Sodom & Gomorrah / 24 August - 05 october 2001

Guinness Storehouse is a remarkable new development based in St James's Gate Brewery, Dublin, the home of Guinness. Recently completed, following a £30 million investment, Guinness Storehouse is forecast to be Ireland's most popular visitor attraction, providing facilities for up to one million Irish and overseas visitors annually. This unique Guinness experience has been developed in a 1904 listed building and encompasses 170,000 sq.ft. or nearly four acres of floor space over six floors built around a huge pint glass atrium.
On top is located Gravity, the bar in the sky with the highest view of Dublin City which offers unrivalled views of the cityscape.
This extraordinary building houses a world class visitor experience, retail store, gallery and exhibition spaces; events, venues; restaurant and bar areas, the company archive and state-of-the-art training and conference facilities. Completed in 1904, the Storehouse building was the first steel framed building in Ireland. It is based on the Chicago style of architecture and was formerly a fully operational plant
or fermenting and storing Guinness until the 1980s.

5th is the name given to the arts programme at Guinness Storehouse. 5th supports diverse creative process through development and exhibition of Irish and International arts practice. As part of this programme, 5th gallery opens it’s doors for the first time on the December 6th, starting at zero with Peter Robinson and heading towards a very exciting and eclectic program for next year. Due to the sheer physical size and the many sensory activities within Storehouse, 5th gallery (the right to remain silent) exists as an oasis to involve the senses with the work on exhibit.The unique location of 5th exposes contemporary art practice to a readymade audience of over 600,000 a year and rising. The doors are open every day to visitors, artists and individuals with an interest in the arts.
Admission is free

Artistic Director: Paul Murnaghan
Paul Murnaghan is an artist / curator and Artistic Director of the 5th ( Gallery in Dublin, his work primarily deals with the examination of human emotion realised through digital means. Murnaghan is a cross - discipline artist who has exhibited his soundworks throughout Europe and America. During the last 3 years Paul has curated work for artists such as Chris Cunningham, Grace Weir and Alessandro Bavari. Previously he was working as Artistic Co-ordinator for Arthouse in Dublin (The Center for Multimedia Arts in Ireland). He has an eclectic creative past ranging from fronting diverse musical incarnation 'Damn you Peter Pan' on MTV in the early 90's to designing for several fashion labels, most recently he has concentrated on exhibiting installations in a number of group and solo gallery shows. He lives and works in Dublin, Ireland.

Guinness Storehouse,
St James's Gate Dublin 8
Tel: +353 (0) 1 408 4800
Fax: +353 (0) 1 408 4965

The Irish Examiner - Friday 17.08.2001
A voyeur's view of hangings
Sodom and Gomorrah, a Reportage from the Lost Cities, an exhibition of twelve dramatic largescale images by modern classical painter Alessandro Bavari, will be displayed at the Guinness Storehouse from August 24 to October 5. A team of abseilers was required to hang these striking works from the roof of the central atrium and, according to those who have been setting up the show, viewing them evokes a feeling somewhere between voyeurism and doing the Stations of the Cross. Should be an interesting sensation.

The Irish Independent - Wednesday 22 august 2001
There's no ceiling too high in the name of modern art
Hanging a painting has never proved as challenging as when a group of abseilers dropped from the central atrium of the Guinness Storehouse yesterday evening, all in the name of art. The group dropped from the central atrium and dangled 100 feet in the air, at the fifth floor of the building, strugging with 12 dramatic, largescale images that will hang in the Storehouse for the next six weeks. Sodom and Gomorrah - a Reportage from the Lost Cities is an exhibition by Alessandro Bavari, incorporating huge prints, which average around 2x3 metres in size, from the lost biblical cities.
A spokesman for the Guinness Storehouse said they were very excited about the exhibition after several months of planning by the group. "We want exhibitions that use the whole building as a backdrop for the paintings," said Paul Murnaghan, artistic director at the Storehouse. Art exhibitions are not a new venture for the venue, which has held several to date, and where a cutting edge gallery - planned to open by Christmas - is under construction. "Our policy is to find good work no matter where it sits on the artistic scale," added Mr Murnaghan. Bavari is a modern classical painter and combines photography and painting with 2-d and 3-d computer generated images.
The exhibition by the Italian artist will run from Friday, August 24 to Friday, October 5.
Caroline Crawford

