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the venice doors tale

By 05 JanJanuary 25th, 2021No Comments

francisco teles da gama . january 2021

I.

the intricate canals bathed the sumptuous ancient city of venice. the gondolas played their violin notes in this nautical orchestra, composed of all kinds of vessels. tourists jumped along the immemorial sidewalks in a frenzy of dreams and promised carnivals. the bows and the loggie of the palazzi denounced much guarded secrets, delimited by the venetian borders of the artist’s fabulous existence. 

            the waters began to tide even more and the waves spread through the canals, in a disordered symphony, calling for a new manifesto. the wooden boat was approaching and carried in its arms a girl with hair in the wind and creative look. the sun contrasted with the light that radiated from her gestures and ideas. finally, the motorboat parked and the slender girl left for piazza di san marco. her presence in that mythical place had as her only goal to find employment in the world of arts and culture. despite her mastery in the plastic arts, her work experience in numerous museums and galleries, it was not easy to find a place where she felt fulfilled and gave her the so desired stability. all the places closed the door to her, but she had the intuition that it would be in the city she loved that she would discover the future that awaited her. she traveled without thinking about it, in a sudden and hopeful attitude. she didn’t regret it for a second. all the monumentality of the city, blown by medieval and renaissance winds, raised her artistic spirit. she painted infinite canvases and composed melomaniac poems in her moleskine, building the literary bridge with joseph brodsky. 

            but in spite of everything, she was not finding the right path to a new professional life. nobody seemed to be looking for her multiple talents. until one night, she went to drink a campari spritz to caffé florian and discovered several artists who feasted on delicious delicacies and watered their meal with prosecco. realizing they were talking about canaletto’s painting and how he immortalized venice forever and ever, the girl entered the conversation and talked so much about painting and the arts she adored that she instantly fascinated the bohemian group. the obscure night went by and the revelry of the guests was increasing. the restaurant closed and the artists ran out of land to debate their exciting ideas. suddenly, a question popped up in the air as they prepared to head to their homes.

            – where do you work? – a curious sculptor asked.

            – right now i’m unemployed – answered our heroine.

            – with all the intelligence and the knowledge you showed us tonight? that’s impossible – said the same artist astonished. 

            – they are blind, for sure – added a painter. 

            they all got together in conclave and then presented their verdict to the disoriented girl. 

            – as we want to see your future and understand how far you can go, we give you this key – said the painter, giving her an old and very simple key – with it you can open all the doors, but you must know how to find them.

            – there are many friends out there who can help you in this quest – one historian explained.

            – and friends of friends too – added a curator. 

            – thanks, but you didn’t tell me who you are – the girl asked.

            – we are your friends in the arts! – the curator answered with a smile.

            saying these unexplained words they disappeared into the haze of the night, enveloped by fog and the lunar light. 

II.

the next morning the young artist woke up in her apartment and did not wait any longer to open the windows and taste the winds of change. she was prepared for a great adventure. she would try to unlock all those doors that she thought were closed in the past. even without knowing what was waiting for her on the other side.

            she thought that the best place to discover those secret doors was in the centenary biblioteca marciana, right in the center of the city. she spent a whole day leafing through ancient books, portentous writings of rare beauty. unfortunately, she did not learn what she wanted, the atlases spoke of other destinations and eras. the library was preparing to close when she saw a door in exotic woods, topped by a stained-glass window. 

            – the library closes in ten minutes – announced the librarian in a low tone of voice. 

            the curious artist did not wait any longer, put the key in the lock, turned the handle and entered without fear. 

            the destiny that awaited her was the city of london, she stood at sotheby’s door and was static admiring everything around her. until a lady touched her shoulder.

            – good morning! aren’t you coming in?

            – shall i come in? – our traveler asked in amazement.

            – of course, we need you to evaluate some pieces that will be auctioned soon. we are lucky to have your extraordinary contribution to the investigation.

            – am i a researcher?

            – the best! but now enough talk, we have to get to work.

            after this sentence, they entered the headquarters and began to learn about their duties. the researcher was reputed in the area and was repeatedly called to the national gallery and the victoria and albert museum to evaluate roman sculptures, paintings by william turner or medieval documents. her talent was appreciated by all, who earned her a top place in art history.

            one afternoon, while doing research at the british museum library, she glimpsed a door identical to the one she found in venice. knowing the risk she was taking and the possibility of never reaching this future so propitious, she took a step forward and went through the door, which would take her back to the immeasurable shelves of biblioteca marciana.

            if she learned anything in this epic adventure is that friends in the arts had given her the key to the future, the secret that opens all the doors of the world.  

