The Vatican and Contemporary Art - Judith Harris
The Church Gives Contemporary Art Its Blessing
As the Vatican tries to build bridges between the Catholic Church and living artists, it also makes plans to exhibit new works
by Judith Harris
In October 2009 issue of ArtNews
The hilltop Quirinal Palace, summer residence of the popes, overlooked a venerable but shabby fountain, so in 1629 Pope Urban VIII decided to do something about it. A prominent patron of the arts, he commissioned the elegant and perennially popular Trevi Fountain. By the time the fountain was completed in 1762 (more than 100 years after Urban VIII’s death), five eminent artists of the Baroque era—Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Nicola Salvi, Pietro da Cortona, Pietro Bracci, and Giuseppe Pannini—had contributed to its construction.
The new president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, plans to revive that sort of relationship between the Vatican and contemporary artists. “For a century now there has been a divorce between art and faith,” Ravasi, who is also a noted biblical scholar, teacher, writer, and TV commentator, told ARTnews. “The basic idea is to return to a dialogue on biblical and religious themes between the Church and the great artists of our time—artists such as Bill Viola, Anish Kapoor, and Jannis Kounellis.”