A storm that caused the worst flooding in Venice in over 50 years has left over 80 percent of the Italian city underwater. On Tuesday, the water reached a little over six feet above sea level; water levels remained high on Wednesday, harming iconic sites like St. Mark’s Square and St. Mark’s Basilica, which Venetian mayor Luigi Brugnaro said had undergone “grave damage.”
The flooding has directly impacted art museums and galleries in the city, forcing many to call off planned events and temporarily close. The 58th Venice Biennale, which spans several locations in the city, closed on Wednesday “due to the exceptional bad weather and extreme tidal conditions,” a Biennale spokesperson said. The representative also said that “no major damage has been reported at the Giardini and Arsenale venues.” The exhibition reopened Thursday, and a release sent today said that the show will stay on view through its scheduled closing date, November 24.
The Art Newspaper reported that the Biennale has not yet assessed possible damage to works in the exhibition’s various pavilions and satellite events. The publication also stated that no artworks at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, the Ducal Palace, and Correr Museum had been lost or injured.
A representative for the city’s Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana—two private institutions that were founded by French collector François Pinault—told ARTnews that the museums were closed on Wednesday and would remain shuttered on Thursday. “No damage has been caused to the exhibited artworks, although some necessary steps are required to verify the proper functioning of the systems and services of both venues,” the rep said.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection was closed on November 13 and 14, and it will remain shuttered on Friday, November 15. Karole P.B. Vail, director of the institution, said in a statement to ARTnews that Venice is in “a state of calamity and alert,” but reported that the museum and its artworks “are secure and have not been damaged.” However, she also said that there were “some damages in the ticket office and shop.”
Additionally, the gallery Alma Zevi, which maintains a space in Venice, will remain closed until November 21. Dealer Alma Zevi told ARTnews in an email that the gallery was “severely flooded,” adding, “Our usual precautions—custom-made metal water guard and two electric pumps—were far exceeded by the water that came in. The water level was utterly unprecedented and rose at an alarming speed.”
“We will have to do extensive work to get rid of the mud, sea water, and salt residue,” Zevi said.
Zevi said the gallery has deinstalled an exhibition of pieces by Heidi Bucher, storing works in viewing rooms above the ground level. According to Zevi, no works were damaged or destroyed. The enterprise has also postponed a conversation between curator and art historian Katy Hessel and artist Mayo Bucher that was scheduled to take place Saturday, November 16.
“There has been an enormous amount of resilience and team effort shown by the Venetian community, and this has been very impressive in face of such rapid destruction,” Zevi said.
Update 11/15/19, 11:23 a.m.: This article has been updated to include comment from Karole P.B. Vail, director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.