III.

venice longed for the return of the heroine and felt her sad absence. the vaporetti followed the usual route through the canals and in an unsuspected apartment the artist immortalized in watercolors her last crossing. she thought of long evenings as that simple key could pronounce her bearer’s apogee. she was convinced that she would meet the owners of the ferocious artifact again, but she never set eyes on them again. 

            one night she went to vino vero restaurant for dinner and heard the soft strings of the violin in the distance. they dropped timeless notes and revealed the melody of la foresta incantata and the inordinate genius of francesco geminiani, who, like our artist, had lived in london. she had a light meal, composed by prosciutto, parmiggiano, focaccia and a brusqueta with burrata, watered by a frascati wine. after having exaggerated in italian gastronomy, she still felt the harmony of geminiani’s violin. she left the restaurant in a hurry and chased the musical notes, in a long way. the melody seemed to extend all over the city. finally, she solved the mystery when came across a violinist who played right in front of the gran teatro la fenice. the girl was delighted and placed a few pounds on the hat that was on the floor. as soon as the violinist stopped playing, he passed the attention to his only audience, which applauded enthusiastically. 

            – do you like baroque music?

            – i admire music in general and also baroque – replied the girl – i gauge your talent.

            – thank you, but this is nothing – he took his hat and saw the pounds left by the listener – did you live in london as francesco geminiani?

            – more or less, you could say so.

            – you should go and watch this composition in orchestra, which will be performed in minutes at la fenice.

            – there should be no more tickets.

            – who needs them when you have a friend? – informed the musician – come on, i know a secret entrance. 

            our heroine went after the musician through a narrow street next to the theater. they stopped in the middle, in front of a wooden door flanked by bricks.

            – you can go in! – invited the boy.

            the brave melomaniac pushed the door, but it would not budge. 

            – it won’t open – she warned her guide, who had mysteriously disappeared.

            she became suspicious with all this periphery but remembered that the key she was carrying could help in some way, anything was possible since her last odyssey. she turned the key and let herself into the streets of new york, right in front of a skyscraper. she had arrived at the offices of the art newspaper, where she wrote art criticism. the reputation she was building led her to publish short stories in the new york times and edit her latest poetic anthology. she visited moma exhibitions, under the terrified gaze of the curators, who hoped to receive a good critique of that sum of the world of arts and journalism. the galleries looked forward to her arrival. new york moved through the pen of our heroine. she always carried her camera with her, ready to capture the most iconic moment to appear on any variety cover. 

            central park stripped the lush green and gave way to that year’s autumn-winter collection. bethesa terrace was the place chosen for the writer to reflect on the next step in her masterly career. 

            she returned to the newsroom with a lot of material to organize. no one pestered her creative genius. she was still writing on the underwood typewriter that serguei dovlatov left in new york. it gave her more inspiration and helped her keep her ideas in order. those introspective moments were the guarantee that the articles would be a considerable success. 

            on some nights, it was possible to find her in a bar listening to jazz and chameleonic music, while chatting with the new york intelligentsia. she exchanged views with truman capote, as well as with amor towles, always keeping the rules of civility. 

            on one of those autumn mornings, she went to visit the met cloisters and was completely surrendered to the medieval objects and the gothic vaults, which reminded her of another past life, when she still lived in the romantic canals of venice. an oak door intrigued her by the resemblance to another ancient portal. she took the key, the much forgotten one at the bottom of her coat pocket and entered again through that passage. 

            it broke through the room of la fenice, arousing high and leafy comments from the attentive spectators.

            – shhhh! – said a well-dressed and dignified gentleman, putting his finger close to his lips.

            she sat down and listened to the melody of monteverdi, a composer who fell in love with the beautiful city that the artist once again embraced. 

