Holy See, until September 4.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs