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Concept

Giovanni Bellini’s Allegoria Sacra (Sacred Allegory) hangs in the Uffizi in Florence. The subject of this painting is a mystery to art historians. The earliest figures of Christian and ancient mythology are gathered together on a balustrade by a sea or a wide river, surrounded by hills on which can be seen, in the distance, village huts and a palazzo. St. Sebastian, the Madonna, a centaur, small children playing by a tree in the center, a Saracen-Muslim, a man somewhat like the Apostle Paul with a sword in his hand, in the background a peasant with a mule, two beautiful ladies one of whom is St. Catherine, a naked old man reminiscent of Job – this is a far from a complete list of the heroes who Bellini brought together in this picture.

One interpretation of this painting is that it showed Purgatory, where the souls of the righteous, of virtuous pagans and of unchristened children await their fate – heaven or hell.

This painting has always intrigued us. When we started to think of a third project after Last Riot and The Feast of Trimalchio, shown at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and 2009 respectively, we decided that the mysterious image of the Allegoria Sacra was in keeping with our view of the modern world.

We see Bellini’s heroes in those passengers who meet accidentally while awaiting their flights at international airports. The feelings of being cut off from one’s life and of the as yet unachieved aim of traveling from one world to another are familiar to the majority of those who fly, whether with large or small airlines. We become part of a special club of people who are united by the condition of a body and soul located between the abandoned and the not yet found. Together, i.e. simultaneously, we listen to the flight announcements, watch the flight board with its changing tableau of figures and cities, try to focus on the newspaper, on an SMS or the internet, or simply on the advertisements on the airport monitors. But everyone is wrapped up in himself and it is this, which unites us. There is, perhaps, one more thing we have available and which somehow links us during this interval in time – we look at each other, having never seen one other before and being unlikely to do so again.