Artissima is Italy’s most important contemporary art fair. Since its establishment in 1994, it has combined the presence of an international market with a focus on experimentation and research.Nearly two hundred galleries from around the world participate every year. In addition to the fair, Artissima is also composed of three art sections, headed by a board of international curators and museum directors, devoted to emerging artists, drawings and rediscovering the great pioneers of contemporary art. Aujourd'hui spoke with its new director Ilaria Bonacossa to know more about this year's edition.
First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who is Ilaria Bonacossa?
I am a curator who has studied art history first and then curatorial studies in New York. I have worked in museums preparing shows of Italian and international emerging artists, and I am always involved in the conception and production of new shows and installations, so the gallery world is not new to me. In fact when you work with emerging talents galleries are crucial partners, so a fair is not such a big leap away from my institutional career. Also my first significant work position was as curator at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Torino; working with an important and cutting-edge collection, I learned a lot about the mechanisms of the art world.
Now you are Artissima's new Director! What can you tell us about this year's Edition?
One goal of the 2017 edition is to investigate Artissima’s links and relationships with the city of Torino. This year we decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Arte Povera, which began in 1967, by creatively re-enacting two particular experiences of those years, the Piper Club of Torino and the Deposito d’Arte Presente (1967–68), a space of production and display of the works of emerging (later Arte Povera) artists organised by Gian Enzo Sperone with the backing of a series of local collectors. Artissima retrieves that format, with the Deposito d’Arte Italiana Presente (which I curated with Vittoria Martini), shifting it into the present time and using it as a conceptual framework for a project that absorbs the operative modes of the original. The Deposito installed inside the fair will be a large art warehouse and not really an exhibition space, but a place to trigger a narration on the last 20 years of Italian art, to capture its present developments and understand its future trends. The Deposito becomes a place of study and discovery for curators, collectors and art lovers.
We have also previously spoken with João Mourão and Luís Silva about the new section Disegni which is a great addition to Artissima. What else is new? How will this year be different from previous editions?
I am very proud of the talks programme of PIPER. Learning at the discotheque coordinated by “the classroom,” (a centre of art and education directed by Paola Nicolin). The project develops from reflections on the Piper Club in Torino, a discotheque designed by Pietro Derossi with Giorgio Ceretti and Riccardo Rosso, which became a popular venue from 1966 to 1969. Transforming the provincial atmosphere of a “dance hall” into a self-managed cultural centre, the Piper set a precedent on an international level for non-institutional spaces focusing on contemporary art. Many eclectic and creative personalities frequented the Piper in Torino, including Michelangelo Pistoletto, Alighiero Boetti, Piero Gilardi, Mario and Marisa Merz, Gianni Piacentino, Patty Pravo, the Living Theater, Carmelo Bene, Pietro Gallina, gathering and working together across disciplines, identities, codes, languages and behaviours. An evocative reconstruction of the place is proposed, a classroom-disco created in collaboration with the art group Superbudda and the furniture company Gufram, for the faithful reproduction of chairs created by Derossi for the Piper Club, based on the original drawings (1966). The programme opens with a course taught by the artist Seb Patane, and continues with lectures and talks on contemporary artistic production and sound, and video intermissions by the Torino-based art collective Superbudda.
Artissima has made an international reputation and is also known for showing both "emerging and mid-level" galleries and artists that are very exciting to discover. However, in the last few years this tier of galleries seems to have been suffering financially, with many closing their doors or giving up on the traditional art fair circuit, while alternative projects that are not necessarily "satellite" fairs have been emerging and growing (for example CONDO). Is this something that is on your mind? How can an art fair like Artissima cater to these needs, attract galleries and help them fight these difficulties?
Yes, the speculation on art and the general focus on modern art and the secondary market have put galleries that are involved in sustaining artistic research and artists’ careers under a lot of pressure, and we are all very worried, because I think the phenomenon of closings might continue to spread. Urban events like gallery weekends or experiments like Condo are very interesting, and they address the idea of de-intermediation which is now a global phenomenon. But I am not so sure about how sales have responded, and in both cases they cater to a network of already active galleries. What Artissima can do is instead to discover new players, and through the work of the curatorial teams invite galleries because of the quality of the art they show and not their status in the art world.
You were previously working as a Curator for Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo and then artistic director of Villa Croce, a public contemporary art museum. How is this different from your role in Artissima, and how are you able to play such different roles?
I am convinced (good or bad as it may be) that there are not two different art worlds, one the institutional museum, with critics and curators, and another structured around art fairs and galleries: it is all one complex system that develops like a rhizome. Art fairs have become more important, in some ways replacing the global biennial art tour, since they offer a snapshot of the art world in a few days and all in one place, with new proposals that can even be challenging in some ways to the status quo – at least at Artissima, I hope. Publicly active collectors and their private museums have radically changed the art world and fairs respond in some way to the need of these figures to write their own art history. On the other hand, I am still a curator who is interested in the quality and challenging vision of art works, and supporting galleries that help artists develop their work is the real goal of Artissima, not chasing a market that sees art as a form of speculation.
For more information about Artissima please visit www.artissima.it