Artissima: in Turin, art has taken over the city

A well-curated fair, a resounding sales success, beautiful exhibitions in museums, galleries, and foundations with a large audience. All these are reasons to declare: welcome back to Turin!

Inside and outside Artissima, a miraculous atmosphere was felt!

Such optimism has not often been felt in these uncertain times marked by great worries. However, the last Italian art week in 2022 brought with it a wave of energy that made the eyes of gallerists and contemporary art lovers in general shine.

«Before the fair started, I had already sold two works by Jonathan Monk», Nicola Mafessoni, owner of the Milanese gallery LOOM, happily told us.

The same enthusiasm was echoed by dozens of other gallerists, with whom we met these days, inside and outside the Oval Lingotto, headquarters of the Turin fair.

Veronica Veronesi, from Gallleriapiù in Bologna, told us: «I think Luigi Fassi – the new director of Artissima – democratised the event: he made an almost circular map of the galleries, so as not to tire visitors and collectors, and distributed them without a specific order. In other words, the strongest ones were not near the entrance, as has always happened in the past. And that was exceptionally good for us, who are smaller galleries, but who make more effort to be here.»

Federica Schiavo, from Schiavo Zoppelli Gallery (Milan and Rome), was also thrilled. She had never seen so many curators, art dealers, museum directors and other professionals at an Italian fair: «I am amazed. For me, Artissima is the best fair in Italy and one of the best in Europe,» the gallerist said. Turin-based Alberto Peola agreed with her and praised the magnificent work of the director and curatorial team of the Present Future, Disegni and Back to the Future sections as the city’s response to art week.

Turin has stuffed its museums, foundations, and galleries with exquisite and original exhibitions, carefully curated. For example, nobody risked too extravagant names and presentations. For those expecting great originality, that attempt was postponed.

Our tour began with the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation. Four new exhibitions opened in early November, among them those by the painter Victor Man and the video installation by the Portuguese artist Diana Policarpo, winner of the Illy Present Future Prize in 2021. From Victor Man there are ten years of portraits and self-portraits summarised in twenty works, all with a mysterious aura, both because of the colours used and the stares of those haunted faces. It is no accident that the exhibition is entitled Eyelids, Towards Evening. We must open, close, squeeze our eyes, trying to understand the confrontation with the radical alterities that always appear in the other and in us, according to Arthur Rimbaud.

Liquid Transfers, a project by Diana Policarpo, continues the artist’s investigation into the interconnections between nature and society. This time, the protagonist is the so-called Ergot fungus, apparently responsible for the last great collective intoxication in 1951, in Pont-Saint-Esprit, France. Among the many theories on the unusual event (which caused several deaths), we can highlight the use of this element as a bacteriological weapon in experiments on various populations. A special occasion to reflect on what we have experienced globally in the last three years.

Another beautiful exhibition about art today and its use as a cure for human afflictions is Hic sunt dracones, at the Gallery of Modern Art – GAM. The dialogue takes place between Italian artist Chiara Camoni – a sculptor whose poetics uses materials such as ceramics, wood, flowers, and metals -, who has built stunning totemic structures, and sketches made by psychiatric patients at the Atelier dell’Errore. The mix is explosive, showing that art is always born from a deep turmoil.

Still targeting the “body”, we went to the Merz Foundation to see the site-specific project Alert by Israeli artist Michal Rovner. In response to the problem of large migrations in recent years in the Mediterranean, and to raise awareness of this issue, the artist stayed overnight for a while in the middle of the countryside, in total darkness, surrounded by jackals. Michal Rovner describes these encounters as a discreet approach, but always in a state of alert. After all, we are the reflection of these wild animals. We also explore each other, approaching and then fleeing from dangerous or less comfortable situations.

The distrust of jackals mirrors our instinct and the fear associated with curiosity when faced with alterity.

There were two special projects. One at the premises of the OGR, Officine Grandi Riparazioni, where great international artists were exhibited; and the other at the Castle of Rivoli.

At the OGRs, Arthur Jafa went first, with a new installation on the theme of blackness, whose title is RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON. The idea is to talk about how the power, beauty, and alienation of Black music in the United States is defined through the media, whether in still images or film. The investigation, composed of a video and a gallery of icons, is also a tribute to guitarists Arthur Rhames (1957-1989), Pete Cosey (1943-2012) and Ronny Drayton (1953-2020).

On the other hand, Olafur Eliasson has transformed the Manica Lunga, the most famous area of the Castle of Rivoli, into an optical device where complex fluid forms appear. We feel the illusion of being in a place that is larger than it is, thanks to the games of mirrors and light projections.

One more suggestion: if you are in Turin, visit the renovated Pinacoteca Agnelli, right next to the Oval Lingotto. The new director Sara Cosulich has shaped a real Italian High Line on the roof of the building, which was once the test track for Fiat cars. Today we can find there the installations of Liam Gillik, Sylvie Fleury, Superflex or Nina Beier, among other artists. An incredible place, proving how much visual culture can change the attractiveness and our experience of places.

Finally, we highlight other fairs of this art week. Flashback took place in a beautiful palace by the Turin hill, with over fifty galleries presenting a mix of ancient and contemporary art, with twenty-five thousand visitors; in the pavilion by architect Pier Luigi Nervi, The Others Art Fair created a labyrinthine route, with a selection of young Italian galleries and artists. The public also turned up in large numbers, with long queues right from the opening on November 3.

In conclusion, it is no lie to say that art took over the city for a week. A miracle indeed!

Artissima took place from 4 to 6 November in Turin.

Matteo Bergamini is a journalist and art critic. He’s the Director of the Italian magazine and also a collaborator in the weekly journal D La Repubblica. Besides journalist he’s also the editor and curator of several books, such as Un Musée après, by the photographer Luca Gilli, Vanilla Edizioni, 2018; Francesca Alinovi (with Veronica Santi), by Postmedia books, 2019; Prisa Mata. Diario Marocchino, by Sartoria Editoriale, 2020. The lattest published book is L'involuzione del pensiero libero, 2021, also by Postmedia books. He’s the curator of the exhibitions Marcella Vanzo. To wake up the living, to wake up the dead, at Berengo Foundation, Venezia, 2019; Luca Gilli, Di-stanze, Museo Diocesano, Milan, 2018; Aldo Runfola, Galeria Michela Rizzo, Venezia, 2018, and the co-curator of the first, 2019 edition of BienNoLo, the peripheries biennial, in Milan. He’s a professor assistant in several Fine Arts Academies and specialized courses. Lives and works in Milan, Italy.

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