Finding a location with a street-facing window was a condition set to grant them visibility and devise collaborations with artists and practitioners
Architect Francesco Pizzorusso was living in Berlin in 2019, when he and designer Roberto Aponte came across each other’s work on social media. Aponte recalls, «I was looking to leave my experience in retail behind me to focus on self-expression. As I discussed my requirements with Francesco, it came out that he was on a journey that resembled mine». With Spazio Martín, he coveted to build a place he could own, and after the two spoke, he learnt that Pizzorusso was leaving his Berlin studio to return to Milan.
It was Pizzorusso who introduced Aponte to painter Fulvia Monguzzi, who worked from home and was looking for a place that could help her escape her domestic context. The gallery works like an extension of their private spaces. «We let ourselves be inspired by situations and visions, as we come from places that are not alike». At the beginning of 2020, the project started to take shape. The idea that led to the birth of Spazio Martín for Aponte was freedom. In a city like Milan that is fast paced, he wanted to break free from fashion, a sector that made him feel oppressed and frustrated. «I find Milan to be stimulating – be it because of its streets, dinners or events. That being said, it can push you to take a predetermined path». Pizzorusso wanted to find a space that could act as a base in Milan, and could facilitate him in meeting people by showcasing what he did. When he was working on a renovation project in Porta Venezia, Monguzzi and Aponte gave him their insight as users. «There is a foundation of faith in our tastes and choices that allow us to have an opinion on each other’s work. We are able to exchange information, opinions, ideas, and to juggle the ball among us». For Pizzorusso, who interacted with architects prior to the project’s inception, «the gallery makes me second-guess myself. As an architect, I prefer not to dump my work into this space, this way I can engage with objects that distract me from my curriculum. The job of an architect is technical – there is screen time, discussions, meetings. Spazio Martín allows me to unpack that».
Growing up in Florence among art historians led Pizzorusso to absorb that aesthetic sensibility and taste. Architecture, which was a part of his cultural background, emerged as a way to combine beauty with praxis. After studying architecture there, he moved to Rome, where he understood how the faculty in his hometown was not shedding light on the happenings around the world. He moved to Berlin. «It is the opposite of Florence in terms of urban planning and of people’s mindset. It helped me get rid of a mentality I grew into by studying and living in Florence. In Berlin, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. It made me understand that social constructs are trivial». The role of architecture is made for sharing, «architects should recover the social role they lost in the past years. They should move closer to those for whom they design buildings». To Pizzorusso, architecture plays a political role: he observes how the word politics has its roots in the term politiká, which is derived from polis, the city in Ancient Greece – a space for being in common. «What differentiates architecture from creative outputs is that it presupposes a user who will engage with the space».
Design as we know it was born from Nineteenth century serialization of production of English ceramics: it started as artisanal and became serial. Aponte took a contrasting approach. Born in Naples, he graduated in Design at Rome’s Università della Sapienza and moved to Milan for a masters’ degree in Exhibition Design at Politecnico. He has since worked in the field of retail for brands in Italy and France. Before he started experimenting with it, pottery had been rooted in his heritage. His mother used to practice at a ceramist’s studio by the coast of Naples when he was a child. Ceramics and terracotta belong to the culture of his hometown. An encounter with Ugo Poggi at Salone del Mobile sparked Aponte’s interest in ceramics, as he recognized these as ‘primordial’ objects, sensing ways to adapt that art to the present. He began to work with clay at home, and in the summer, he went to practice decoration and modeling at a ceramic center near Vietri sul Mare, in Costiera Amalfitana. In September he moved his production back to Milan, where he crafts his objects. «What interests me about working with clay is having to control every aspect of it. It is a lengthy process. We are used to speed in our lives. With ceramics, apart from forging and decorating, each piece takes between one to three weeks to dry: an item conceived today will be ready in a month and a half. I tend to be anxious and impatient, ceramics taught me to pause and trust my instincts». Working with ceramics allows Aponte to share with people a reality that diverges from mass production, thanks to the layering of time, steps and techniques. «These objects come out of elements – earth, air, water – that surround us in nature in a physiological way, and they are not made to impress». A line of a song, a sentence taken from a book, travel and friends work as references for Aponte.
Finding a location with a street-facing window was a condition set during their search, it could grant them visibility and open up collaborations with artists and practitioners. «You cannot distinguish the size of Fulvia’s paintings, or understand their texture or thickness of the paint by looking at social media, she is keen to welcome people into her atelier, upstairs, and show them the evolution of her work» says Pizzorusso. The team does not place any expectations on the public. They want to create an atmosphere by welcoming people with food or a glass of wine. «We get mistaken for a flower shop», Aponte mentions. From elderly men who walk past the space and greet them, to the bar at the corner that delivers coffee to the studio, bands who asked Spazio Martín to host their album’s launch and neighbors who bring them produce from the countryside, the space elicits curiosity. Casoretto is a hybrid between NoLo, and Città Studi. The owner of the gallery bought the place in the Seventies and turned it into a print shop. It became a photographer’s studio and, before Spazio Martín took over, a cell phone and computer repair store. Stratifications of activities and materials led layers of flooring to be stacked on top of each other. «There should have been four or five people before we came, by looking at the layers of linoleum» observes Pizzorusso. On the ground floor, under a layer of carpet stuck with tape, they found a Milanese Palladian terrazzo flooring. «We decided to go back to the origins, to strip down the layers built up through the years. We proceeded by subtraction, to make the space neutral and have walls on which we could exhibit works, where Monguzzi could paint».
Reduction was the principle behind Spazio Martín’s redesign. They brought in cups, bowls, vases, glasses and books from their homes and gathered furniture from friends and neighbors, while the table was made to measure. They wanted to host over a handful of people at once, while having a workstation and being able to move each piece for events and openings. A wooden bench works as a mobile seating system that moves back and forth across the space’s interior and exterior. The scale of the location helps the team to be mindful towards energy consumption and reduce waste. There is no boundary between Spazio Martín’s activity as an atelier, a workspace and its being open to the public. It is Monguzzi who manages Spazio Martín’s relationships with collectors. It is due to her productivity, which they are familiar with, that they come back to visit her. «Our fields are interlaced. Collectors who appreciate Fulvia’s work get acquainted with ours». Pizzorusso observes, «in galleries there are busy back offices and clear exhibition spaces. We do not see ourselves like that».
«Per fare tutto ci vuole un fiore». Fioretto’s (flower), taken from Gianni Rodari’s piece «Ci vuole un fiore» and set to music by Sergio Endrigo, the track’s lyrics kickstart Spazio Martín’s program and its inaugural exhibition. In Italian, fioretto is the diminutive of flower, and farefioretto means to make a resolution or a sacrifice. The show, which opened in September, featured works by Fulvia Monguzzi and Gio Pastori, a friend who joined the project’s development from an early stage. The team curates each event. They took advantage of this period of stillness caused by the pandemic to test event formats, building a conversation around visual content downloaded from the web. Live meetings and events, exhibition openings, artist talks, book launches, film screenings, workshops and pottery sales are part of the project’s future plans, and will be implemented to the program.
Via Alfredo Catalani, 35