Aristide Najean, Glass Artist (VE)
The life of French artist Aristide Najean seems the romantic plot of a Bohemian novel: the time spent in Algeria during the war, where his father was serving the French Army, the years of passionate research into Spanish Matadors’ folklore, Greek classical mythology, Italian Renaissance culture, constantly learning new artistic techniques…Then the encounter with the Venetian Dolce Vita and the love at first sight with Murano, a liaison that will create absolute glass masterpieces. The artist’s luminous glass sculptures can be admired in the most iconic Venice luxury spots, such as Palazzina G and Fondaco dei Tedeschi, in private homes as well as in the finest hotels in the world such as The Dorchester in London, Plaza Athénée in Paris and the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.
Since its childhood, Najean has loved to experiment different forms of art that he deeply explored with great curiosity: painting in the first place, engraving, architecture, fresco techniques…In 1986 he discovered Murano glass, soon becoming aware of all of its secrets thanks to the “skills exchange” with glass master Mario Badioli (he introduced Aristide to the art of shaping glass, while the French artist taught him the art of painting). The result of this collaboration is a series of remarkable works of art in which the artistic techniques learned over the years by the artist find the perfect synthesis in the unique and original shapes, often zoomorphic, that Najean loves to create depending on the inspiration of the moment. Following the many collaborations with world famous architects and designers such as Jean–Michel Wilmotte, Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku, Bruno Moinard and Philippe Starck (with whom he created the stunning interiors of Palazzina Grassi) the artist strengthened his bond with Venice, to the point that in 2015 he decided to take over the historic furnace in Murano that once belonged to master glassmaker Alfredo Barbini, called The Cathedral.
It is here, in this oasis of peace, among the impressive high walls with cobalt blue glass windows and the floor that the artist personally painted (and that he often uses as a “drawing board” for his sketches) that all his works are born. The creative process starts with a compound made of sand of Fontainbleau (renowned for being the purest one), soda-ash, limestone (each glass master has his own personal “recipe” for making glass), which is melted @ 1400°. The resulting mass of glass is molded and sculptured by hand, employing the same tools that were used thousands of years ago, cooled down (a process necessary for the stabilisation of the energetic tensions of the material, so that the glass does not break), and then passed onto the cutting phase before reaching the assembly room where the works are assembled.
Today, the highest expression of Najean’s genius is his signature chandeliers, complex sculptures made up of hundreds of handmade pieces designed one by one by the artist, a process that could take over three months to be completed. Among his latest collaborations, the one with Baccarat, the iconic symbol of French crystal, combines for the first time in history the two legendary rival traditions, namely Murano and Bohemia, in a surprising triumph of zoomorphic figures on one hand and sparkling papilles on the other.
The artist’s creations can exclusively be purchased in Murano at La Cattedrale, a one-of-a-kind atelier where are displayed the most recent artworks “in the making” as well as a permanent collection of Najean’s paintings and furniture collections.
Where: Murano, a little island in Venice North lagoon, easily reachable via waterbus from Piazzale Roma of Fondamenta Nove
When: La Cattedrale, the artist’s atelier, is open to the public only during special events, such as The Venice Glass Week, or upon appointment
Why: to get to know one of the most iconic glass artists in the world
How: visit Palazzina G and Amo @ Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice to see Najean’s works of art immersed in an outstanding historical setting, or book a visit @ La Cattedrale in Murano to see the artist’s amazing creative den and discuss the commission of a project (lucky you!)