Saype’s gigantic work in Venice lasts a few hours, but carries an imperishable message

At the Biennale 2022 the new episode of the project “Beyond Walls”, which wants to convey a simple but never so important message: humanity must learn to face together the global challenges, starting with the climate emergency.

Two hands shaking, a message of hope for the future in a world threatened by so many crises, the climate one first of all. Gigantic hands, destined to dissolve after a few days, taken away by atmospheric agents. This is the heart of the project “Beyond Walls” by Saype, which has so far touched 12 cities around the world and arrives at the Venice Biennale, promoted by Lavazza and part of the Venice Pavilion.

“Beyond Walls”, Saype, Venezia. Foto © Valentin Flauraud
“Beyond Walls”, Saype, Venice. Photo © Valentin Flauraud

A gigantic human chain of art that winds its way from the Champ de Mars in Paris to the mountains of Andorra, from the beach of Ouidah to the shacks of Cape Town and will soon arrive in Belfast and Rio, Brazil. Preserved only in photos, she reinvents herself by landing in Venice, where she finds space in a floating structure covered in grass, which will later be transplanted to a park in the city.

When he started this project, the goal was to take it to 30 cities, the artist tells Domus. “Now they don’t seem enough,” he comments during a chat after the presentation at the Biennale. This is because the basic concept of “Beyond Walls” is to find solutions to problems together. But the post-pandemic world is more divided than Saype, born in 1989, knew. Even in Switzerland, a country that is usually extremely peaceful, he explains, conflicts over mandatory vaccination have been felt. And then, of course, there are the international tensions, the war in Ukraine. “I’m scared,” he admits. But he is so in his own, optimistic way, of someone who believes - precisely - that we can still seek union, indeed that above all we must do so now, and quotes Portuguese thinker Miguel Torga, “the universal is the local minus the walls.”


On the subject of local, the discourse obviously slips on this first time in Venice. It is a fragile city, the artist emphasizes, and particularly symbolic for those who, like him, identify the climate crisis as one of the great challenges that humanity must face - together, of course. On the painted hands there are details that explicitly recall the climate theme, a tattoo that looks like a weather icon, a ring with the sun. In a few days, the paint will disappear, the grass will be recycled and only the photos will remain. One above all, the very powerful one of two hands on a green field, in a boat covered with grass, in the middle of the Grand Canal.

In Turin, in 2020, Saype had told us his idea of art, which in his opinion “is interesting when it is not for the elite”, when it has something to communicate to everyone. A message for change. Of this Biennale, he thinks there are some interesting things, that struck him, but many too conceptual, that didn’t reach him. “In this case I’d rather read a book, but it’s a subjective judgment,” he says. And then he quotes William Turner, the great British painter who for him is an example of that art that goes straight to the heart.


During the chat, there is also an opportunity to talk about his working method: all the hands Saype paints come from photographs he has taken around the world, filed anonymously, without faces or names. “So it can happen that I paint Federer’s hand together with that of a homeless person, and no one will know: yet in those hands, as in all hands, there is the history of the people to whom they belong.”

Accompanying the installation is an exhibition with vertical development, hosted in the Porta Nuova Tower of the Arsenale, which recounts the previous stages of the project and concludes with an overlook of this new, thirteenth work, created on a surface of 300 square meters. “Saype’s art, which perfectly embodies our values, is the ideal witness to the increasingly close relationship between visual arts and sustainability,” explained Francesca Lavazza, Board Member Lavazza Group. Here at the Biennale, the company is a partner of the Venice Pavilion, in addition to its collaboration with a fundamental institution of art in the lagoon such as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Francesca Lavazza e Saype
Francesca Lavazza and Saype, Biennale di Venezia

Opening image: “Beyond Walls”, Saype, Venice. Photo © Valentin Flauraud

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