Artissima, the contemporary Italian fair, offers important and risky works to its target audience of Art Cognoscenti

Joy was in the air when Lorenzo Giusti and Mouna Mekouar finally saw each other on Thursday during the opening day of Artissima, the Italian contemporary art fair in Turin, Italy.

For two years, Giusti, director of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Bergamo, and Mekouar, Parisian curator, collaborated virtually to organize the special Back to the Future dossier of the fair, which was not presented last year only in digital form. . When they finally met in person yesterday, in front of one of their selections, one of Julião Sarmento’s last works before his death this year, it wasn’t just about seeing the fruit of their efforts. It was a jubilant reunion.

That was the vibe on the first day of the return of the respected Italian contemporary art fair in physical form since the year of chaos amid the pandemic. It was a congregation of art dealers, collectors, friends of the Italian art world, not to mention an assembly of stimulating and avant-garde contemporary works of art.

“Being able to come back, and things are sort of going back to normal, I just appreciate it,” said Berlin-based merchant Isabella Bortolozzi, a seasoned exhibitor at the fair. “People are just happy to see the work in the flesh. People are tired of Zoom meetings. You have to experience art.

Artissima 2021. Courtesy of Perottino-Piva / Artissima.

The 28th edition of Artissima, which takes place until Sunday 7 November at the Oval Lingotto, is divided into seven sub-sectors and hosts a total of 154 galleries from 37 countries, up from 209 galleries in 2019. Travel restrictions and the ongoing rehabilitation of Italy, one of the first foci of the pandemic, may have created uncertainties for some merchants, in particular those of the United States, declared director of the fair Ilaria Bonacossa. Yet more than half of the exhibitors (56%) came from outside Italy, as well as a range of visitors from abroad.

” The ambiance is good. I’m very happy, ”Bonacossa told Artnet News. “A lot of great collectors came. But the most important thing is that the quality of the art is very good. Galleries take risks by presenting their work.

Galleries can indeed afford to take risks here. Unlike some of the biggest art fairs in the world, Artissima isn’t just smaller in size. It is mainly owned by the city: managed by a company affiliated with the Fondazione Torino Musei, and the trade fair brand is jointly owned by the Regione Piemonte, the Città Metropolitana di Torino and the Città di Torino. Booth fees, as a result, are generally more affordable, starting at € 4,000 ($ 4,600). Bonacossa said there were no discounts this year, but the fair made a unique exception by allowing galleries to pay in installments. The prices of the works on display range from a few thousand euros to around 30,000 to 40,000 € (34,700 to 46,200 $).

Among the risk takers is Gianluca Gentili of the Florence-based Veda Gallery. His stand in the Dialogue / Monologue section featured the politically charged installation Zero is my country, 2021, by Dominique White, based in Marseille and London. “My presentation intends to make a statement about the artist,” Gentili said.

The fair is an ideal international launching pad for young galleries in the region. “We chose Artissima as our first international fair because of the emphasis on ambitious and organized installations, which is very much in line with our philosophy,” said Alexander Caspari, founder and director of London-based gallery Encounter, who presented a solo stand by abstract painter Alexis Teplin.

A handful of galleries reported sales on day one, including 31 Paris-based Projects, which sold three paintings by South African artist Aviwe Plaatjie to Italian and Asian collectors for around € 5,000 ($ 5,800 ) each. Belgian company Dauwens & Beernaert has sold works by Loïc Van Zeebroek and Charlotte Vandenbroucke to Museum Voorlinden in the Netherlands at prices ranging from € 2,000 to € 10,000 ($ 2,300 to $ 11,600). Galleria Mazzoli, in Berlin and Modena, sold a painting by Mimmo Paladino for € 45,000 ($ 52,000) to a European collector, while Galerie Urs Meile, in Lucerne and Beijing, sold two small drawings by Mirko Baselgia for just under € 10,000 ($ 11,600) each.

Presentation by NOME of Goldin + Senneby at Artissima.  Photo: Vivienne Chow.

Introducing Nome de Goldin + Senneby. Photo: Vivienne Chow.

Sales at Artissima, however, follow a very different pace, said Alex Mor, director of Mor-Charpentier. The Paris / Bogotá gallery landed a few first sales, but he was not impatient. “It’s not an art fair where you sell a lot on the first day like a race. Collectors here take longer. You reconnect with people, have intense and deep conversations. It’s a different way of working and it’s special, ”said Mor.

The emphasis on organized exhibitions attracts not only industry players, but collectors as well. While Asian buyers were particularly skinny in the field, due to travel restrictions, many prominent European names were in attendance. Elegantly dressed Italian mega collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo was seen enthusiastically greeting gallery owners and friends in the early hours of the fair before getting ready for the preview of her foundation’s new exhibition and a dinner at gala at her place. Lena Baume from Paris, Jonathan Cheung from Hong Kong, Safia El Malqui from Monaco – and, from the United States, Laurie Ziegler, as well as Tony Podesta – were among those who attended the opening day.

From Belgium, Alain Servais and Eva Ruiz were spotted admiring the booth of Berlin-based gallery Nome, with a solo presentation that challenged notions of monetary value by Swedish conceptual duo Goldin + Senneby. Servais told Artnet News that Artissima always stayed on his art calendar because he could discover artists and works there that would not be seen at other fairs. “The show is not only about selling, but also about introducing artists to curators,” he said. “It involves 50 conservatives. No one in the world does that.

And the emphasis on conservation means high standards. On Sunday morning, the fair committee will conduct an assessment to see which galleries have successfully implemented the exhibition proposal in their fair applications. Expect a 20-30% change in the gallery list next year, Bonacossa said. “We want to give as many galleries a chance as possible,” she said.

Artissima will take place November 5-7 at the Oval Lingotto, Turin, Italy.

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