Patricia Cronin

Shrine for Girl - Santuario per le Ragazze

Although the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, women and girls around the world continue to be among the most vulnerable members of our global society. Often facing violence, repression, and enforced ignorance, this young female populace is subjected to a horrifying existence on earth.

Inside the sixteenth-century Church of San Gallo, New York-based conceptual artist Patricia Cronin has created a shrine in their honor. For over two decades, critically acclaimed artist Patricia Cronin has created compelling works, many with social justice themes focusing on gender. Here, she has gathered hundreds of girls clothes from around the world and arranged them on three stone altars to act as relics of these young martyrs. Commemorating their spirit, this dramatic site-specific installation is a meditation on the incalculable loss of unrealized potential and hopelessness in the face of unfathomable human cruelty; juxtaposed against the obligation and mission we have as citizens of the world to combat this prejudice.

The central altar exhibits brightly colored saris worn by girls in India, three of who were recently gang raped, murdered and left to hang from trees. The left altar displays hijabs representing the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. And the third altar presents a pile of aprons & uniforms symbolizing those worn by girls at the Magdalene Asylums and Laundries, forced labor institutions for young women without options in Ireland, the United Kingdom and America as recently as 1996.

Shrines, part of every major religion's practice, provide a space for contemplation, petition and rituals of remembrance. In this exhibition, dramatically illuminated mounds of their clothing are elevated to the status of art to bring awareness to this urgent crisis, while providing a space to reflect and, hopefully, inspire viewers into action. One framed photograph of each of these three tragic events will accompany this installation, which hopes to propose a new and reflective dialogue between gender, memory and justice.

The installation is located at the Chiesa di San Gallo, a historic-site destination near the heart of Venetian culture and society, Piazza San Marco. Built in 1581 as an oratory for the Orseolo family hospice, it was enlarged to its present form in 1703. Long deconsecrated, this church - the smallest in the city of Venice, features elaborate stone altars, Corinthian columns, wood panel walls and a checkerboard-patterned marble floor.

Curator's Essay

Patricia Cronin 
Shrine for Girls – Santuraio per le Ragazze: A Work for Reflection.
Text by Ludovico Pratesi

American artist Patricia Cronin will present an environmental site specific installation in the Church of San Gallo in Venice, a strongly mystical place and for many years devoted to the display of contemporary art. The work expresses an emphasis on symbolic and synesthetic meanings where ritual, sacred offerings and votive relics come together in a sublime relationship that exalts humanity over the divine, and lauds woman, her strength and her life.

The Meaning

Shrine for Girls – Santuario per le Ragazze represents the construction of a place where memories are given life, where value is offered to the stories of women who experience daily and directly what it means, now as in the past, to be represented by a female identity which is often uncomfortable, misunderstood and even stripped of its universal significance. Patricia Cronin gives the spectator the possibility to motivate a private and personal lay ritual, moving and pausing between three stations, the three altars of the Church of San Gallo.In Shrine for Girls – Santuario per le Ragazze, each altar becomes a place to stop and observe, discovering among the pile of garments not only the inexorable loss of certainties and a sense of abandon often experienced by women, but also a new and efficient stimulus to react against the conditions that negate the inalienable right to be woman.

The protagonists of Patricia Cronin’s work are the garments worn by women from around the world; they are infused with a renewed energy and vitality with a force that comes from the light that surrounds, permeates and unites them: three piles of clothes that exist in harmony with the space to express together the new sense of solidarity and understanding of the diverse expriences expressed by the artist. In this way Shrine for Girls - Santuario per le Ragazze is returned to the public, the ceremony becomes a tribute to women, where the bodies themselves, and therefore their garments, spectacularly and elegantly represent feminine beauty with that innocence that describes perfectly the identity of a young woman.

The Works

The itinerary initiates the ritual, moving from the high altar where the gathered and illuminated sari silently and impetuously tell the stories of the adolescent Indian girls through a theatical light that emphasizes the brilliant color of the garments. The traditional sari have the capacity to express the charismatic beauty of the Indian women, at the same time revealing their often daily abuses and mistreatments.

Celebrating woman, the artist places on the altar of Saint Veneranda 200 veils – the Islamic hijab – as a dramatic tribute to the 200 students kidnapped in 2014 by the jihadist militants of Boko Haram, in Nigeria. That tragedy persists in our memory through the vision of those same garments that covered and protected the young Nigerian women in those terrifying moments.

The altar of the Madonna del Buon Conisglio (Madonna of the Good Council), the third and last altar of the church, is dedicated to the memory of the girls who lived the dramatic experience of the Magdalene Laundries of late-18th century Ireland, where refuge was offered to prosititues. The women “sinners” were given shelter in exchange for unpayed work in the laundries, later transformed into a place of reclusion for any woman considered guilty: young mothers, rape victims, mentally ill, and orphans.

