Meant to “humanize the invisible lives affected by war and terror”…

‘Number 207’: Hundreds of Sculptured Pieces of Underwear Displayed in Historic Catholic Church in Venice

(image credit: Luca Asta)

The 60th edition of the international art exhibition known as the Venice Biennale is currently underway in the eponymous city in northeastern Italy. It was kicked off this past Saturday, Apr. 20, and will last until Nov. 24 of this year.

According to Wikipedia,

The festival has become a constellation of shows: a central exhibition curated by that year’s artistic director, national pavilions hosted by individual nations, and independent exhibitions throughout Venice. The Biennale parent organization also hosts regular festivals in other arts: architecture, dance, film, music, and theater.


Needless to say, the Modernist-occupied Holy See (Vatican) is participating with its own national pavilion, and in fact ‘Pope’ Francis has announced he will visit the city for this occasion on Sunday, Apr. 28.

One of those “independent exhibitions” mentioned is being held by Iranian-born artist Reza Aramesh in the Church of San Fantin (or San Fantino), a building which is roughly 1000 years old. It was originally constructed, of course, for Roman Catholic worship, but has not been used as a church for a long time. In the early 19th century, Napoleon turned it into a site for his scientific-cultural academy, Ateneo Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti. For decades now it has been in the hands of the Vatican II Sect, which is clearly not putting it to good use either, as we will now see.

According to a report by Francesco Liggieri at, Aramesh’s bizarre exhibition began on Apr. 16 and will last until Oct. 2, 2024. Part of the artist’s sculptural series ‘NUMBER 207’, it consists chiefly of 207 pieces of men’s underwear carved from Carrara marble, spread out on the church floor. Liggieri explains:

These humble garments, deprived of the body that wore them, become tangible symbols of identity and loss, emphasizing the body as a political place and humanizing the invisible lives affected by war and terror.

Interesting is the artistic practice of Aramesh, which reveals the paradox of beauty and brutality, transforming historical subjects and images of conflict into sculptural forms that question the canon of Western art. All the works on display refer to archive images and war reports from the twentieth century to the present, with the curatorship and preparation that respond to the history of the Church of San Fantin, a place that in the past housed the condemned waiting for execution.

(Francesco Liggieri, “Venezia. Reza Aramesh e i 207 pezzi di biancheria intima maschile in marmo di Carrara”, ArtsLife, Apr. 17, 2024; computer translation.)

We should add that the ‘marble underwear’ (close-up image here) is being displayed under the title ‘Study of Sweatcloth’, clearly adding insult to injury.

No doubt the people visiting this affront will now “question their own perceptions and role in the contemporary world”, which is supposedly intended by Aramesh, as they “look at the nature of the human being, asking questions about dignity, autonomy and individual responsibility”.

As to the other work of the Iranian sculptor, here is, for example, his sculpture entitled ‘Metamorphosis – a Study in Liberation’, as featured in the English Gardens in Regent’s Park in London in 2017:

Aramesh’s Instagram page highlights plenty of other examples. It is difficult to describe in adjectives what one sees there — let’s just say that wholesome and edifying are two that do not come to mind.

As regards the underwear installation in the church of San Fantin, the man who ultimately bears responsibility for it is the ‘Patriarch-Archbishop’ of Venice, Francesco Moraglia (b. 1953), appointed to the post by ‘Pope’ Benedict XVI in 2012.

Contrary to what some might suspect at first, however, Mr. Moraglia was not blindsided by this. ArtsLife specifically notes that the exhibition is taking place in “collaboration with the Patriarchate Diocese of Venice”, among others, which suggests active cooperation on the part of the Novus Ordo diocesan authorities.

If Francis visits ‘NUMBER 207’ while he is in Venice this coming Sunday, no doubt he will be delighted.

Image sources: (cropped; Luca Asta) / Shutterstock (Ron Ellis)
Licenses: fair use / paid

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