Along with the bigger and established art fairs, there is a increasing trend that is developing in the contemporary art world - The Boutique Art Fair. These events are characterized by some core elements that makes them partially different from the concept of a classic fair. A smaller number of participants, unconventional venues, synergistic environment among others.
As the New York Times once said, spring - and not only - is the season of boutique-style events in Europe. As a matter of fact, especially in 2016, the European art scene has seen the launch of a few new fairs and events that had a very positive response from the public. DAMA, organized by Giorgio Galotti in Turin, is one of these.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your background?
I was born in Naples at the end of the 70's, grew up in Turin in the 80's and then I moved to Rome in the 90's to finish my studies. About 4 years ago, after an unstable experience of 10 years in the art field, I came back to Turin to open my own contemporary art gallery.
In the last years, aside from the classical art fairs, we have seen the development of a parallel trend, that of the so-called Boutique Art Fair. More limited in number of participants yet not in the quality of the works therein exposed, usually organised in venues that transcend traditional expositional spaces (white cubes). The DAMA project perfectly embodies this definition. Could you tell us what you think about this type of events?
There is something profoundly harmonious in the creation of such events. Clearly there is a need for creating a format better suited for our generation, instead of adapting ourselves to that which has been in place for decades. It’s in the nature of those who aspire to pursue a dialogue with the times we live in, in an attempt to synchronise with them. In almost all cases akin to DAMA, one can see the necessity to start from the history of the places in which they develop, as a tribute to history through a vision of actuality, and to offer contemporary artists a chance to confront the past.
From which needs was the DAMA project conceived, and why did you choose that name?
There are many needs. Firstly, the features of many art fairs often do not accurately reflect the depth of the research undergone by the artists and galleries of our generation.
In regards to naming the project I discussed with an advertising copywriter in order to find a word that would follow some guidelines: it should be an Italian word, yet international, be simple and reflect the project's nature. The same principle was applied on its graphic identity, with the used font being created ad hoc as if it was a brand new alphabet. Dama is Italian for checkers, a game known worldwide, and this case it reflects the idea of a checkerboard in which the “men” are identical and can only move in the spaces available to them. This name also reflects an aspect of the territory it develops in. In Turin, Palazzo Madama is one of the most interesting examples of emancipation of all times, as it stands right next to the Royal Palace, and was built by the king to satisfy the request of Madama Cristina of Bourbon, for she didn’t understand why the king owned his own palace and the queen didn’t. I was intrigued by the actuality of such concept, a sort of gender planning of the 1600s which is directly transposed in the tenet of DAMA, in which galleries and artists cooperate to create a unified vision and to share some of the spaces. Those who experienced DAMA in those days will have perceived the special atmosphere and the full sharing of a vision there.
The project saw the participation of ten galleries, eight of which are international. Could you tell us something about the selection process of the galleries taking part in the project and according to which criteria they were allocated in Palazzo Saluzzo Paesana?
The selection process came naturally, thanks to esteemed relationships among us and the mediation and dialogue of Domenico de Chirico, curator of the project, with the participating galleries. They were then placed in the halls of the Palazzo with the intent of giving a coherent overview, but also respecting the baroque nature of the spaces. All of them, galleries and artists, immediately understood that their work in those spaces would have to be very different from that which normally is done in a fair, in which everything can be displayed without supervision or selection. In this case, other than a shared selection of the works, we supplied details on the workspaces, what kind of intervention was possible, the history of the halls and all of their limits.
DAMA was a huge success. About 4,500 people visited the venue in the first five days of opening. Did you expect such a positive turnout? Moreover, do you think that ARTISSIMA 2016 had a positive influence on the event?
We saw the necessity to set up an independent project in Italy, and only Turin could have fulfilled such a need. Since the times of Arte Povera this territory absorbes and releases knowledge of this kind, Castello di Rivoli has been fertilising it since 1985 and Artissima has been making it sprout for over twenty editions, with the precious help of galleries, foundations and institutions, bringing the very best of international art to Turin all year round. For some reason, for now at least, it could not develop anywhere but here. Honestly, however, none of us expected such immediate results. We had to limit ourselves to ten participants because we had initially decided that each gallery had to be hosted in its own hall. This was intended to both offer the galleries the possibility to peacefully work in their own spaces, and also guarantee that the visitors would have an easier time navigating the spaces. This is also a reason why DAMA is less of a “fair” and more of a carefully curated exhibition.
You have already started working on the second edition. Given the feedback you have received from the participating galleries, how will you try to improve the performance of next year’s event? Do you intend to change city or venue?
We have to work a lot harder as next year’s expectations are bound to be much higher, and it will not be easy to replicate this year’s success. However since Aujourdhui is a Lisbon-based magazine I can anticipate that João Laia, Portuguese but London-based, will be the Live Programme’s curator for 2017. Everything else is still in the works.
Interview conducted by Alberto Baruffato.
Exclusive for Aujourd'hui.
For more information and images of DAMA's 2016 edition please see our coverage HERE.