Riders on the Storm

Kate Sutton at the 18th Artissima

Left: Curator Jennifer Teets, France Fiction's Lorenzo Cirrincione, and artist Lara Favaretto. Right: Castello di Rivoli in the rain. (Photos: Except where noted, all photos: Kate Sutton)

THE RAIN WAS JUST BEGINNING when my plane touched down in Turin on Thursday, November 3, right in the middle of the vernissage for the eighteenth edition of the Artissima art fair. “Don’t worry, sweetie,” one of the fair’s volunteers tried to console me. “I’m sure you didn’t miss much. Italians are always late for everything.”

It wasn’t the Italians I was worried about: All through customs, a friend had been feeding me a malicious stream of texts fabricating Ryan Gosling sightings at the fair. (Did he mean Ryan Gander?) But by the time I arrived at Oval Lingotto Fiere, the fair’s capacious venue, Ryans were the last thing on my mind. There was simply too much going on. Special projects featuring artists both old (“Back to the Future”) and young (“Present Future”) took up entire rows, and at the center of it all was a collection of provisional “pavilions” comprising Lara Favaretto’s “Simple Rational Approximations.” Each of her structures represented a different facet of the ideal contemporary museum and was “illustrated” by a curated project or program of events. For instance, sealed off in the “Education Department” was France Fiction’s The Ink Factory, in which the artist collective painstakingly packed small cartridges of ink—the “substance” of information, rather than its content—to be given away to visitors. Meanwhile, the “Temporary Exhibition” space hosted a public reading, alternating between artist Pierre Bal-Blanc and a rent boy, of the artist’s application to curate the Seventh Berlin Biennale.

Graphic designer Sarah De Bondt helmed the “Publishing Department,” which was responsible for the graphs, pie charts, and informative minutiae punctuating the aisleways and filling the brochure. The fair guide was more decorative than useful. “At least it tells you the temperatures on the opening days of all the previous Artissimas,” Thomas Dane Gallery’s Tom Dingle grinned, tapping a finger on the graph gracing the book’s back cover. “But I have no idea where anything is or when it’s open,” I moaned. “That’s okay. You don’t have to rush here,” another dealer cut in. “This is a cruising fair.”

Left: Collector Andy Stillpass, dealer Daniele Balice, and artist Bernard Dubois. Right: France Fiction's The Ink Factory.

“The best part about this fair is that it’s actually about the art,” dealer Daniele Balice hummed. He should know, since he had not one but two galleries at Artissima: the Paris-based Balice Hertling and Balice Hertling & Lewis, which was making its first appearance on the fair circuit, a mere month after opening in New York. “Actually, I take that back,” Balice corrected himself, after his BlackBerry reminded him we would need a bigger table for dinner. “The best thing about this fair is the food.”

Testing the theory, we headed to Bastimento for “Italian Soul Food” with select representatives of the Cincinnati jet set, including collector Andy Stillpass and his charming daughter Zoe. Italians Isabella Bortolozzi and collector Josef Dalle Nogare teamed up to translate the menu. “It’s that little red fish.” Blank looks. “You know, those pink fish? From the aquariums?” Blank looks, clouding with concern. “Basta. We’ll let the waiter decide.” The waiter nodded in approval at the decision, and soon our table was steaming with plates of grilled calamari and, well, you know, those pink fish? From the aquariums?

After a grappa for the road, we piled into Dalle Nogare’s Porsche and set off for the fair’s opening festivities at Sala Lutrario, a nightclub designed by Torino’s favorite son, Carlo Mollino. To get us in the mood, Dalle Nogare put on a compilation of another Italian icon, Lucio Battisti. The locals in the car all sang lustily along. “You have to understand,” my seatmate sighed. “This song was the sound track for everyone’s first kiss, like what you listen to out on the beach with a bonfire.”

Left: Dealers Isabella Bortolozzi and Marta Lusena. Right: Gilbert & George.

Once at the club, I was determined to find the dance floor before the grappa got the best of me. I slipped past dealers Martin van Zomeren, Magnus Edensvard, and Diana Stigter on my way to the floor, but found the music somewhat less rousing than the Battisti. (“Not really the place where we can request Rihanna, is it?” a friend whispered, hopefully.) I shifted weight to the almost-rhythm, wondering how it was that curators Peter Eleey and Beatrix Ruf seemed to have no trouble finding their groove. Thankfully, AIDS 3D soon commandeered the DJ booth, and before long the crowd had worked itself into a modish mosh pit.

The next morning, I maneuvered a ride to Castello di Rivoli. While the probably tremendous mountain views were obscured by fog, the persistent drizzle gave a Magic Castle feel to “Arte Povera International,” Germano Celant’s defense of a movement he himself had defined. Staggered by the venue, I attached myself momentarily to a tour standing in front of a Boetti. The guide gave us a conspiratorial eye: “Since this is an art-fair group, I can tell you these things used to go for absolutely nothing, and now . . . ” Feeling that the rest of that sentence would spoil the fairy tale, I ducked into the Giovanni Anselmo room next door.

