NO LONGER just a place for sensible flats and fluorescent sneakers, the nineteenth edition of the MiArt fair was more sophisticated, more fashionable, more international. That’s the good news. The bad news is, serious fashion comes at a cost. So when I heard that a dealer had broken her toe walking in high heels during the install day, my most optimistic thought was, MiArt has reached a whole new level.
Last year was Vincenzo de Bellis’s first as director, and already he’s upped the ante, bringing the fair that much closer to a mandatory stop on the competitive art-world circuit. On top of the impressive list of 148 galleries was a series of talks featuring artists like Joan Jonas and Jürgen Teller; curators Jean-Hubert Martin and Juan A. Gaitán; and collectors like Andy Stillpass, Thea Westreich, and Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. Meanwhile, the whole city vibed to the fair’s “Spring Awakening” program, during which museums, foundations, private galleries, and independent project spaces put on their best faces for the demanding, well-shod crowd.
Festivities had already begun by the time I arrived, a few days after the spring equinox. In the up-and-coming art district of via Stilicone, Peep Hole had feted Uri Aran’s site-specific installation; local publication Mousse temporarily took over Fonderia Artistica Battaglia’s main floor for a show of Cathy Wilkes; and David Lamelas had made the run of Lia Rumma’s three-floor space. My own art awakening (spring, unlike the rain, wasn’t really au rendez-vous) began last Wednesday at HangarBicocca’s opening for Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles. An electric, eclectic crowd filled the giant industrial space, slaloming amid the installations in an effort to reach the open beer bar. “Don’t museums feed people anymore?” moaned a friend. “I haven’t seen free food at an opening for ages.”
Little did she know that, after a quick stop at Dena Yago’s opening at Gasconade, we’d find ourselves in what became known as the “House of Carbs”: Lapo Elkann’s private dinner at his topsy-turvy home for YOUTH, an editorial project featuring young photographers he was supporting in collaboration with le Dictateur. The food was grand and socialites were legion, rubbing elbows with an overwhelmed art crowd. An impromptu VIP room formed in the kitchen, where star caterer Serena Barbieri was making magic happen. Television presenter Victoria Cabello had dressed to match the curtains and wallpaper. Dean and Dan Caten prodded photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari to pose for them, while dealer Federico Vavassori expressed disappointment at not seeing his favorite singer at the party—God knows why he expected Luciano Ligabue to be there! “Let’s go congratulate the curators of the show,” I suggested. “What show?” someone answered, evincing a problem with these stylish dinners: Sometimes they encourage amnesia about why you’re there in the first place.
But you couldn’t miss the art at the fair’s opening the next day. It was plentiful, it was good, and everything felt fresh. A whole new group of young international galleries had joined the roster, adding to the dynamic, globetrotting atmosphere de Bellis’s hell-bent on establishing. Brooklyn- and Brussels-based CLEARING was featuring work by Sebastian Black, who had also designed their booth, while Los Angeles’s François Ghebaly dedicated his space to a shimmering solo show by Joel Kyack. Further cementing the LA-Milan connection, Freedman Fitzpatrick presented a disquieting landscape of ceramics made by Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Natsuko Uchino, and Hannah Weinberger, eventually winning the prize for the Emergent section.
The THENow section, which juxtaposes artists of different generations, got a face-lift from curators Giovanni Carmine, director of Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, and CAPC curator Alexis Vaillant. Jonathan Binet and Paolo Icaro hit the mark at P420 and Gaudel de Stampa’s booths, respectively, while Oscar Tuazon was measuring up to John Divola at Eva Presenhuber and Laura Bartlett. Massimo De Carlo teamed up with Thaddaeus Ropac’s for an impressive tête-à-tête between Elad Lassry and Imi Knoebel. “It feels like I’m in Chelsea” someone mentioned in the alleys, “and that’s a compliment for Milan.” Evening plans seemed pretty clear: an aperitivo at Bar Basso before the official MiArt dinner at Palazzo delle Stelline. “I really love this fair,” said CLEARING’s Olivier Babin. “There’s no Venice Biennale syndrome. You know, that awkward day spent on the phone trying to figure out plans for the night, and ending up at the wrong place at the wrong time after spending €200 on a water taxi? Here everything is simple: Nice people naturally coming together in amazing locations around outstanding food.”
