Vatican turns to art patronage roots for Venice Biennale

Half a millennium after Michelangelo, the Vatican is returning to its ancient tradition of art patronage with a biblical show at the Venice Biennale commissioned to revive the rapport between art and faith.

The exhibition explores themes from the Book of Genesis through works by artists including renowned Czech photographer Josef Koudelka -- but there are no depictions of the Madonna and Child or suffering Christs, the Vatican said Wednesday.

"Creation, Un-Creation, Re-Creation" brings Koudelka together with Italian artists from the Studio Azzurro and Australian-born American Lawrence Carroll in a show which probes themes from the essence of human relationships to the destruction wrought by natural disasters.

Organised by the Vatican's cultural minister Gianfranco Ravasi, the project -- which revives a tradition which once led to the creation of wonders such as Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling -- will cost sponsors some 750,000 euros ($973,635) and will run from June 1 for six months.

While Studio Azzurro artists behind the "Creation" theme look at the origins of humanity, Koudelka's "Un-Creation" draws inspiration from the sibling rivals Cain and Abel and "the material and ethical destruction" by man, who is opposed to God's plan, the Vatican said.

Carroll's "Re-Creation" uses salvage materials to create a sense of a fresh start, the sort Abraham experiences after a dark period of war and destruction according to the Genesis.

Cardinal Ravasi, who organised the show along with the director of the Vatican museums Antonio Paolucci, said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned in February because of old age, had hoped the project would spark dialogue on the modern world and questions of faith.