Friday, I returned to the fair to look around “Back to the Future,” a showcase of artists’ work from the 1970s. Heeding rave reviews about Tomaso Binga, I began at Rome’s Wunderkammern gallery and worked my way around, lingering on Lynn Hershman Leeson’s “Rebecca Breitmore” alter ego at Galerie Waldburger. What really stopped me in my tracks, however, were photographs by John Divola lining one side of Laura Bartlett’s booth. “These were taken in an abandoned building on Zuma Beach in LA,” Bartlett pointed out. “It’s amazing how current they look, right?” I agreed, speechless.

Left: Collector Josef Dalle Nogare. Right: Pierre Bal-Blanc's Draft Score for an Exhibition.

My plans for the rest of the evening involved going to prison—i.e., Le Nuove, the provocative site of the alternative art fair “The Others”—but first I wanted to get hypnotized. I had missed every instance of Raimundas Malašauskas’s “The Hypnotic Show” since its very first iteration, in 2008, at Silverman Gallery in San Francisco. Now that the project had taken over the “Storage” unit of Favaretto’s ersatz museum, I was determined to make it, five-person limit be damned.

“You’ve been hypnotized, right?” I asked “Present Future” curator Chris Fitzpatrick, standing in line beside me. He hesitated. “Well, not exactly. I was in the audience at that show at Jessica’s, but in the front row. I guess I got a contact hypnosis.” Artist-hypnotist Marcos Lutyens overheard: “Yeah, that really wasn’t supposed to happen.”

What is supposed to happen is this: Malašauskas recruited four writers to produce thirty different scripts of exhibition scenarios, and then hired a professional hypnotist to talk the participants through the shows. “It explodes the bounds of what’s possible curatorially, but it also allows you to visit historical exhibitions,” Malašauskas explained, showing me scripts for John Cage’s 4'33" and Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece. We were escorted down a dark, narrow hallway in the basement of the fair. Chairs were lined up along either side, just like an airplane. “Please make sure your tray tables are in the upright and locked position,” someone mumbled. (Judging from my fellow travelers—Palais de Tokyo director Marc-Olivier Wahler and curator Jean-Max Colard among them—my flight must have been from Paris.) Once entranced, we admired a beautiful Grecian sculpture, which all too abruptly morphed into a wax cast of a penitent Hitler. Unsettling to think my unconscious had actually made it to the Maurizio Cattelan opening, taking place that same day in New York.

Left: AIDS 3D. Right: Dealer Sunny Rahbar.

By the time I left the “exhibition,” I had missed my ride to prison. Thankfully, Artissima’s downtown Lido program, a loose association of temporary art spaces and permanent bars, was on hand to provide other options. At the heart of it all was the Social Club, an ad hoc headquarters set up in a vintage shop. (“Vintage?” an artist scoffed. “I’d just say ‘overpriced.’ That scarf is a hundred euros!”) The crowd was mostly young and local, and the music ranged from the DJ stylings of Carsten Nicolai to Davide Bertocchi’s compilations of artists’ favorite songs. I took a moment to congratulate Michael Quistrebert on his beautiful new bleach paintings at Artissima newcomer Galerie Crèvecoeur before sidling up to the Third Line’s Sunny Rahbar, who was chatting with writers Zain Masud and Gianluigi Ricuperati. From there, the evening devolved into the sort of grappa-fueled revelries that art fairs are built to inspire.

Saturday evening, all the galleries timed their openings to run from 9 PM to midnight, as part of “Contemporary Arts Night in Turin.” But flood warnings (and multicourse dinners) meant that only the truly determined managed to make it to Henrik Olesen at Franco Noero; to Boris Mikhailov at Guido Costa Projects; or to “Voyage around My Room,” Becky Beasley’s curated ode to Carlo Mollino at Norma Mangione. I skipped my Sunday morning flight in hopes of catching the shows, unaware that—Artissima or no—galleries remain closed all day. Instead, I settled for the spectacle of the floodwaters rocketing debris down the river. “Pericoloso!” a policeman half my height shouted, shooing me away from the bridge. My college-elective Italian was not enough to explain to him that if the grappa hadn’t finished me off, I doubted a few more drops of rainwater would.

Left: Dealer Rodrigo Mallea Lira. Right: Artist Walead Beshty.

Left: Cardi Black Box's Edoardo Osculati. Right: Curator Jean-Max Colard.

Left: Dealer Laura Bartlett. Right: Artist Becky Beasley. (Photo: Laura Bartlett)

Left: Artist G. T. Pellizzi. Right: Artist Davide Bertocchi at the Social Club.

Left: Artist Duncan Campbell. Right: Dealers Claudia Cargnel and Frederic Bugada.