The Irish Times - Wednesday 22 august 2001
Fifth floor of The Guinness Storehouse, St James's Gate, Dublin
First we had Gottfried Helnwein's monumental photorealist images causing a bit of a stir in Kilkenny, and now Alessandro Bavari goes all monumental with a series of twelve huge paintings on the fifth floor of The Storehouse at St James's Gate. Sodom and Gomorrah: A Reportage from the Lost Cities is Italian artist Bavari's quirky visualisation of a tour through the fabled Biblical cities, memorably destroyed by the almighty for their inhabitants' lack uf moral fibre. Bavari is very taken with that lack of moral fibre, and he envisages his series of digital paintings (combining classical and hi-tech methods) as "an enormous freak show", chronicling an imagined tour of places "devoted to vice and lust". Since, as he notes, "no one knows anything about Sodom and Gomorrah", he takes his lead from writer Italo Calvino, specifically Invisible Cities, in which Calvino has Marco Polo describing places he has visited to Kublai Khan. Bavari collected material for his paintings any and everywhere, photographing anything that caught his eye on journeys near and far, and he sees the paintings as an on going project. Why 12? Because he has the idea that viewing the work is a cross between voyeurism and a sacred experience.
Aidan Dunne

The Sunday Business Post - August 26, 2001
Sodom and Gomorrah
by Alessandro Bavari
Monochrome posters around Dublin of a strange figure with dark eyes, wings and eight nipples should finally start to make a bit of sense. These images on billboards and beer mats are part of a teaser campaign for an exhibition at the Guinness Storehouse. The strange creature is one of a series of figures that feature in the exhibition Sodom and Gomorrah - A Reportage from the Lost Cities, a collection of work by Italian artist Alessandro Bavari. The question of whether the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah actually existed is not a new one. One theory is that an earthquake or other natural disaster destroyed them and that they are now submerged beneath the Dead Sea. Another is that they were fictional places created for the Book of Genesis to symbolise places of no morality, where sexual perversion and vice were rife. Rather than attempting to prove or disprove these theories, Bavari has created a body of work described as an imaginary journey through the two damned cities. The 12 large pieces, about 2 metres by 2 metres, feature images of people and places created through a combination of two dimensional and three dimensional computer-generated images, painting and photography. Walking past the 12 images is supposed to be representative of doing the Stations of the Cross.
This is the first official non-Guinness exhibition to be shown in the Storehouse.
A permanent gallery is due to be opened in the building in November; it will be called The 5th.
Until then, Sodom and Gomorrah can be seen on the 5th floor of the elaborate Storehouse.

The Sunday Times
Culture - Art
Alessandro Bavari: Sodom and Gomorrah
Bavari's images seem to be part of the current revival of the gothic aesthetic so prevalent in both music and cinema, but are far more subtle and multi-faceted than they first appear. These richly textured, computer generated imagesÑsuch as Nymphomaniacs in the Depths of Gomorrah, above Ñ suggest influences as diverse as the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, the cinema of Fritz Lang and the writings of Italo Calvino. Bavari's cities, while clearly amoral, offer endless possibilites for freedom, sexual exploration and inventiveness. He also plays with the notion of voyeurism by having many of his protagonists gaze intently at the viewer. The imaginative hanging of these absorbing, striking images in a circular glass atrium perfectly complements their uniqueness.
Catherine Daly

