University of Exeter: Stunning new exhibition connects computer art with the ancient tradition of glassmaking

A stunning new exhibition connecting paintings made by computers with the ancient tradition of glassmaking is part of major new research to document, exhibit and preserve digital art.

Icône 2020 is a sculpture created as part of a collaboration between curator and art historian Francesca Franco, Hungarian-born artist Vera Molnár, and a traditional Venetian glassmaker team, whose members are descendants of one of the historic families of Murano where the ancient technique of glassmaking originated in 1291.

The exhibition, part of the 59th La Biennale di Venezia, is part of the AHRC-funded project “Documenting digital art: re-thinking histories and practices of documentation in the museum and beyond”, which explores how to document, exhibit and preserve digital art. It is led by Professor Gabriella Giannachi from the University of Exeter. Francesca Franco is a Co-Investigator in the project.

This is Vera Molnár’s first ever glass sculpture in a career that spans over 80 years. The exhibition explores the process that made this sculpture possible, bringing together preparatory sketches, original plotter drawings and documentation material that reveal the complexities behind the making of Icône 2020, encouraging new thinking about sculpture and the unimaginable ramifications of computational art.

The new artwork is inspired by Vera Molnár’s first successful computer-based artwork created in 1975 (Computer-Icône/2), which in turn originated from a series of computer plotter drawings made in 1974 (Trapèzes).

Vera Molnár, born 1924 in Hungary, is one of the pioneers of computer and algorithmic arts. In 1968 she began working with computers, where she began to create algorithmic paintings based on simple geometric shapes with geometrical themes. Since the 1990s, her work has been featured in major international solo and group exhibitions and is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA NYC), the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Centre Pompidou. In 2005 she was the recipient of the first lifetime achievement award “d.velop digital art award [ddaa]”. In 2018 she won the AWARE Outstanding Merit Award (AWARE Prix d’Honneur), an award supported by the French Ministry of Culture that acknowledges leading female figures in the world of culture.