VEDERE L’INVISIBILE. Icone russe dalla collezione Intesa Sanpaolo. | SEEING THE INVISIBLE. Russian icons from Intesa Sanpaolo’s collection.

a dialogue with VALERY KOSHLYAKOV. Celestial architectures

Courtesy Image by Gallerie d’Italia di Palazzo Leoni Montanari | VEDERE L’INVISIBILE. Icone russe dalla collezione Intesa Sanpaolo

From 03/07/2021 to 03/07/2022  
Palazzo Leoni Montanari – Contra’ Santa Corona 25, Vicenza (VI)
Entrance 5€
Reinforced Green Pass required

Recommanded to: Lovers of Russian icons; Fans of Russian art history; Those interested in exploring the dialogue between past and contemporary Russian art.

March 17, 2022

The new exhibition path rethinks the experience of Intesa Sanpaolo’s collection of Russian icons, placing it in dialogue with the works of contemporary artist Valery Koshlyakov. The project, curated by Silvia Burini and Giuseppe Barbieri, Directors of the Centre for Studies in Russian art (CSAR), of Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, opened on July 03, 2021, on the ground floor of Palazzo Leoni Montanari in Vicenza, and will end on July 03, 2022.

Courtesy Image by Gallerie d’Italia di Vicenza, Palazzo Leoni Montanari

Palazzo Leoni Montanari was started to be built in 1678 by Giovanni I Leoni Montanari, who decided to have a large residence built out of a need for social advancement within the city of Vicenza.
The palace’s Baroque architecture is a testament to the aspirations of this family and the new role they aspired to play. In fact, the Montanari family achieved a solid economic position, not through inheritance but by producing and trading textiles. The construction, held in two phases, was completed in the second decade of the eighteenth century. Still, unfortunately, there is no certain information about the builders’ identity. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the residence was then owned by Banca Cattolica del Veneto, which established its general management inside there. It survived the bombings of the Second World War unscathed and underwent a significant restoration in the second half of the 1970s. During the 1990s, after passing to Banco Ambrosiano del Veneto, Palazzo Leoni Montanari hosted numerous cultural initiatives.

In 1999, after it became part of Intesa Sanpaolo, it underwent a new restoration and technological adaptation that allowed the opening of its galleries to display the cultural vocation of the palace.

SEEING THE INVISIBLE. Russian icons from Intesa Sanpaolo’s collection offers to the public a selection of seventy Russian icons from Intesa Sanpaolo’s collection in a renewed permanent exhibition. The works on display come from different places, different eras of production. Anonymous monks made them as a humble offering to God.
The innovative nature of the exhibition immediately welcomes visitors when they enter the first room. Here, a video is projected showing some of the features of the Orthodox rituals, giving a sense of the atmosphere of the environment in which the icons are displayed. By immersing the visitor in this projection, the intention is to begin the journey into Russian Orthodox spirituality with the understanding that the visitor is dealing with a completely different culture from their own. In this way, constructive and respectful dialogue can be opened between the millenary Russian civilisation presented and the Western gaze of the observer. In the second room, about thirty panels have been placed side by side to form a sort of iconostasis to better understand the primary function of the icon in the Russian tradition. In Russia, icons are acts of prayer and a liturgical instrument. It is a living sign in a dimension of devotion and contemplation. In the fourth and last room, together with didactic contents, some metal coverings (rize and basme) are exhibited, which had the task of protecting and embellishing the painted panels. The route ends with a multimedia touchscreen installation, curated by camerAnebbia, which provides essential information on the icon and its production phases, with a focus on menologues, icons of saints and feasts in the liturgical calendar.
This route is designed to help visitors discover the symbolic richness of Russian icons, which is different from the religious depictions they are used to.

Courtesy image by Virna Manattini | VEDERE L’INVISIBILE. Icone russe dalla collezione Intesa Sanpaolo.