The Sunday Tribune - 2 september 2001 Visual Art
Dark Ages
The exhibition at the Guinness Storehouse may evoke feelings of voyeurism, because of its connections It is worth going to the Guinness Storehouse if simply for the view. Where the Guinness Hopstore appeared warm and dark, the Storehouse gives the impression of being all glass and light and airy - particularly if you go via the lift to the bar on the top floor which is glass almost all the way round and affords the most spectacular panorama of the city (Probably not to be recommended for people with vertigo). It is particularly dramatic at night. In the middle of the fifth floor of the Storehouse is 'Sodom and Gomorrah - a reportage from the lost cities', an exhibition of 12 works by Italian artist Alessandro Bavari. Bavari is a modern classical painter who combines photography and painting with computer generated images. He has exhibited extensively in Italy and Mexico, Russia, London, and France, as well as numerous web exhibitions. This is his first Irish show. Hanging from the centre of the storehouse are large black and white works which are a bit lost amidst the paraphernalia of the original structure of the storehouse and the hustle and bustle of the cafe. These works might have greater impact in a more ordinary venue. As it is, on the sunny morning I was there, it was difficult to actually see them properly through the glass and with the sun overhead. The publicity blurb described the exhibition as "an imaginary journey through two damned cities, Sodom and Gomorrah where people live happily in a total absence of morality, where sexual perversion is part of everyday life and considered a virtue...." It didn't appear quite that extreme but more a cross between sci-fi movies and the medieval paintings of Bosch, with a good dollop of surrealism thrown in. Hieronymous Bosch who flourished at the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th was an early Dutch painter who created bizarre visions around the themes of judgement day, the infernos of hell etc, involving complex imagery The picture surfaces were generally crammed, with great attention paid to detail. A practicing Catholic rather than a heretic - as was thought for many years - his fantasies gave full rein to his imaginative view of the torments of hell. And yet there was an everyday element about them; he centred his works on then contemporary Netherlands, and focused on ordinary Dutch people caught up in this whirlwind of God's wrath - which presumably made it far more terrifying for its audience. There is a strong feeling of Bosch in Bavari's work. It is concerned with a similar theme, man's sins and indulgences and the ensuing threat. Yet Bosch believed in his theme and created the work as a warning to the masses to mend their ways, whereas Bavari's seems more to be exploring the mythical Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, experimenting with the possibilities of that society, their enjoyment of their "sins" and the realisation of the prophesy In Bavari's work there is a dramatic, over-the-top, rather camp, theatrical feel, purposely created with a certain amount of shock value, whereas the Dutch painter's work appears to be one of profound religious belief - although it too was created to shock its audience but in a completely different way. Bavari's small scale naked people appear quite innocent, unknowing, while rather horrific creatures, bloodied veined figures, or strangely neutral-sexed winged bodies, presumably created as a result of their actions or those of their antecedents, tower over them or appear in larger-than-life scale in following works. Bavari's works too seem to share with Bosch a delight in allegory and symbolism, and also to have that strange disjointedness of dreams that appears in Bosch's nightmarish works and which is also exploited to the full in surrealist work of the 20th century. There is an atmosphere too in 'Sodom and Gomorrah' of Gothic horror movies with beheaded dogs, distorted human bodies and the inclusion of birds and animals which appear to be voyeurs. In some works there is also an illustrative element as if depicting episodes from a supremely dark fairytale. (The publicity blurb suggests that walking the full circle of numbered images "evokes a feeling somewhere between voyeurism and doing the Stations of the Cross", presumably because of the biblical connection. What ever the case, that certainly didn't ring true for this viewer.)
This show is on at the Storehouse, St James's Gate until 5 October.

Hot Irish Art - By Mic Moroney, Art Critic, 2001
SODOM & GOMORRAH - A Reportage From the Lost Cities
Alessandro Bavari @ The Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, two of five Biblical cities on the Siddim plain destroyed by a huge conflagration around 1900 B.C, are now believed to have been located, south-east of the Dead Sea. The ruins were turned to ash; covered with balls of pure, pressed, powdered sulphur; and covered by three feet of debris. Geologists have speculated that an earthquake may have exploded petroleum-based bitumen deposits out of the earth through a nearby fault line, which then ignited. Meanwhile, Lot's wife, supposedly turned into a pillar of salt, may relate to the outlandish salt floes which crystallise by the Dead Sea. It's as good a collection of theories as you can get.

However, contrary to Christianised homophobia, out of 39 mentions of Sodom in the Old Testament, none relates explicitly to homosexuality, or indeed debauch on any major scale. Rather, God asserts in Ezekiel 16:49-50 that Sodom "and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before Me. Therefore I did away with them".

However, Italian artist Alessandro Bavari, follows the Marquis de Sade and many others into an imaginary decadent past with a series of fetishistic images which hint at all manner of polysexual perversity. They're quite luscious, crepuscular, monochrome pictures with a stylish, fantastical pop sensibilty, and a visual vocabulary which owes a great deal to Hieronymous Bosch (c.1450-1516), and Surrealists such as Ernst.

The depth and allure of the imagery is very evolved, almost reminiscent of the assiduous fantasticality of Ridley Scott's movie, Legend. It conjures up a parallel universe of mythological glamour, revisited as though from the dawn of photography. The images are quite painterly, worked up from pictures of made or found objects like bones, plants and fossils, or posing models. Bavari then etches over the photographic prints, which are then scanned into image-manipulation programmes such as PhotoShop and SoftImage.

