One of Venice’s most important landmarks, the Bridge of Sighs, has been hijacked by advertising that completely covers the east side of the Palazzo Ducale and its adjacent building, presumably in order to protect and pay for restoration work. The ad in question is an image of a blue sky punctuated by totally irrelevant images of models with oversized jewelry and the word BULGARI in massive type that will figure prominently in every Japanese tourist’s uncritical photo of the space. It even wraps around to the facade on the Grand Canal. The bridge itself is reduced to but a small and insignificent bit of marble that is barely noticeable in this context, while the lighting is so bright that one can see the ad from the Isola San Giorgio Maggiore across the way.

How could Venice’s superintendant of Culture, not to mention the Soprintendenza dei Beni Artistici, let this blatant advertising be displayed around the famous bridge? A similar attempt to place an advertisement for Esselunga’s collection of Sambonet forks on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence last year was met by harsh criticism by Giuliano da Empoli and lasted less than a week before it was taken down amidst protests, though not before Esselunga agreed to continue sponsoring the restoration without the visible advertising. When Gucci paid to restore the facade of Santo Spirito in Florence a few years ago, the scaffolding reproduced the building’s distinctive shape and simply said “Gucci”, rather than being plastered with a photo of a purse. We know that restoration costs a pretty penny but really, Venice, you might have come to a a more discreet agreement with the sponsor; for example, the image of the sky and the lighting could be carried through the space, the wording “Bulgari” could be evident, and only on the grand canal facade might there be an image of the models and product.

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Public opinion on the matter seems in line with mine (how could it not be) although I’m surprised that a google blog search really only turned up one critique by blogger Paolo Steffan. I’m curious to know how long the ad has been up and how long it is going to be there. If anyone has any more information for me or would simply like to vent on this topic, please comment below!

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