Welcome to the South! For the launch of Mag, we have chosen to talk about the treasures of Southern Italy. My colleagues have come forward with relevant ideas and proposals. I am naturally a bit dreamy and a bit contradictory. I therefore suggested writing about an event that takes place in the North.
Every spring, I visit miart, the international modern and contemporary art fair in Milan. This year it was held from 1 to 3 April, organized by Fiera Milano, and was the first art fair of 2022 in Italy. After the two years of the pandemic (in 2020 it was only online and in 2021 in reduced format, in September) I wanted to see if this event, symbolically entitled ‘Primo movimento’ (First movement) could mark a revival of culture in the city. And, why not, bring back that splash of glamor that never hurts. I was not disappointed. The first thing that struck me was the success with the public and the return of international collectors.
“We had buyers from Mexico, Argentina, Turkey and the United States,” confirms with satisfaction Nicola Ricciardi, curator of the fair for the second consecutive year. Obviously, the majority were Europeans, especially Belgians, Swiss, French, and even Spanish, who usually never come to miart. This year, we had to reassert ourselves as a credible fair and get back to doing business. All the gallery owners talked about excellent sales; they confirmed that they had repaid the cost of the stand and also travel and transport of the paintings. We must leverage this in order to convince an increasing number of foreign galleries to participate in miart. This is our goal: to bring an elite of important galleries back to Milan.”
We wonder how much it sold. The question is precise; the answer is somewhat vague: “I can't give an order of magnitude of sales,” explains Ricciardi. “I really don't know, because negotiations start at the Fair and go on for weeks, even months. But certainly, the sentiment of the gallery owners was extremely positive.” This is also confirmed by a curious fact that occurred during the Fair. “Last year, gallery owners were calling me on the phone every ten minutes. Everyone had a problem to report: for one it was the lights, for another the bar, another because a collector was unable to get in to the exhibition. I felt like I had become a rubber band. This year, when the Fair began, my mobile phone suddenly stopped ringing,” Ricciardi smiles, “and this makes me think that the gallery owners had better things to do, that is, they were working and selling.”
Small-format paintings were very popular, with prices from EUR 20,000 to 50,000. Two major foreign galleries participating for the first time in miart – Klemm's from Berlin and Misako & Rosen from Tokyo – sold everything. The iconic works of the twentieth century that cost hundreds of thousands didn’t do so well – Fontana, Manzoni, Burri, De Chirico.
“There were no sales with a bang,” admits Ricciardi “and overall, the number of significant investments was lower than in 2019. But there was the desire to buy a greater number of works, and above all collectors bought from galleries that were not among their usual contacts. This is fundamental, because the Fair is supposed to be a place where new contacts are made.”
New contacts were facilitated by the layout of the stands. It was very easy to get lost, given the labyrinth structure; and thus encounter new people and see unusual images. Emerging artists, somewhat neglected by collectors in 2021, have been valued this year. Their section, called precisely 'Emergent', and curated by Attilia Fattori Franchini, was exceptionally placed at the entrance to the exhibition, forcing visitors to pass through it to get to 'Established', the main section. This strategic choice paid off.
“This year we told the young artists ‘We’ll put you at the entrance, but you have to dress well”
Ricciardi jokes. "In fact, they brought books full of very colorful and fresh works and they sold well. The feedback was positive, for both the thirteen Italian galleries – including Martina Simeti, Una Galley, Ada, Gilda Lavia – and the seven foreign ones.”
Attilia Fattori Franchetti confirms that “there was a particular desire on the part of the Fair and of the entire team of curators to help those who are at the start of their professional career.” Among the most innovative emerging Italian artists, the curator cited Diego Volandris, with his paintings that “in an imaginative way break with the concept of reality by looking at the various figurative possibilities,” Clarissa Baldassarri and “her ceramics conceived as a fragmented installation,” Pamela Diamante, “who finds prehistoric stones that have figurative images inside them and then does photographic research to recreate the same landscape of the stones,” Jacopo Mazzetti, “who has created wearable sculptures” and then Davide Stucchi, Costanza Candeloro.
Compared to their European colleagues, emerging Italian artists find it harder to make themselves known and appreciated abroad “because there is a lack of institutions,” observes Fattori Franchetti, who lives in London.
“The strength lies in the galleries that bring them to the fair, and there is always a lot of interest, because the young Italians are very talented and the academies are also excellent. But it is hard to make them known, even if things are changing a bit now. For example, we have the Italian Council, a call by the Ministry of Culture, which strongly supports young artists. It's really great. Macro and Castello di Rivoli also focus on young people. But more is needed.”
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