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ReA! Fair, Milan. The art fair dedicated to independent artists without gallery representation

Founded in 2020 by Maryna Rybakova and Pelin Zeytinci, ReA! Fair disrupts the dynamics of art fairs by bringing artists to the frontline

ReA! Art Fair in Milan

In 2020, before what we came to know as the Covid-19 second wave, Maryna Rybakova e Pelin Zeytinci co-founded an organization that launched an independent fair in the heart of Milan, ReA! Art Fair. The choice was courageous considering that art fairs have been one of the most challenged and hit sectors in the art world. Yet, ReA! is preparing its second edition, which is expected to happen in September.

«We opted for the fair model instead of launching a collective or an exhibition space. We care, in fact, about providing artists with a space where to display their work, while having the possibility to sell it», says Rybakova. As Zeitinci continues, «our fair differs from other Italian and international fairs in that artists can participate without the representation of a gallery. ReA! democratizes the model of the art fair. It gives, in fact, the chance to emerging artists to make their first steps into the art market. Further, it encourages a one-on-one dialogue between artists and the public».

Maryna Rybakova and Pelin Zeytinci, Co-Founders of ReA! Art Fair

Rybakova and Zeytinci met in Milan in 2019. Rybakova, originally from Belarus, had moved there to study Arts Management at Università Cattolica. «After getting my MA, I was willing to immerse myself into the local art scene. I started visiting galleries, going to openings as well as fairs. I also began collaborating with a local artist, who introduced me to Pelin, with the goal of building a collective. The project did not work out. But a few months later I met Pelin again at a vernissage and shared with her my idea of launching an art fair for emerging artists», says Rybakova.

Zeytinci is Turkish and has a background in theatre and cinema. She also holds a BA in Set Design and an MA in Visual Cultures and Curatorial Studies from the Brera Academy. Zeytinci was at the event because of her lifelong interest in performance art. «When I met Maryna for the second time, she was enthusiastic about her idea. A few weeks later we organized the first ReA! meeting together», Zeitinci continues.

In the blink of an eye, the duo built a team, becoming the fair’s managing and artistic director respectively. «Building a team was a task, as we started working on ReA! when the pandemic broke out. It was an effort that prevailed over the difficulties of the moment. We spent quarantine doing Zoom calls and chatting on WhatsApp groups to make it happen. We are now a group of eleven people – including Laura Pieri, Paola Shiamtani, Maria Myasnikova, Milena Zanetti, Bianca Munari, Elisabetta Roncati, Beatrice Dezani, Gohar Avetisyan and Maria Paola Cavallo – with five people working on the curatorial side of the fair, the other seven focusing on management, communication and organization», Rybakova explains. 

ReA!Arte, Lampoon
ReA!Fair, Views of the exhibition at the Fabbrica del Vapore, Ph Manifutura, 2020

Lampoon review: ReA!’s first edition at Fabbrica del Vapore

The first edition of ReA! took place at Fabbrica del Vapore from October 30 to November 1 2020, after eight months of planning and preparations. As Zeytinci explains, «being an emerging, non-profit organization, we had no budget. We looked for sponsorships and collaborations, which were harder to find than expected. We succeeded in renting a space at Fabbrica del Vapore for a low fee thanks to the Municipality, who believed in our passion and our project».

The team rolled up their sleeves in a collaborative determination that allowed them to keep costs to the minimum, relying on friends and connections to get services for free or low prices, such as press coverage and installation materials. As Rybakova continues, «at the end of the fair, we broke even thanks to the fifteen euro fee artists paid to participate in our open call, and for sales. We sold twelve percent of the paintings on view, retaining thirty-five percent of the price of each piece instead of the fifty percent retained by galleries with sixty-five percent going straight to the artist».

The open call, launched in March 2020, received interest from five-hundred-and-fifty applicants working in different media. One hundred of them were selected. Selection was based on quality of the work and originality of ideas. As Zeytinci points out, «one of the criteria we cared about when selecting was the artist being an emerging artist for real. Regardless of sex and age, we opted for individuals who were not and had never been represented by major galleries. A number of them were fresh out of college. We gave them the opportunity to present and sell their work for the first time». Two sections characterized the fair. Digital and video art marked the ground floor, while other media, including painting and sculpture, were located upstairs, in a path that played with the senses. 

ReA! Art Fair: providing a space to street art 

After welcoming over two-thousand visitors in 2020, ReA! is planning its next edition, a three-day event from the 3 to the 6 of September 2021. Artists can respond to the fair’s open call, which is due to close on May 15 2021. In comparison to the previous edition, Rybakova and Zeytinci are looking forward to reserving space for performances, which were cancelled last year because of the pandemic.

The digital talks enriching last year’s edition – including conversations with collector Germano Bonetti, curators Rischa Paterlini and Maria Chiara Valacchi, and Opera Magazine – are expected to be conducted in person. As Rybakova explains «programming will be key. The team is also working on a list of guests, who will allow us to cover the aspects of the contemporary art world, including collecting, communication, curatorship and the art market».

In addition to performance art, Zeytinci is willing to provide space for street artists. «Street art is a contemporary art form not seen at art fairs, because it is a task to display. An achievement for ReA! would be to commission a public, site-specific street artwork». Increasing online presence is on the agenda. «We cannot yet afford and are not interested in building online viewing rooms on the model of major art fairs», Rybakova continues. «But we are working on enhancing the quantity of online information and providing a 3D virtual tour of the fair that will be available on our website during the opening days».

Future development at ReA! Art Fair

In the long term, Rybakova and Zeitinci have high expectations. Rybakova’s priority is to make ReA! a must-see event in the international contemporary art scene, on the model of biennials such as Manifesta. «I hope ReA! will grow into a self-sufficient organization that could support artists and their career and address the lack of paid jobs in the art world, in particular in relation to women. The reason our team is made of women only is casual. But it speaks of the fact that men are less inclined to work for free in the art industry, where gender inequalities are present».

Zeytinci is working on implementing the cultural value of the fair. «Our curatorial team is focusing on implementing a series of workshops we launched last year, directed to artists and art professionals. We are working to make the fair active throughout the whole year. Our next project will be a group show at the Scalo Lambrate, opening on June 25 2021, which will bring together works by the ten ReA! Art Prize Winners from the 2020 edition. These include Alessio Guarda, Alisa Chunchue, Dominique Cro, Giacomo Zornetta, Jeremy Knowles, Peng Shuai, Clara Rubin, Lorenzo Papanti, Kim Gromoll, Leo Cogliati».  

ReA! Art Fair

Via Ruggero Boscovich, 14, 20124 Milano MI
ReA! Art Fair is an independent emerging artists fair in Milan, focused on an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary art.

Elena Caslini

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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