The prints mounted in the Guinness Store are big digital prints, printed on semi-matt photographic paper which is developed in traditional chemical baths, so that you get this smooth unpixellated texture. Paul Murnaghan, the new artistic director of the Guinness Storehouse, has hung the 12 images inside the glass-panelled atrium, dangling high in the 5th floor gallery - not an entirely ideal way of displaying them in the busy space, but a spectacular one, nonetheless. Murnaghan reckons that walking around the 12 images in a circle is "somewhere between voyeurism and doing the Stations of the Cross".

The Gate
Like the luscious bottom-end of the Venus de Milo having a sit-down, this sawn-off figure rests amidst classical drapery and stalactites of irrepressible ivy, while in the mists of the screen in front of her, a pair of headless, robust nudes luxuriantly wade, hand in hand, up to their bottoms in water. Scaling the topiarised bonsai tree which rises fantastically from her midriff, a whole little crew of Boschian midgets - naked as Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden - scale to the top of the swooping shrubbery, as though to commune with the heavens. Even more of them huddle under our Venus' seat, looking upwards - what, protesting at her modestly crossed legs? Perhaps another piece among our 12 stations, The Hall of Coprophilia, may suggest other possibilitiesÉ.

Sodom City
The topiarised landscape of trees shorn like poodles, or into the shapes of lyres, only vaguely resolves in the eye, like some futuristic city dreamt up in the distant past. It almost evades you the more you look into it - the little nesting mounds from which the naked Boschian Sodomites emerge and peek out from their little molehills; the masses of the city seen as underworld creatures who occasionally scale the trees after forbidden fruit. The generalised forest scene recedes into what looks like a giant, ghostly echinoderm on the left, while the architectural gyres and helixes of a city have a idealised science-fiction hue, with some strange little flying pods, resembling sea-shells, hovering in the twilit sky.

Gomorrah City
Here they are again, our little Boschian figurines, naked as the day they were born, and peeking out from their mortal, pathetic holes in the ground. They're little anonymous figures, often seen in groups, one or two pointing upwards, or holding their fists aloft in some bid for divine attention. Again a fantastic garden of weird topiary dominates their landscape, dotted with similarly fantastical architectures to Sodom's, borrowed from botanical tendrils and floral wonders. Again, nesting in a conglomeration of foliage from a number of trees, there are little nests of people, aching upwards toward a heaven beyond their grasp. Indeed, it's a Heaven that will soon shower their skin with brimstoneÉ

Three Voyeurs

This rather daft, playful photograph of the Gomorrah cityscape features a trio of fine figures of young urban manhood, gawping down into the mysterious underworld of the naked little imps of the Gomorrans, in a stance somewhere between doing press-ups and gearing up to sprint 100 metres. What mysterious rituals could be Bavari's "voyeurs" be watching? What orgies of Little People? What squeaky little mobs of naked midgets might be shouting back up at themÉ?

Lot's Progeny - a Girl on Pillory

The title is probably a rather awkward translation of Lot's daughter. If you remember in the Biblical account, Lot was the only decent, God-fearing man in Sodom, and his daughter being of similar bent, seems to appear here as a kind of mutant, punk angel; wearing the fashion-fetishistical, penitential, pitted metal cube, perhaps to atone for the sins of her debauched compatriots. But of course, it's a sexy image in its own right, the cuddlesome butt squatting on her chubby ankles, the tasteful distressing of the photographic surface sinking into a kind of late-mediaeval blur. And how sweet she is, with her two little-angel-wings, and the ornamental songbirds which emerge cheeping from her headÉ

Bera, King of Sodom
This bizarre re-imagining of the Biblical Sodomite king rather hops around one's retina, with his repeating, multiple arms between his militant twin sceptres, and an elongated chestful of breasts more populated than a sow's in farrow. It's like the arms of Siva, crossed with that great grape-bunch of breasts from the famous statue of the Roman goddess, Diana (formerly the Greek deity, Artemis) from the Temple of Ephesus, now in the Museum in Naples. But for all his apparent fecundity, Bera is a bristling pallisade of menacing spears under his mediaeval helmet and chain mail; coolly exploding upwards from his barred throne, metamorphosing into hermaphroditic, erogenous power.