Which is exactly what happened the following nights, starting with gallery openings on Friday. That evening, rumor spread that an influential art writer was dating a Milanese taxi driver, which made gossiping in cab rides feel like social Russian roulette. Thus we traveled in silence to Galleria Zero’s temporary location, before heading toward Lambrate to catch Josh Smith’s solo show at the neighborhood’s lodestar, Massimo De Carlo. We then dropped by Patrick Tuttofuoco’s installation at Studio Guenzani before winding our way to the Porta Venezia district for Alejandro Cesarco at Raffaella Cortese and Amelie von Wulffen at Gió Marconi. The evening culminated at Sala Venezia—known by insiders as the site of Toiletpaper magazine’s legendary dinners. This timeless gem resembles a 1930s film set, where people probably born that same decade still gather to enjoy ballroom dances. That night swaying art fellows joined the club’s habitués for homemade pasta before setting off for the Fondazione Trussardi’s highly anticipated Stan VanDerBeek installation at Milan’s planetarium, where a bunch of intrepid aficionados were spending the (short, remaining) night in sleeping bags.
Saturday’s sun seemed an endorsement of our collective spring awakening. We indulged a few more side dishes from the buoyant MiArt program before dancing everything away at the city’s civic aquarium, where Mousse and hip collective Brutto Posse organized the week’s final bash. Heels flew off and fishes looked dumbstruck at the happy crowd: The water was more than fine—it was wonderful.
Left: Artist Maurizio Cattelan. Right: Dealer Massimo De Carlo and collector Francesco Dalla Rovere.
Left: Dealer François Ghebaly. Right: Fondazione Trussardi's Barbara Roncari and Beatrice Trussardi.
Left: Artist Josh Smith. Right: Dealers Julia Koropoulos, Paola Nicolin, and Chiara Repetto.
Left: Dealer Nicholas Logsdail. Right: Dealer David Lewis and Kunsthalle Zürich director Beatrix Ruf.
Left: Dealers Robbie Fitzpatrick (center) and Jean-Claude Freymond-Guth (right). Right: Dealer Giggiotto del Vecchio.
Left: Dealer Michael Clifton, artist Jonathan Binet, and dealer Michael Benevento. Right: Toiletpaper’s Marta Papini and Beyeler Foundation director Sam Keller.
Left: Galleria Continua’s Mario Cristiani and Blindarte’s Memmo Grilli. Right: Dealer Gió Marconi, artist Mehdi Chouakri, and dealer Thomas Riegger.
Left: Reina Sofia deputy director João Fernandes with artists Grazia Toderi and Gilberto Zorio. Right: Dealer Claudio Guenzani.
Left: Dealers Victor Gisler and Massimo Minini. Right: Dealer Norberto Ruggeri and collector Giorgio Fasol.
Left: Artist Yuri Ancarani and dealer Paolo Zani. Right: Collector Ivan Frioni and dealer Maxwell Graham.
Left: Collectors Leandro Enni Misson and Paolo Bernasconi. Right: Artist Filippo Bisagni and curator Barbara Meneghel.
Left: Artist Marcello Maloberti and dealers Laura Ravelli and Flavio del Monte. Right: Ginevra Elkann and collector Amir Shariat.
Left: Scene at the Saa Venezia dinner party. Right: Curator Caroline Corbetta and Flash Art’s Gea Politi.
Left: Le Dictacteur’s Federico Pepe and Toiletpaper’s Giulia Venturini. Right: Writer Marta Galli and dealer Edoardo Osculati.
Left: Curator Andrea Lissoni and cultural assessor Filippo del Corno. Right: Gufram’s Charley Vezza and Permanent Food’s Paola Manfrin.
Left: Artist Alexander May and architect Massimiliano Locatelli. Right: Artist Dena Yago (right).
Left: Margherita Maccapani Missoni and Vogue’s Mariuccia Casadio. Right: Francesco Giordano and Francesco Pantaleone.
Left: Lisson’s Annette Hoffmann (center). Right: Design curator Maria Cristina Didero and curator Marco Sammicheli.
Left: Lo schermo dell'arte’s Leonardo Bigazzi and curator Luca Lopinto. Right: T293’s Paola Guadagnino and Marco Altavilla.
Left: TV anchor Victoria Cabello. Right: Dealer Claudia Cargnel (right).
Left: Caterer Serena Barbieri. Right: Dealer Alberto Maria Torri and Federica.