About Face


Left: Collectors Dakis and Lietta Joannou with artist DeAnna Maganias. Right: MAXXI director Anna Mattiroli and collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. (All photos: Cathryn Drake)

IT WAS RAINING CATS AND DOGS when I landed in Turin last Wednesday for “Investigations of a Dog,” an exhibition at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. Inspired by Kafka’s eponymous short story, the show is the inaugural collaboration of FACE, a newly formed group of five European art nonprofits that also includes Athens’s DESTE Foundation; the Ellipse Foundation of Cascais, Portugal; Paris’s La Maison Rouge; and Magasin 3 of Stockholm.

Turin has a homey, sepia-toned feeling, especially when seen through the lens of a bottle of Barbera d’Alba, courtesy of an overworked hotel clerk (who was slammed with throngs of Israeli football fans). The exhibition’s premiere, held a mere fortnight before Artissima and coinciding with the opening night of FIAC in Paris, was missing all its artists save one, DeAnna Maganias, who flew in from Athens. But the nippy weather and unfortunate timing did not deter a rapt audience from filling up the house for an opening conference anchored by the host foundation’s artistic director, Francesco Bonami.

Left: Antoine de Galbert and Paula Aisemberg of Maison Rouge and curator Irene Calderoni. Right: Curators Alexandre Melo and Eleni Michailidi.

The exhibition turned out to be a wide-ranging essay on identification versus isolation, with a surprisingly spare selection of about forty works drawn from the various collections. Mark Dion’s grotesque mole, hanging limply at the entrance with a Kafka-scaled beetle peeking over its shoulder, set a tone of sympathetic/pathetic paranoia. A corresponding effigy, by (and of) Maurizio Cattelan, hung at the start of a long corridor near a similarly cartoonish Animal, by Fischli & Weiss. The most evocative works reflect the paradox of alienation within the familiar or the distortion of the prolonged stare: Maganias’s upside-down The View from Bed brings to mind the surreal bedchamber in “The Metamorphosis”; Gregor Schneider’s ink-black Das Grosse Wichsen invokes the fear of the dark that transforms personal spaces into chambers of horror. Nearby, a series of painterly photographs by Esko Mannikko portrays the meager lives of bachelors in northern Finland with a gorgeousness that only underlines their sense of isolation.

The dinner, at Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s home, was an intimate gathering of heads of some of the most interesting art institutions in Europe; it had the air of an affectionately teasing dysfunctional family. Bonami stood to deliver a toast: “Because we have so many people from uncivilized countries, I will speak English.” The rain pounding the roof of the garden tent nearly drowned him out. “I thought this whole idea was preposterous. Patrizia is a visionary, but she doesn’t know it yet because she is obsessed with table settings, and she always gets it wrong.”

Left: David Neuman of Magasin 3 and DeAnna Maganias. Right: Castello di Rivoli curator Marianna Veceillio and Gail Cochrane of the Spinola Banna Foundation.

Our hostess and roast subject looked smart with one of her vintage Trifari brooches—this time a large Lucite spider—pinned to her pert silver jacket. “When I first mentioned the idea to Dakis, he said it would be impossible,” she said. To that, the DESTE Foundation’s Eleni Michailidi responded, “Only a woman could have done it. Men are not interested in working together; they only care about their egos.” We sat at a corner table with the three fabulous female curators of the other partner foundations. “It was surprisingly easy to work as a team,” said Magasin 3 curator Tessa Praun, who reportedly came up with the exhibition’s title. “But next time,” said La Maison Rouge’s Antoine de Galbert, “we should have a more focused theme.”

Curator Jan Debbaut praised Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s curatorial residency program (for which he had served on the jury the day before), as well as the benefits of freelance curating. “It beats sitting through eight meetings a day at the Tate,” he said. Patrizia elaborated: “There are so many artist residencies in the world, and what good do they do? It seems more effective to bring young curators to meet the Italian artists rather than the other way around.”

After dinner, guests descended like locusts on a table arrayed with twenty-six different homemade desserts, “curated” by Patrizia’s mother. Bonami went at them with particular gusto. “He loves them,” Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s Helen Weaver explained. Under the watchful blank black gazes of Allan McCollum’s 480 Plaster Surrogates, Magasin 3’s David Neuman noted, “It’s not easy for a single collection to produce significant shows, but now we can draw on the resources of all our collections.” He paused, then added, “The museums are watching us with interest—and feeling a bit threatened.” Not to be paranoid or anything.

Left: A student with Maurizio Cattelan's piece. Right: Curator Francesco Bonami, dealer Giò Marconi, and curator Jan Debbaut.