The Italian contemporary art fair returns in a hybrid version both at Oval Lingotto, and on Artissima XYZ, its digital platform, with three sections featuring projects by thirty artists
Artissima art fair 2021
In critical times, how can art activate a change of pace and transform the fragilities of society into strong points? This is the question posed by the major Italian contemporary art fair, Artissima, for its upcoming edition taking place from 5 November to 7 November 2021. The theme chosen for Artissima 2021, ‘Controtempo’ (backbeat), was born in February when the future of the 28th edition was still uncertain and the staff of Artissima was seeking a sensitive topic which could inspire and encourage the participating galleries to develop thought-provoking projects. «In music, a backbeat is when you emphasize the weak notes, a metaphor of what could be done in complex times. Contemporary art always works at a syncopated rhythm and the times we are living in, where everything is so accelerated after so many quiet months, is an example of that. Also, themes encourage galleries to develop curated projects in innovative ways» Ilaria Bonacossa, Director of Artissima, explains.
In 2020 Artissima took place in an unplugged version between online exhibitions and physical events dotted around the city of Turin. Bonacossa is proud to point out that the outbreak of Covid-19 did not catch them unprepared: Artissima has been investing in digital for five years and galleries have had a dedicated section on the online catalogue for at least four years. In 2020 Artissima launched Artissima XYZ, an experimental platform halfway between an interactive magazine and a viewing room, which covered the three curated sections of the fair: Present Future, Back to the Future and Disegni. The aim of Artissima XYZ is to virtually recreate the experience of entering a monographic stand where the viewers can talk to the artists, discover historical materials and, of course, admire the artworks displayed. «Artissima XYZ is a sort of distillate of the fair and that is its strength. Each section shows ten artists, thus for collectors and art enthusiasts exploring the whole platform in a couple of hours is totally feasible» Bonacossa claims. In its physical guise, Artissima 2020 presented three exhibitions in the museums of Fondazione Torino Musei, Galleria Civica di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Palazzo Madama and MAO Museo d’Arte Orientale. This year’s edition marks a new beginning for Artissima, which is returning to Oval Lingotto, its historical venue, where galleries will have the chance to meet old and new collectors in person.
The desire for physical events and opportunities to meet people who share the same passions and interests is proven by the huge amount of proposals and requests Artissima received from curators, critics and other players of the art market for book presentations, talks and other kinds of initiatives. Artissima 2021 will develop once again in a hybrid version: in addition to the fair main sections hosting up to 154 national and international galleries – Main Section, Dialogue/Monologue, New Entries, Art Spaces & Editions -, from 4 to 9 November, the audience will be able to discover the three curated sections featuring monographic projects by thirty artists on the cross-media platform Artissima XYZ. Next to the online showing, the artists will also be presented at the physical fair in three collective exhibitions, one for each section. «Our curators are willing to take risks. Their job is not limited to selecting artworks, on the contrary they create storytelling around the pieces displayed» Bonacossa claims. Present Future, curated by Ilaria Gianni and Fernanda Brenner, is reserved to emerging artists, preferably under 40 years old. Its goal is to shed light on the new trends of the contemporary art scene. Disegni, curated by Bettina Steinbrügge and Lilou Vidal, is dedicated to the practice of drawing, originally associated with paper and then radically evolved. It will feature humorous and sarcastic monographic projects. Lastly, Back to the Future will present projects by pioneers of contemporary art of the last century, who are still active today. This section builds on the idea that in the future we will look at 2020 as the beginning of a new era for contemporary art. The curators, Lorenzo Giusti and Mouna Mekouar, will put in comparison old artworks and contemporary artworks by historicized international artists, an opportunity to rediscover disregarded movements or trends which once were successful and subsequently have been forgotten. Back to the Future was launched by Francesco Manacorda, former director of Artissima whose professional experience at Artissima was marked by a strong curatorial approach, subsequently maintained by Bonacossa. This section focuses on an issue dear to Bonacossa: the ability of artists to encourage the development of critical thinking and broaden people’s horizons through their work. «Artists anticipate and rediscover. In fact, creativity does not always go hand in hand with trends and fashion. In the Seventies, for instance, there were already artists talking about sustainability and environmental issues, but nobody cared at that time. Now they are considered forerunners. Or again, in the Eighties, when everybody else just looked at painting, many artists devoted themselves to performance art» Bonacossa explains.