IV.

after another adventure, the appetite appeals to the instinct for culture and local italian gastronomy. there is always time to discover new restaurants, full of tasty delicacies and nectars. here’s to the success with friends that she has been making through the city’s laneways. 

            she brought enough dollars to let herself be involved by the environment and dedicate herself to painting and poetry for a longer time, maybe one day she would exhibit her paintings in the accademia. for now, she was just going to visit this broad place of mystery and curiosity. she admired tintoretto, tiziano, da vinci and canaletto, trying to pursue the purpose of their timeless message. in her relaxed walk she went through all the history of renaissance painting. only the closed gothic doors made her go back and try the key, without any hope. it was at that moment that a girl appeared and said she could not go in there. a minor detail for our heroine, who opened one of the doors and entered the new world, followed by the unknown.

            they landed in kassel, germany, where she was a respected and recognized artist invited to exhibit her most brilliant works at documenta.

            – where am i? – the accademia employee asked confused.

            – i’m sorry, but this shouldn’t happen. do you want to embark on this adventure with me?

            – i don’t think i have another solution. what are we doing here?

            – i don’t know yet, but i’m going to find out – replied the painter.

            the announcement of her professional apogee was manifested by the sculptors and painters who called her and flattered her even more. the unknown girl ended up accompanying our artist and became great friends. the exhibition of her canvases would lead the most renowned critics to earn her a leading place in contemporary art. 

            the friends were living a real dream. the installations created by the former assistant were an astonishment and earned praise from all art lovers.

            – simply beautiful, a hecatomb heir to the greatest geniuses of human creation – announced a guide to a group of visitors amazed by the talent demonstrated there.

            inseparable artists, they captured the attention of all audiences, even the most demanding. they had workshops all over the world. there was a lot of ink in the evening newspapers and champagne in the vernissages of their opulent exhibitions. 

            the drums and bugles issued approvals, in an inexhaustible corner of greatness. they were in exhibition at inhotim, in brazil, at gulbenkian, in portugal, but it was the success achieved in japan that i want to report to you. 

            the mori art museum exhibited its celebrated glass structure and showed the aesthetics and brilliance of the artistic inventions of thousands of outstanding artisans. springtime flashed in the artists’ countenances, the apogee arrived with friendly courtesy and invited them to a princely ballet. nothing seemed to disturb the vibrant sonnets, composed in their honor. but the distinctive bolt of a locked door perished fate. they opened the door and returned to accademia, under the sigh of discouragement of our artist’s new friend. the normal boredom of life magnified the nefarious presence. 

V.

normality has returned to the summer days of venice, even if there is not a single boring day in the canals of the city of marco polo. this traveler shared an odyssey with the lowly artist, who rested without being able to fall asleep. she thought of the wonderful challenges that small and insignificant key had brought her. marco polo had to obey kublai khan, the artist was accountable to her future. this identity is a much more demanding master and does not expect slip-ups from us. 

            her friend challenged her to have a drink at the end of one of those magnificent afternoons. it seems she was bringing an auspicious novelty and could not contain herself with joy. the circumspect main actress of this tale moved in disconcerted and slow steps until she reached caffé ai artisti. she sat down at a table by the window and waited for the company, which appeared smiling and drowned by the long trail, traversed by long steps.

            the trivial conversation was superseded by the revelation she longed to tell her friend.

            – i got a job at accademia, you’re looking at one of the new responsible for the conservation and restoration of the paintings stored in those endless corridors. 

            – many congratulations! you mean i won’t have your company in my adventures through the doors of this city anymore?

            – unfortunately, i don’t think so, but i want you to come visit me more often at the gallery. i’ll make sure to keep those doors tightly closed, so as not to appear brave robbers – said the conservative, while smiling with a sly air.

            they drank their favorite spritz and laughed at stories they had lived in the four corners of the world. the memory of past glories brought a bitter taste to the coffee that the artist drank at the end of the meeting. 

            they said goodbye, with the promise of future meetings. the channels led curious tourists to experience the aromas and colors of a venice about to dusk. the girl caught a vaporetto and went to the piazza di san marco, she wanted to unwind, knowing that her apartment would not bring her peace and quiet.  

            the grandeur of the basilica extended its overwhelming aura on all passers-by. under a sad sigh, the artist penetrated the interior of the monument, letting herself be infected by architecture and painting. the medieval and renaissance period came together to bring to light a wonderful portent of the human cog. but the gaze of our heroine would always stop at the doors she found along the way. she looked everywhere and realized that no one was looking at her. at that moment she took the key out of her coat pocket and tested it on a wooden door, topped by a venetian griffon. this mythological species transported her to another location. the door hid paris and a secret specter of freedom.

