Federico Solmi - Ship of Fools

Federico Solmi, pioneer of media art and one of the first to explore the boundary between physical and digital, returns to Italy after 20 years with the exhibition "SOLMI - Ship of Fools" in conjunction with the LX Venice Art Biennale.

Var Digital Art by Var Group is the main partner of this major solo exhibition, hosted within the walls of the 17th-century Palazzo Donà dalle Rose overlooking Fondamente Nove in the Venice lagoon, will pay tribute to his desecrating and subversive art, in an original interplay and interaction between analog and digital, blending black humor, social criticism, denunciation and a sense of the grotesque with new technologies.

The Exhibition

From 18 April to 28 July 28, 2024, Federico Solmi presents the exhibition "SOLMI - Ship of Fools" curated by Dorothy Kosinski and co-curated by Renato Miracco and realized in partnership with Var Digital Art by Var Group. The exhibition is supportted by other prestigious partners such as The Phillips Collection (Washington DC), The Carl& Marilynn Thoma Foundation (Chicago - Santa Fe) and the  contribution from APC - Schneider Electric.

During the three-month period, 10 video works, 10 paintings, a VR work, ceramic sculptures and a new monumental work inspired by Gericault's Raft of the Medusa will be presented, embedded in a fascinating exhibition itinerary designed for the occasion that spans 10 years of production, including eclectic and hybrid languages ranging from gaming to video, painting to film. The exhibition itinerary also features an innovative holographic sculpture, the first of its kind, which the artist developed in collaboration with Var Group sealing an exemplary relationship and prolific exchange between the artist's creativity and the company's know-how.

"The SOLMI - Ship of Fools exhibition is more than a traditional assemblage of individual works of art, but the artist choreographs them within an all-encompassing environment," explains curator Dorothy Kosinski, "using and challenging the historic environment of the building that houses it. The exhibition is a total work of art, shaped by the artist's vision using the most innovative technology available to create an immersive experience with music by Grammy Award-winning sound designer Marc Urselli and a holographic projection that breaks new ground."

The artist

Federico Solmi
Logo image

Federico Solmi was born in Bologna, Italy in 1973. Since 1999 he has lived and worked in New York. Solmi’s work utilizes bright colors and a satirical aesthetic to portray a dystopian vision of our present-day society. His exhibitions often feature articulate installations composed of a variety of media including virtual reality experiences, video installation, painting, drawing, and sculpture. Solmi uses his art as a vehicle to stimulate a robust conversation with his audience, highlighting the contradictions and fallibilities that characterize our time. Through his work, Solmi examines unconscious human impulses and desires in order to critique Western society’s obsession with individual success and display contemporary relationships between nationalism, colonialism, religion, consumerism. By re-configuring historical narratives across eras, he creates social and political commentary works which disrupt the mythologies that define American society. By merging his paintings with game engine aesthetics, Solmi’s videos confront the audience with his own absurd rewriting of past and present, merging dark humor and sense of the grotesque with new technologies. He creates a carnivalesque virtual reality where our leaders become puppets, animated by computer script and motion capture performance rather than string.

The artworks

Discover the works of Federico Solmi featured in the solo exhibition "SOLMI - Ship of Fools" created with the contribution of Var Group and Var Digital Art

The Var Digital Art by Var Group project, which brings together art, business and digital innovation, includes the display of the high-impact work “The Gracious Host, Donald Trump, 2024” which, projected on a luminous vertical LED wall, welcomes visitors into the grotesque, irreverent and subversive world of Federico Solmi.
Born from the meeting of the dynamic creativity of Solmi and the digital expertise of Var Group, “The Alluring Empress, Theodora” is an original holographic work in which the apparition of the iconic Byzantine empress Theodora combines the traditions of a glorious historical and artistic past with the technological innovation of our time.
Following a structured layout, the exhibition concludes with “The Painting Class, 2024”, an animated film projected on a large high-res LED wall which, perfectly soundtracked by maestro Marc Urselli, involves viewers in a unique sensory experience.

The Gracious Host, Donald Trump, 2024
Single channel video, 1 minutes and 22 seconds, loop

Immersed in an atmosphere of hellish colors, Donald Trump disguised as a high military authority fearlessly smokes a cigar as he welcomes the exhibition audience. Looking playful and irreverent, wearing sunglasses and a dandy suit, Trump assumes the role of an eager guest, the protagonist of what appears to be a parody of an official reception.

The Alluring  Empress, Empress Theodora,  2024
Olografic sculpture

This holographic work depicts the Byzantine Empress Theodora dancing in space in an evanescent ritual. It transforms the traditional material form of sculpture into an ephemeral contemporary work. A symbol of both ancient opulence and contemporary glamour, Theodora assumes the poses of a contemporary influencer who bewitches her audience in the form of a deceptive mirage.

The Painting Class, 2024
Single channel video, 0 minutes and 48 seconds, loop
Soundtrack by Marc Urselli

Exploring the classic theme of The Painter and the Model in the digital age, Solmi imagines visionary painter Elon Musk depicting his inspirational muse, Businesswoman Kim Kardashian. Unlike 20th-century masters like Picasso and Matisse, Musk paints with a digital airbrush on a tablet. Dressed in imaginative costumes of futuristic golden armor and medieval chainmail, these contemporary icons live in a timeless world of virtual enchantment.

The solo exhibition "SOLMI - Ship of Fools" also features 10 other video works, 10 paintings, ceramic sculptures and a new monumental work inspired by Gericault's Raft of the Medusa.

Partner of the project

Main partner