Lampoon reporting: Artissima’s selection committee
The galleries are selected by a committee made up of other galleries working at international level with thorough knowledge of the art market and its dynamics. Artissima’s selection committee focuses not only on the general program of the gallery, but especially on the concept at the core of the project they want to present at the fair. The Turinese fair is committed to help emerging galleries become known in the international contemporary art scene. To pursue this objective Artissima has established a section called New Entry, dedicated to art galleries less than five years old. «It is not a matter of taste, in fact we do not want to form a single dominant taste. It is all about quality We want to assure our collectors that whatever they purchase at Artissima, it is a top-quality piece testifying the latest trends and developments of the art world» Bonacossa explains. During her five years as director of Artissima, Bonacossa witnessed some of the major changes occurring in the contemporary art world, especially in the fairs sector. One for all, the consolidation of a business model based on multiple locations scattered across the globe, which strengthens the positioning of the fair and its customer loyalty, but on the other hand tarnishes the fair’s uniqueness and identity. The identifying spirit of Artissima is reflected in the risk appetite of the participating galleries, often proposing curated projects encouraging experimental forms of art collecting. Staying true to its mission and vocation to research and thanks to its link to the territory, every year Artissima proposes new features and initiatives, often in partnership with local and international economic and social players. Among these there are Jaguar, with which they launched JaguArt.
The Italian Talent Road Show
A traveling talent scout initiative which took place in ten Italian cities, and Xiaomi, which invited six students of NABA – Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti to shoot with their brand new cell phones creative photographs which will be presented at the fair. Other than its new hybrid form, one of the main novelties of Artissima 2021 is the widespread format of the special section dedicated to a geographical area which this year will focus on India. Hub India–Maximum Minimum, in collaboration with Emamin Art, will offer an overview of the galleries, institutions and artists active in an area of central importance. The project is curated by Myna Mukherjee, curator, founder and director of Engendered, New Delhi, and Davide Quadrio, founder and director of Arthub. Two years ago the fair presented a geographical focus on the Middle East which involved not only Middle Eastern art galleries, but also experts who gave talks on the Middle Eastern contemporary art scene. On the occasion of Artissima 2021, Hub India will expand in the city of Turin with a tripartite museums show titled Classical Radical, organized in collaboration with Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti di Torino and with Fondazione Torino Musei, which will host the exhibitions in some of its major museum facilities: Palazzo Madama-Museo Civico di Arte Antica and MAO Museo d’Arte Orientale. This year, not all the artworks on show will be on sale as some of them will be borrowed from Indian museums and private collections.
«We try to bring a little bit of foreign culture to Italy at a time when traveling is still subject to restrictions. It will be an opportunity to discover the similarities between Indian art and Italian art. Of course I am not speaking of formal analogies, but like Italy, India has a long and articulated history and in both our countries craft techniques still have a strong value» the director of Artissima claims. Another special project aiming at enhancing the diversity and multiculturalism of the contemporary art market is Torino Social Impact Award, born out of the desire to promote a dialogue between contemporary art and social innovation.
Promoted by Torino Social Impact, created and coordinated by Artissima and supported by Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo, the prize is aimed at young people with training in the world of contemporary art, of a multicultural and migratory background. «When it comes to multiculturalism in the art world, Italy is still behind compared to other European countries. For example, the artists representing Italy in international fairs and art events are usually white, native speakers, often male. This project can be a tool to scratch prejudices and stereotypes» Bonacossa explains. The award aims at giving voice to people with complex, articulated and different visions and at expediting the entering into the art market – and more in general into the cultural sectors – of the cultural diversity increasingly visible in art academies, as well as in the social fabric: «We know that although nowadays the great Italian cultural production is mainly made by Italians, the situation will change automatically in the next 20 years. However, it is interesting and extremely important to focus attention on these crucial issues».
The major Italian contemporary art fair was established in 1994. Since its foundation, it has combined the presence of an international market with a focus on experimentation and research. The theme of the 28th edition will be “Controtempo”. Starting from 2020 the three curated sections are virtually hosted on the Artissima XYZ digital platform, accompanied in 2021 by a physical collective display within the exhibition pavilion.