Advertising in Venice

What do you think of this?  This article from the Art Newspaper (Nov. 12, 2008) should get you thinking about how we preserve our cities and monuments.  Should advertisers be allowed to post ads on monuments that are covered with scaffolding and under restoration?  Is the money coming in from ads worth the desecration of the monuments?  Is it desecration?  Are these ads recalling Venice’s history as a commercial center?

Here is a recent view (from Flickr) showing the Molo and Sansovino’s work in the Piazzetta that John was discussing the other day.  Remember Whistler’s depiction of the scene?

A link to yet another image that suggests the setting of Venice has become the package for selling fine goods and a lifestyle.

8 thoughts on “Advertising in Venice

  1. I feel like the idea that these large-scale ads don’t:“detract from the appearance, decorum or public enjoyment of the building” is completely false. They seem very distracting and even hinder the views of the structures/monuments themselves. I know I for one would be disappointed if, upon visiting St. Mark’s Square, I was met with a massive poster for the latest blockbuster movie or for an ad selling a high-priced watch. The measure of what does or does not take away from the beauty of these buildings is problematic. Where will the line be drawn? How many ads are they going to allow? I understand that in this economic climate funds have to be raised somehow to pay for the upkeep, restoration, and protection of these monuments, but I’m just worried that allowing ads in St. Mark’s Square is akin to a slippery slope. What if in 20 years this area is just another neon-illuminated, commercialized Times Square? Essentially, I feel like there must be a better solution to raise funds. Or, if nothing else, there needs to be strict criteria/guidelines for the size, number, types, and placement of these advertisements.

  2. I agree. And the analogy to Times Square is perfect. Times Square is what it is (it isn’t a place I enjoy)…and it isn’t Venice.
    For years, scaffolds in Italy have been covered with a cloth that shows a photograph/printed image of the building they cover. This is a delightful trompe l’oeil element that allows a viewer to get an idea of a building even when it is mostly or entirely covered. The ads, on the other hand, seem to be quite obtrusive.

  3. I completely agree with Jesse. I was in disgusted shock when I first saw that massive ad covering such a beautiful building. But then I started to wonder if it might be worth it economically. That ad placement must cost millions, and if that is millions going into preserving Venice for future generations, I say its worth it. I’d rather see an ad-ridden Venice, than a Venice where half the buildings have fallen down.

  4. As the Managing Director of the UK company responsible for these temporary adverts in St Mark’s Square in Venice I would like to say the following.

    Without sponsorship of the restoration project through tempoary advertising these wonderful, historic buildings would not survive for future generations to enjoy as you are doing now. Have any of your readers personally contributed to the up keep of Venice and its buildings?

    Without our massive financial commitment to the project these buildings would be left to crumble until they have to be covered in a scaffold for many more years just to keep them from falling on you when you visit Venice.

    We have been restoring the Marcian Library for 2 years now without adverse comment but now the editor of Arts Newspaper has taken a personal dislike to the adverts she is pumping these rumours and half truths to anybody who will listen

    This is a short term issue for the long term good of Venice but we don’t expect to be persecuted for doing something positive rather than just talking about it.

  5. This comment is written in response to that of Harvey of the UK advertising company. I agree that sponsorship of restoration projects is essential, and Harvey makes a very good point in asking how many of us contribute to the upkeep of Venice.
    I would suggest however, that his firm consider that the visitors to Piazza San Marco are not in the same frame of mind they might be if visiting Times Square or Piccadilly Circus; I would hope not, anyway. His firm is to be applauded for supporting restoration; perhaps future ad campaigns could be more subtle — I have often seen scaffolding around buildings in Italy decorated with an image of the facade beneath (the Ducal Palace had such last year when I last visited). Choosing to do this with an advertising banner along the side or bottom would create the awareness that Harvey’s firm desires while showing sensitivity to the enormous cultural and spiritual essence of the Piazza.

  6. Sponsorship is necessary, and no one can seriously oppose it. However! Obliterating buildings with massive advertisements that not only obstruct views, but also detract from the environment around them is going too far. Venice had far too many of these and they were very distracting and honestly just sad. I agree with Preston Thayer above. Show some sensitivity to the spirit of Venice; return to the trompe l’oeil images and place banner like ads along the bottom (side if you must).
    After my first day of visiting San Marco, I sat in the hotel reading my guide book. I saw the photo and remarks about the Bridge of Sighs and wondered how I could have missed it. I returned in the morning and there it was (and I had photographed it unknowingly) INSIDE an advertisement.
    Harvey, Managing Director of the UK company responsible, YES! We do contribute to the restoration of these buildings infusing dollars into the economy: every time we travel to Venice to see the city, every time we pay admission to one of these historic sites, every time we buy a book, postcard, or photograph, every time we leave money as a donation… if Christo decides to wrap all of Venice in cloud covered blue fabric, I won’t spend my dollars to go see it- It’s art, but not the art I go to Venice to see firsthand.
    How would you respond to a massive Big Mac on one of those buildings as opposed to a Rolex watch? There’s essentially no difference.

  7. Karen,
    I am sure you will appreciate that the adverts do not obliterate the majority of the building. All our advertising sites in the Piazza and the piazzetta have only covered a maximum of a third of the real facade.

    The majority of the tourist money you spend in Venice doesn’t go to the restoration of the buildings but to the upkeep of the systems (water, sewerage and flood protection) to support the 25 million annual tourists who each do their bit to cause the deterioration of the city!

    (PS the over the top Bridge of Sighs advertising for Lancia is not one of ours but by an Italian advertising company!)

  8. One third of any of the facades in Venice currently under restoration is a large expanse… The images on the ads distort one’s understanding and appreciation of how the structure fits into the context of an early modern or modern city. These images also feed into what I can only describe as an unenlightened sense of Venice…or indeed any of the historical cities where such ads (by whatever company) appear.

    “Obliteration” refers not only to the physical invisibility of the structure, but to the “enlightenment” such structures offer viewers who have, perhaps, never considered the similarities between Venice in 1453 (for Venice a moment of great prosperity and authority over the Mediterranean and also a time when Europeans were struggling with the reality of an expanding Islamic power) and our own experiences in the West today. Prosperity, global relations, conflicts between religious groups — early modern Venice and the stones, bricks, timbers, and waters on which this city rests — have a great deal to teach us…if we stop to look and listen. We need opportunities to think about this. This is a complex history that offers us much to consider regarding social welfare, negotiations, trade, commerce, business, religious expression, and so much more. Are we to ignore what history might say to us, and instead look only at what might quench our immediate desires (the Rolex)? Can we use this advertising space to address what Venice offers…if we take the time to think about it? Or shall we continue ignoring — obliterating — the evidence?

    Harvey, I’m delighted you have chosen to speak with us. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *