All in the Rist


Left: Artist Pipilotti Rist with her mother and sister Tamara. Right: Cape Cod Chandelier in the Cinema Manzoni lobby. (All photos: Cathryn Drake)

AFTER A GENTLE RAIN Tuesday evening, Milan was shiny and ethereal for the opening of Pipilotti Rist’s “Parasimpatico,” produced by the Trussardi Foundation. In my haste to make it into the former Cinema Manzoni, the 1950s movie palace in the center of the city that was hosting the show, I mistakenly entered the burlesque cabaret William’s Club le Roi next door. In any case, Rist’s demure incandescent underwear (Cape Cod Chandelier) hanging in the cinema’s lobby would have been perfect in either venue.

The theater had been made into its own kind of erotic carnival. Up the red-carpeted steps, people sat hypnotized by a trippy video, all hallucinogenic colors dripping down the undulating ceiling, starring the red-haired Ewelina Guzik. This was a short section from Rist’s new feature film Pepperminta, a female take on Sgt. Pepper. “Please relax and prepare to experience an orgasm,” the salacious superheroine tells us.

I ducked into the main hall and sat down next to curator Massimiliano Gioni and Beatrice Trussardi to watch the artist pressing and contorting her pretty face against the giant screen in Open My Glade. Disembodied appendages—a breast, an ear, a mouth—floated comically around the perimeter of the space. “Look, it’s kissing the cinema good night,” Gioni observed. Indeed, the whole of the Cinema Manzoni was like a living organism, its walls breathing and oozing the artist’s seductive brand of sugarcoated subversion. Up in the gallery the audience craned their necks to watch Homo Sapiens Sapiens, the video that got shut down by the Vatican during its 2005 run at the San Stae church in Venice. There, the floating Botticelli bodies had evoked paradise, whereas here the reduced focus, framed by an oval cupola, highlighted unsettling details like a hand gently squeezing testicles followed immediately by two others violently crushing oranges. I mentioned to Rist that the video seemed more sexual this time around. “Or is it your mind that has changed?” she asked. Food for thought.

Left: Curator Massimiliano Gioni, Artissima director Francesco Manacorda, and critic Michela Moro. Right: Marina Mondadori and Beatrice Trussardi.

As we walked to the dinner at Café Trussardi, dealer Giò Marconi recounted a debauched evening with a certain German artist at the William’s Club, where they spent two thousand euros on champagne and were surrounded by pretty plumed girls but left bereft. Word had just gone out that Berlusconi was going to resign, though at the time this seemed about as preposterous as the recent retirement announcement of another hometown boy, Maurizio Cattelan, which got more play that evening. Curator Cloe Piccoli and friend-of-Cattelan Paola Manfrin, sitting at the Trussardi bar, discussed the artist’s throwing in the towel. “If he says it, I don’t believe it,” Piccoli announced. “It’s good,” Manfrin responded between bites. “He wants to give space to younger artists.” What could one do but eat the classic Milanese saffron-infused risotto? Dressed in red plaid from head to toe, our pixieish Pippi darted about the crowd while her mother socialized at the bar and her sister Tamara spun her collection of 1960s tunes.

The café, all glass, dissolved with the street beyond, and we watched opera fans waiting outside the stage exit of La Scala for the diva starring in Rossini’s The Lady of the Lake. “It’s the perfect space for an artist who trespasses the idea of cinema,” said Phaidon editor Michele Robecchi, speaking of the Cinema Manzoni. “It’s very, very good,” Hayward curator Stephanie Rosenthal said dreamily. At Gioni’s urging, we stuffed ourselves into a Smart car and sped off to Zoom Bar, followed by Rist and her partner, Balz Roth, who confirmed that he does occasionally appear in Rist’s videos, “but not in those parts.” Once the sympathetic buttafuori gave us the run-down on his paintings adorning the bar’s walls—along with graffiti like FUNKISH! and AMAZING!—Pippi cut out for the night. “She is the most hardworking artist I have ever met,” Gioni told us. Never mind: Rist’s enthusiastic assistant Regula Moser, along with Zoom regular Frank Boehm, newly appointed director of MiArt, stayed on until the wee hours with our happy little crowd to properly christen the freshly appointed hangout.

Cathryn Drake

Left: Dealers Giò Marconi and Pepi Marchetti. Right: Critic Michele Robecchi and dealer Francesca Kaufmann.

Left: Dealers Esther Quiroga and Chiara Repetto. Right: Dealer Annette Hofmann and curator Stephanie Rosenthal.

Left: Trussardi's Flavio Del Monte and dealer Francesca Minini. Right: MAMbo director Gianfranco Mariniello and curator Caroline Corbetta.