Outset England and Israel are jointly supporting psalm, an installation that celebrates history by Edmund de Waal, displayed in the 500-year-old Jewish Ghetto in Venice, coinciding with the opening of the 58th  Venice Biennale.

This is the project I have always dreamed of doing. It is about exile – what it means to have to move to another country, to speak another language. It brings new installations based on the Psalms, the poetry of exile, into some of the most beautiful spaces of the Ghetto, the first time some of these spaces have been used for contemporary art. And my library for the Ateneo – two thousand books within a porcelain-covered pavilion – will be the most significant sculpture of my life. It will be a new library reflecting Venice’s thousand years as a place of translation, a space to sit and read and be.”  – Edmund de Waal

psalm is an exhibition in two parts.

The first part is held within the Canton Scuola, the beautiful sixteenth-century synagogue in the Ghetto Nuovo, now part of the Jewish Museum. New installations of porcelain, marble and gold will reflect the literary and musical heritage of this extraordinary place, and a new text piece will celebrate the languages spoken here. For the first time, the Women’s Gallery within the synagogue will hold contemporary art. The intention is to animate spaces that are little known and little understood by visitors to the Biennale and to bring new audiences into the Ghetto.

The second part is based at the Ateneo Veneto, the fifteenth-century church near La Fenice Opera House that has been a historic centre for cultural debate in Venice. Here, de Waal is constructing a small building within the main space that will house two thousand books by exiled writers from Ovid to the present day. All these books will be in translation, reflecting the idea of language as migration. Four vitrines of porcelain vessels, based on Daniel Bomberg’s famous Renaissance printing of the Talmud, hang on the walls amongst the books. The structure itself will have an exterior coated with porcelain, laid over gold leaf, into which de Waal will inscribe the names of the lost libraries of the world. Inside there will be spaces to sit and read. It will be a place of contemplation and a place of dialogue.

psalm, Library of Exile, will be exhibited at the British Museum in London in 2020. The work will also be presented at the Japanisches Palais in Dresden from November 2019 to February 2020.

Edmund de Waal said:

The library of exile celebrates the cultures of migration, languages as diaspora. For it to continue its travels to Dresden and then London is wonderful. The rich cultural programme of events which started here in Venice will be immeasurably enriched by this new tour.

Throughout the Biennale there will be a programme of events, performances, readings, conversations, music and debates in both these venues. The programme will centre on the themes of translation, exile, migration, borders and diaspora. The intention is to bring the experiences of contemporary writers in exile into focus and to celebrate works in translation. There will also be events that focus on the cultures of Jewish Venice, on the psalms, on contemporary poetry and on publishing.

In the face of increasing intolerance, it is the ‘long journey of generosity’ of organisations such as Outset that enable us to deliver ambitious and engaged programmes, deeply committed to the fundamental messages of the arts, which are experimentation, multiplicity, love and inclusiveness.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, The Serpentine Galleries