Grand Canal gondola riders gasp at their first glimpse of the massive sculptures by contemporary artists docked in front of Giorgio Masari’s neoclassical palace (built 1748–72). The provocative art collection of French billionaire François Pinault overflows Palazzo Grassi, while clever curation and shameless art-star name-dropping are the hallmarks of rotating temporary exhibits. Despite all this artistic glamour, it's Tadao Ando's creatively repurposed interior architecture that steals the show.
Postmodern architect Gae Aulenti peeled back rococo decor to highlight Masari’s muscular classicism in 1985–86, and minimalist master Ando added stage-set drama in 2003–05 with ethereal backlit scrims and strategic spotlighting. Ando's design directs attention to the contemporary art, without detracting from baroque ceiling frescoes. Don’t miss the cafe overlooking the Grand Canal, the interior of which is redesigned by contemporary artists with each new show.
Next door, the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi occupies a space that once served as the palace's garden before it was converted into a theatre. Here, once again, Ando has worked his magic, transforming the interior into a curvaceous 220-seat concrete auditorium that now hosts concerts, conferences and film projections.