            she was professor of archaeology at the sorbonne university. strangely enough, the students were attentive in their classes. the way she taught, she showed a lightness and fascination in her words, which led many students to stay at the end of class to bombard the teacher with infinite questions. 

            when she had access to a sabbatical year, she soon took the opportunity to travel to various destinations, undertaking excavations or simple explorations through land already cleared. this is how we saw her arrive in petra, jordan, or in the sumerian city of nineveh, iraq. as george smith once deciphered the epic of gilgamesh, now the archaeologist discovered new artifacts that proved the existence of this mythical king of the city of uruk. 

            egypt followed, in an assault of slang and clichés, but no inch of the valley of the kings remained to be investigated. machu picchu, was another of the destinations, but the tourists did not help to a more interesting visit. she was invited by the municipality of lisbon to intervene in the archaeological excavation of castelo de são jorge. not by chance, she made the discovery of a 13th century sword belonging to king d. dinis. it was undeniable that she accumulated conquests everywhere she went. 

            one sunny morning, he woke up in the canvas tent, with the indistinct sound of macaws. he had been in the amazon jungle for a week and the mosquitoes were too much company. he had decided to discover the ancient civilization that had lived there, according to the discoveries made by percy fawcett. although this explorer died in 1925 trying to prove his theory, it would be different now. 

            she left the tent and inspected the entire surrounding area with the help of the solar star. she traveled rough tracks, saw ferocious animals and was not afraid to attack, leaving the team behind. suddenly, she notices that there is a lock on the canopy of samaúma, a tree that she stumbles on the way. i think you already know the rest of the story. 

            after entering this unique door, she arrives at the basilica di san marco and tries to pass unnoticed by the whole flood of visitors. 

            – are you in the group for the 1 pm visit? – asked a guide who saw her half confused.

            – no, but i’m an eternal tourist of the world – she notes confidently of her plan.

VI.

the letters had accumulated in the mailbox of her apartment, or should i say workshop? since the space was transformed into distinct artistic confluences. the brushes and guerrilla pencils were dancing through the space in the drawer, the paper was dancing through every nook and cranny of the room, the pens were digging for a glimmer of attention from their owner, and the canvases were leaning against the damp walls. 

            after returning from the adventurous expeditions, she collected the envelopes and began to read the senders, realizing that they were several venetian friends. the landlady asked for the rent arrears. the violinist invited her to another concert, this time in teatro san cassiano. the conservator friend, in a desperate attempt to understand what had become of her. and a sealed letter from the friends in the arts, which left her very intrigued.

            at that moment she understood that she could not abandon all those friendships to her own destiny. she tried to invite the violinist and her friend to la biennale di venezia together, in that month of change, which is september. 

            she met them and did not have to explain much, for both of them to understand that she had entered another epic, hidden behind those immemorial doors. they were curious to discover more of italian cinema. they had experienced and daring directors as guides.

            nanni moretti opened his caro diario and told them about rome, the noble art of writing and the dreams we long for. our artist was amazed by the intimacy, the intense and melancholic form, with which nanni confessed. they couldn’t keep their eyes off the canvas, in an eagerness to drink all the words of the master.

            rome continued to offer her unburdened vistas full of history, in a heavenly chorus. the echo was duplicated in a messianic film for any artist, created by paolo sorrentino. la grande bellezza told the chords of the unforgettable writer giuseppe gambardella, in an introspective and unique walk. the traveler did not forget jep’s advice.

            – it is all a trick.

            – don’t the doors lead me to my dreams? – she asked curiously.

            – venice is your dream, as rome was mine – he said this sentence and turned her back, catching an abandoned boat. from what the gossip said, he left for naples, his homeland.

            she understood that her place was in the infinity of venetian canals and not in the unknown dawn of what awaited her behind the hidden doors. it was a long way, now she had to follow her own path and spread that secret everywhere.

            as she struggled with these deep introspections, her two friends engaged in variegated conversations and were falling in love. she felt happy to have brought that very artistic couple together. 

            she knew which way to go, she had to answer the letter from her sponsors. she followed the fatalistic footsteps of the future and asked for a campari spritz.

            – are you waiting for someone? – asked caffé florian‘s employee.

