As the art world prepares to flock to Venice for this year’s Biennale next month, collector Nicolas Berggruen has revealed plans to open a second space there. After acquiring the Casa dei Tre Oci on the island of Giudecca for his Los Angeles–based Berggruen Institute last year, a trust in Berggruen’s name has now bought the Palazzo Diedo, an 18th-century structure that once hosted an aristocratic family.
Berggruen is hoping that the Palazzo Diedo will become a crucial component of the city’s art scene. It will be used to display items from his collection and will also host international artists that will be housed there as residents.
In an interview, Berggruen said he had in mind Venice’s rich history as a crucial port in the international trade when he decided to double down on his presence in Venice. “Venice is an extraordinarily vibrant place where culture in general is being displayed,” he said. “If you look at the history of Venice, it was a place of creativity and production.”
Berggruen said he had been swayed to buy the space by his friend, Mario Codognato, chief curator of the MADRE museum in Naples. Codognato, who will serve as the Palazzo Diedo’s curator, “convinced me, and it was easy—it’s a special place,” Berggruen continued. “We got lucky, because it is an extraordinary object.”
Sited in the Cannaregio district, beyond Venice’s more touristic areas, the Palazzo Diedo will—unlike the Casa dei Tre Oci, which focuses on more on the Institute’s politically oriented programming—be devoted entirely to art. It aims to be a significant space within the Venice scene, which already boasts private museums like François Pinault’s two spaces, the Punta della Dogana and the Palazzo Grassi, and Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli’s Fondazione Prada. But unlike those spaces, the focus at Berggruen’s Palazzo Diedo will primarily be artist commissions.
First up at the Palazzo Diedo will be a presentation by Sterling Ruby, the first artist in residence there. The work he will debut, A Project in Four Acts, will appropriately be done in a several phases, with the first, a wall relief on the facade of the building, opening this April during the Biennale. The work will evolve alongside the Palazzo Diedo, whose renovation will be completed in 2024. Berggruen likened the facade work to that of another Venetian, Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, who often worked on the outsides of buildings, and said that the project would effectively run from “Biennale to Biennale.”
In addition to buying art, a practice that landed him on several editions of ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors list, including in 2021, Berggruen is also known for his writings on global policy, capitalism, and climate change. He spoke of the Palazzo Diedo in terms that recalled those projects with impact outside the art world.
“In a world that’s breaking up culturally and politically, I think art can play an important role,” he said. “Venice especially is a place for it because of its history and because of its position as a place where cultures meet.”
Correction, 3/15/21, 1:40 p.m.: A previous version misstated the name of the Palazzo Diedo’s artistic director. It is Mario Codognato, not Mario Codognati. Additionally, the means by which the palazzo was acquired have been clarified.