Edmund de Waal Venice Installation Confirmed For British Museum

Edmund de Waal Psalm Venice 2019 Photo © P C Robinson Artlyst

Edmund de Waal is to exhibit his profoundly beautiful Venice Biennale collateral work, ‘Psalm’, Library of Exile, at the British Museum in London in 2020. The work will also be presented at the Japanisches Palais in Dresden from November 2019 to February 2020.

The library of exile celebrates the cultures of migration, languages as diaspora – Edmund de Waal

Psalm was one of the highlights of this year’s Venice event. It consists of a two-part exhibition situated in the Ateneo Veneto and the Jewish Museum in the Ghetto. In the Ateneo Veneto, a 16th-century building that has been a meeting place for cultural debate in Venice for over two centuries, de Waal has created a library in a temporary pavilion holding almost 2000 books by exiled writers.

Edmund de Waal Psalm Venice 2019 Photo © Artlyst
Edmund de Waal Psalm Venice 2019 Photo © Artlyst

The external walls were painted with liquid porcelain and gold leaf into which de Waal has inscribed the names of the lost libraries of the world. Alongside the bookshelves, there is a quartet of new vitrines containing porcelain vessels and page-like brackets of steel. Visitors are encouraged to sit, read and contemplate.

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum said: “Edmund de Waal’s library of exile addresses questions that matter: How can we share ideas across the world to shape the future, how can we translate great works of great minds from one language to another, how can we assimilate and transform things of the past and from different cultures into new meaning to understand ourselves.

His library is a space of learning, contemplation, of debate and dialogue, as is the British Museum. The Museum is a great library of significant objects from all continents that help us to understand the cultures of the past, navigate the present, and together prepare the future”.

Julia Weber, Director of the Porcelain Collection at the Japanisches Palais Dresden said: “I am absolutely thrilled that the installation psalm will travel to the Japanisches Palais in Dresden. Edmund has always had a strong connection to the place of the invention of European porcelain. In his book „The White Road“ he describes his fascination with Augustus the Strong‘s royal porcelain palace. The Japanisches Palais later became a public library that was partly destroyed in World War II and it is therefore in both respects an iconic place for Edmund‘s poetic work psalm. I am certain that it will resonate again in this specific historic setting.”

Edmund de Waal said: “The library of exile celebrates the cultures of migration, languages as diaspora. For it to continue its travels to Dresden and then London is wonderful. The rich cultural programme of events which started here in Venice will be immeasurably enriched by this new tour. “

The other part of the exhibition in Venice is located in the north of the archipelago, in the Jewish Museum, in the Venetian Ghetto. Ten of de Waal’s recent works have been installed in the spaces around the Canton Scuola, a beautiful sixteenth-century synagogue in the Ghetto Nuovo, which is now part of the museum. These new installations of porcelain, marble and gold reflect the literary and musical heritage of this extraordinary place.

The Library of Exile at the British Museum is supported by the AKO Foundation.

Top Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2019

Venice Exhibition dates: 
8th May – 29 September 2019

British Museum 12 March 2020 – 08 September 2020 – FREE – Visit

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