            – yes, from a group of friends.

            she heard a poet recite verses to the wind, reflecting the star’s misfortune and vibrating the strings of discouragement.

a troubadour is crestfallen

i am no exception to the rule 

nothing makes me happy

i don’t fit in here

i know my pains 

of losses and disaffections

be you happy, empty soul

i here, renounce joy.

            the verses showed a cold cadence for a decadent nostalgia. there was no way for the artist to forget each syllable of what was uttered. she got up and went to the dying poet.

            – i think this key is yours – she told the writer, while giving him the singular object – with it you will be able to open all the doors of the world.

            – what should i do with this key? – he asked, eagerly grasping the artifact.

            – the past is the key to the future – answered the girl.

            – thank you for your help, i won’t forget.

            he took the lute and left without a trace. 

            our heroine returned to her seat, where the artists she was waiting for were sitting.

            – hello, we came to have a drink with you and ask you for the key back – informed the curator.

            the girl looked down, not knowing how to explain to them that she no longer had the object that belonged to them.

            – i gave it to a poet who needed it more than i did – she finally said.

            – you really didn’t need it anymore, the key is yourself – commented the curator – now you have understood the real meaning of the doors, they are for everyone.

            – you helped an artist. we no longer have work to do for today – the sculptor was happy – the next round is on us.

            the friends in the arts celebrated and toasted the girl who took the giant step of calling herself an artist instead of an eternal traveler. 

VII.

i, the narrator of these miraculous accomplishments, saw myself in the venetian idyllic setting. the brickwork conquered my gaze and the water flowed through the canals of my imagination.

            i was invited by the distinguished painter and curator of the peggy guggenheim collection to have a drink at caffé florian, which really amazed me. it would be fabulous if i could interview her. her works of art were considered pieces of very high artistic quality, which had already been exhibited at la biennale di venezia and documenta, in addition to exhibitions at ocean space and tate modern. it was a relief for those more demanding critics. when i received her letter, i was stunned. i could not believe that i would know that living myth. 

            i sat down and ordered a coffee while i took out my notebook and a worn-out pen, as much as it had served in its function of writing. the day was sunny, and carnival was fast approaching the city. 

            i notice that a radiant and confident girl crosses piazza di san marco in a determined way. she sits in front of me and talks to the employee.

            – pietro, the usual, please.

            – certainly, signora.

            then she turns her attention to me.

            – good afternoon, thank you for coming from so far away to hear me.

            – i did not want to miss the opportunity to meet such a fascinating artist.

            – then you will know how i got here – said the girl while receiving her campari spritz – i would like you to publish my story, do you agree?

            – it will be an honor – i answered with excitement.

            she was telling me all the nuances of a feely experience and of outlines of fantastic realism. this epic is what i have delegated to you throughout these seven chapters. obviously, i did not believe what she was telling me, but at the end of the conversation i had a clear proof of the truth of the facts.

            – what do you think?

            – it is very interesting – i answered in a tone of amazement – do you want me to publish a fantasy novel? i appreciate your ideas.

            – i realize that you do not take me seriously – saying these words, the artist got up and paid the bill – come with me, i will show you that i am right.

            i did not know how to react to all that, but i followed her through the bridges of venice until we reached the guggenheim, where we stopped in front of its metal gate.

            – the gate is locked today but try to open it with this key – she held out a simple old key to me – i only ask you to return the key and i wish you could tell the world about the doors it opens.

            – rest assured, i will write everything down.

            i took the artifact and opened the gate. now i work as a researcher in the cathedral of seville and i teach medieval history at the university of this city full of history. the long walks along the guadalquivir river, reflect the dreams achieved. the countless orange trees in the garden of the real alcázar fill with bellowing the promises of a more heroic future.

            i send this letter with the whole odyssey of the curator of venice and the key that made her famous, in the hope that it will help other artists to open the endless doors that are hidden in this world. friends in the arts are everywhere. in every museum, gallery, university or garden. so that all the poetic and pictorial roots blossom and become undefeated trees of the immortality of our talents.   

            the canals keep on dancing, do not miss this dance.

FITA presents the venice doors tale. originally at friends in the arts, francisco teles da gama‘s brilliantly describes the accessibility to the art market secret doors. chronicling the fictional relationship between a woman and her dear friends in the arts, the venice doors tale is an essential read for anyone curious about the international art market, or actively seeking a job in the arts and culture.

soon will be published and available in a nearby store.⁠

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