Lonely Planet Writer

Venice is now home to an incredible art installation highlighting climate change

Visitors to Venice can now see a striking larger-than-life sculpture rising from the famous waters to support a building. The sculpture, simply titled ‘Support’, was created by Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn and is available to see outside the Ca’ Sagredo Hotel until 26 November.

'Support' by Lorenzo Quinn highlights how climate change affects Venice.
‘Support’ by Lorenzo Quinn highlights how climate change affects Venice.

‘Support’ features two hands rising out from the Grand Canal to support the building. The hands, the sculptor says, symbolise the tools that can both save and destroy the world. “Venice is a floating art city that has inspired cultures for centuries”, Mr Quinn says, “but to continue to do so it needs the support of our generation and future ones, because it is threatened by climate change and time decay.”

Quinn hopes that his artwork can help spotlight the effects of climate change on World Heritage Sites and has been overwhelmed by the positive comments on the piece so far. “It evokes a powerful message which is that united we can make a stand to curb the climate change that affects us all”, the artist said on Instagram. “We must all collectively think of how we can protect our planet and by doing that we can protect our national heritage sites.”

The massive installation is part of the Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition, an annual visual art exhibition that attracts half a million people to the Italian city. Many countries have their own individual pavilions or venues to display work from their countries. This year Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati, and Nigeria are exhibiting for the first time and art critics note that much of this year’s work has a strong theme of social responsibility and sense of conscience.

Is Venice sinking or is the sea rising?

Venice’s unique infrastructure built on top of river sediment means that it is at risk of minor level changes from the compacting of ground beneath it. This was made worse in the 20th century due to a practice of pumping groundwater from beneath the city. By the time this stopped in the 1970s, the city had ‘sunk’ approximately 23cm due to a combination of subsidence and rising sea levels.

Panorama of Rialto Bridge and San Bartolomeo Church at Sunrise, Venice, Italy
Venice’s canals make it particularly vulnerable to climate change. Image by anshar/Shutterstock

Today, the subsidence has remained relatively stable and the city is most at risk from climate change. Floods along the canals are more frequent now than ever before, especially in the winter. Currently the MOSE project, which is responsible for building mobile flood barriers to protect the city, is due for completion in 2018. It is estimated that the barriers will protect the city from rising sea levels of up to one metre. And after that? MOSE general manager told the Guardian last year, “if water goes up more than one metre it is not Venice that is in peril, it is Italy.”