Palazzo Grassi


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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Venice attractions

1. Ca' Rezzonico

0.08 MILES

Baroque dreams come true at this Baldassare Longhena–designed Grand Canal palazzo (mansion), where a marble staircase leads to a vast gilded ballroom and…

2. Chiesa di San Vidal

0.12 MILES

Built by Doge Vitale Falier in the 11th century, Chiesa di San Vidal got a 1706–14 Palladian facelift to commemorate Doge Francesco Morosoni's victory…

3. Ponte dell’Accademia

0.15 MILES

The wooden Ponte dell’Accademia was built in 1933 as a temporary replacement for an 1854 iron bridge, but this span, arched like a cat’s back, remains a…

4. Palazzo Franchetti

0.15 MILES

This 16th-century palazzo (mansion) passed through the hands of various Venetian families before Archduke Frederik of Austria snapped it up and set about…

5. Chiesa di Santo Stefano

0.15 MILES

The free-standing bell tower, visible from the square behind, leans disconcertingly, but this brick Gothic church has stood tall since the 13th century…

6. Gallerie dell'Accademia

0.16 MILES

Venice's historic gallery traces the development of Venetian art from the 14th to 19th centuries, with works by all of the city's artistic superstars. The…

7. Casa di Carlo Goldoni

0.17 MILES

Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni (1707–93) mastered second and third acts: he was a doctor’s apprentice before switching to law, which proved handy when…

8. Museo della Musica

0.18 MILES

Housed in the restored neoclassical Chiesa di San Maurizio, this collection of rare 17th- to 20th-century instruments is accompanied by informative panels…