Portrait of Two Lovers in Gomorrah

This family photo mischievously suggests the amorous pursuits of the Gomorrans. An odd dominatrix towers over her charge, as they pose among a haze of classical ruins. She, with her six fingers on each hand, looks like a big lady, while her mask resembles a bit of DIY SM fashion, like a rubber glove pulled over her head; its fingers transforming into the stinging, beaded fronds of a sea anemone. She bears a tattoo of a (male-eating?) spider on her chest, whilst two little lizards are pinioned by tourniquets on her biceps. Homer Gomorrah, meanwhile, stares almost mournfully, comically out of the eyeholes of his hood, like a KKK man photographed at home with his trousers down; or like those hooded Native American ritual masks, with their unnerving similarity to mediaeval Inquisitional torture methods. Mind you, in the interests of taste, the male genitalia have been scratched out of the picture, as these outlandish creatures ghoul out at you from a peculiarly domestic pose.

Portrait of a Girl Who Looks at Herself in a Mirror
Alice in Wonderland has nothing on this grotesquely quaint peek into the self-conscious world of a Gomorran girl and her self-image. It's an over-the-shoulder view of her, fanning her little arms which have mutated into leaves, or gauzy insect-wings. Her eyes and lips are accentuatedly coloured and vividly distorted as she dreams into herself, admiring her frog-necklace as it sets off her milky-white neck and rounded breasts, beaded with impossible little nipples. The voyeurism factor is ramped up, as a similarly distorted boy-face stares from the background at this tender moment of self-exposure; while yet another naked figure in a mediaeval battle-mask seems to move in with a pair of fire-tongs. A strange imagining this, from somewhere on the cusp of sexual exploration, as another little face appears behind her in another mirror, suggesting an infinite regression of reflected images.

The Hall of Coprophilia

There is the air of a haunted ballroom here in this composite image of ruined villas and derelict factory buildings, in which a series of giant anatomical models of the male torso are frozen in balletic poses throughout this imaginary space. Each is poised atop what seems like a conicular wooden frame - stylised dresses in which are trapped, it seems, little gangs of our naked Little People of Sodom and Gomorrah, as though inside some sacrifical wicker man, destined to be fed to the flame. Bavari had his own ideas of what's going on, if you return to the title of the workÉ

A Woman Observing an Initiation Rite

This is a difficult image to read, with its view of a window - whether from inside or out, it is difficult to discern. The central character is a young woman, her forearms sheathed in ornamental finery, her face like a Polynesian mask of stylised horror as she gazes in at - what? We are given little clue, other than the gaggle of sacred swans and flamingos to the right, and the decapitated, stuffed dog to the left - who could hardly be the author of the turd below the window? A thin bread knife lies on the ground beside it, while to add to this irresolvable drama, the shadow of a male figure approaches her - whether in menace or concern, it is impossible to say...

Nymphomaniacs in the Depths of Gomorrah
It should not at all spoil the fun of this picture to know that the centrepiece is three queens snapped at a gay pride event, here altered to suggest a trio of heavy-set, leopard-skin bunny-girls, flirting away in great campery. The party sure looks like fun, a froth of sensuality and desire emanating not only from the foreground, but also the face-masked form behind them, and the cast of characters in the background: Hermes-headed naked men, others with outlandish faces like bloated tropical fish, one billowing around like some alien Chinese dragon. A disgruntled or envious-looking baboon head, meanwhile, stares from a porthole window, as though peeking in on someone else's partyÉ

Birsa, King of Gomorrah, Sees his Destiny

Birsa, here scantily robed as a fairy tale king, with a belly big enough to suggest pregnancy, tiptoes gently onto the stage where his destiny has appeared to him in a great flare of ribbons which seem almost to scribble in the air, and little fizzing planets. This three-armed goddess hovers over a typically, Gomorran black hole in the ground. More impossible topiary springs up from other little holes, as the monarch sensually circles this vision of upbeat apocalypse.

© HotIrishArt / Mic Moroney 2001

Articles Archive

    Permanent Collections

  • 08/1996: (Pittura) Palazzo della Cultura, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Latina, ITALY

  All Artworks Copyright ©1990 - 2014 by Alessandro Bavari - All Rights Reserved - Use By Permission Only / Entire Web Site ©Copyright 2014 by Alessandro Bavari / Credits / Privacy Policy