La scoperta della cultura russa si arricchisce nel dialogo con le opere di uno dei maggiori artisti contemporanei viventi, VALERY KOSHLYAKOV. Architetture celesti, si svolge nella terza sala.
Valery Koshlyakov è nato nel 1962 a Sal’sk, nella Russia meridionale, attualmente vive da molti anni a Parigi. Per la realizzazione delle sue opere utilizza spesso materiali che non nascondono la loro provenienza povera come cartoni, nastro da imballaggio, strati sovrapposti di pittura a olio e di vernice spray. Dopo una lunga e diffusa ricognizione di architetture popolari e oggetti di uso quotidiano che, a suo avviso rinviavano alla struttura compositiva dell’icona, Koshlyakov ha realizzato un’ampia sequenza di ikonosy, segni suggestivi che riuniscono gli elementi degli sfondi dell’icona all’attualità del presente. Segno che in Russia, l’icona è un organismo sempre vivo.
Architetture celesti è un’esposizione composta da un nucleo di ikonosy creati appositamente dall’artista in stretto dialogo con quattro icone selezionate dalla collezione Intesa Sanpaolo. In queste opere site specific è ravvisabile la presenza di particolari provenienti dalle tavole dipinte della tradizione che si sono trasformati nelle sue fantasie architettoniche.

The discovery of Russian culture is enriched in the dialogue with the works of one of the greatest living contemporary artists, VALERY KOSHLYAKOV. Heavenly Architectures, takes place in the third room.
Valery Koshlyakov was born in 1962 in Sal’sk, southern Russia, and has been living in Paris for many years. To create his works, he often uses materials that do not hide their poor origins, such as cardboard, packaging tape, overlapping layers of oil paint and spray paint. After a long and widespread investigation of popular architecture and everyday objects which, in his view, refer to the compositional structure of the icon, Koshlyakov created a wide sequence of ikonosy, suggestive signs that bring together the elements of the icon’s backgrounds with the present day. A sign that in Russia, the icon is an ever-living organism.
Architetture celesti (Heavenly Architectures) is an exhibition composed of a nucleus of ikonosy created specifically by the artist in close dialogue with four icons selected from Intesa Sanpaolo’s collection. In these site-specific works, one can see the presence of details from traditional painted panels that have been transformed into his architectural fantasies.

The icon is something completely separate from vocational education and its practices.

Valery Koshlyakov
Courtesy Image by Virna Manattini | VEDERE L’INVISIBILE. Icone russe dalla collezione Intesa Sanpaolo.

The exhibition allows visitors to immerse themselves into the complex Russian culture, inviting them to try to build a dialogue to explore the many inputs present there. The same devotion that moved the monks, authors of the icons, to create these works in silence and as a sign of faith in God and a gift of charity towards the world, generates a respectful curiosity in the visitor. This state of mind leads the viewer to perceive the information scattered along the route as having an almost sacred aura and to treat it accordingly.
In addition, the possibility of discovering Intesa Sanpaolo’s collection of Russian icons also through dialogue with contemporary art allows for a comparison that can catalyze unexpected meanings of these paintings, which are central to the Russian tradition. The presentation of works by living Russian artists allows a better understanding of how icons and their devices are a fundamental part of Russian culture. Valery Koshlyakov, through the formulation of ikonosy, unites the everyday object found in the same area from which the icon originated with the symbolism inherent in it. Through the representation of symbolic elements of the icon, the link between the represented symbol and the Russian world is emphasized.

Moving further into our own time, one can see a sort of parallelism between the expressions of faith that Russian icons represent as painted messages projected towards the future understood as a time of justice and mercy, and the current appeals that are spread throughout our world for the restoration of peace. The exhibition highlights, even more, the need to deepen our knowledge of Russian art and the undeniable greatness of this millenary culture from which contemporary Russia has sprung.

Tip: Ask yourself whether it really makes sense to censor Russia.


Have you been there?

Would you like to stay updated? Follow us!

Graphic Project by Michele Ricciardi

Classificazione: 4.5 su 5.

Follow your curiosity!



Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un'icona per effettuare l'accesso:

Logo di

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto Twitter

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Twitter. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Connessione a %s...