Shrine for Girls – Santuario per le Ragazze is a hymn to woman, to her often inexpressed potential. This still very current reality is worthy of artistic expression. Patricia Cronin bases her creative research on the historical and cultural female identity and the rights of women through a refined poetic language that moves from the classicism of the forms to the conceptual experimentation to the reduction of the language to powerful symbols.

The installation in the Church of San Gallo represents the construction of a ceremonial place where the expressed ritual is the consecration of an historical and current reality that relates to the beauty and power of young women.

Shrine for Girls – Santuario per le Ragazze is a prayer for womanhood and that this can be expressed freely and without material or immaterial restraints.

Ludovico Pratesi




Shrine For Girls, Venice, solo Collateral Event in the 56th International Art Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia

Ludovico Pratesi is one of Italy's most respected Contemporary Art Curators and has organized numerous museum and gallery exhibitions. His is currently the artistic director of Fondazione Pescheria in Pasero, Vice President of Associazione Musei Arte Contemporana Italiana, former President of AICA Italy, and Art Critic for La Repubblica newspaper. Chiara Pirozzi is the Assistant to Ludovico and an Independent Curator.

Presenting Organization 
Brooklyn Rail Curatorial Projects 
Founded in October 2000 and currently published 10 times annually, The Brooklyn Rail is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides an independent forum for arts, culture, and politics throughout New York City and far beyond. The journal, in addition to featuring local reporting; criticism of music, dance, film, and theater; and original fiction and poetry, covers contemporary visual art in particular depth. The Rail further fulfills its mission through their newly launched initiative Rail Curatorial Projects, which gathers the work of artists that reflect the complexity and inventiveness of the artistic and cultural landscape. Patricia Cronin: Shrine for Girls, Venice is the fourth Rail Curatorial Project, and their international debut. Brooklyn Rail Staff who coordinated the exhibition include: Phong Bui, Sara Chrisoph and Sara Roffino.

Michael Hall
 is an independent producer of artist projects, a curator, and an artist. He has worked for the Princeton Art Museum, advised the corporate collections of Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. He has been the Managing & Creative Director for The Armory Show in New York, Director of Operations for Hauser & Wirth Gallery in New York and is currently Head of Operations & Logistics for Art Basel. For Shrine For Girls, Venice, Michael is consulting on logistics and exhibition production.

pulp, ink. is a Brooklyn-based design studio founded by Beverly Joel, specializing in the design of art-related books, brochures and printed ephemera. Recent projects include books on Jasper Johns, Deborah Kass, Elaine de Kooning, Beatriz Milhazes, Kehinde Wiley, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Clients include Aperture Foundation, Chronicle Books, Delmonico - Prestel, Monacelli Press, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Neuberger Museum of Art, Orange County Museum of Art, Pérez Art Museum Miami, Rizzoli, and the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery. For Shrine For Girls, Venice, pulp, ink. Is designing all graphics.




Shrine For Girls, Venice wishes to thank the following for their generous and kind support

Major support is provided by our Lead Sponsors, The FLAG Art Foundation and The Fuhrman Family Foundation.

With the additional generous support of Agnes Gund, John and Amy Phelan, Jane and David Walentas, Arcadia Foundation, Lococo Fine Art Publisher, Stephanie Ingrassia, Chuck Close and Sienna Shields, Helen Stambler Neuberger and Jim Neuberger, Alice Zoloto-Kosmin, Deborah Kass, George Rudenauer Consulting, Sara M. and Michelle Vance Waddell, Lois Plehn, Francis J. Greenburger, Debi Sonzogni and A.G. Rosen, Craig Drill, Anonymous, Martha Macks-Kahn, Elaine Gray and Anne Belluche Cronin.

Special Thanks
Annabelle's Aprons, India Sari Palace, Maktaba Dar-Us-Salam, Inc.




How You Can Help / What You Can Do 
Here are three organizations where you can get more information and make a donation.

The Gulabi Gang (from Hind "pink") is a group of Indian women activists responding to widespread domestic abuse and other violence against women in India. Recently they have gained international attention for taking matters into their own hands while the police and male-dominated society ignore and reinforce the plight of women in their country.

Justice For Magdalenes seeks to promote and represent the interests of the Magdalene women, to respectfully promote equality and seek justice for the women formerly incarcerated in Ireland's Magdalene Laundries and to seek the establishment and improvements of support as well as advisory and re-integration services provided for survivors.

Camfed - Campaign for Female Education is an international non-profit organization tackling poverty and inequality by supporting girls to go to school and succeed, and empowering young women to step up as leaders of change. Camfed invests in girls and women in the poorest rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa, where girls face acute disadvantage, and where their empowerment is now transforming communities.

With the belief that artists can be effective social entrepreneurs, Patricia Cronin is donating 10% of profits from Shrine For Girls, Venice to organizations that promote equality for women and girls.