Mi Oh Mi

Left: Artist Sheila Hicks and Pier Luigi Loro Piana. Right: MiArt deputy director Alessandro Rabottini with MiArt artistic director and Walker Art Center curator Vincenzo de Bellis.

LANDING IN MILAN LAST WEEK for the twenty-first edition of MiArt, the city seemed lit by a new fire. Had last spring’s opening of the gilded new Fondazione Prada ignited a fresh fervor? Or had the influential galleries enlivening Italy’s financial center simply struck a golden mean between the historic and the contemporary?

The excitement was more than evident among the crowd at Wednesday’s opening for Carsten Höller’s survey at HangarBicocca, the massive exhibition space in a former Pirelli plant on the far north side of town. I was practically swallowed up by the scores of locals queuing up to enter an illuminated tunnel leading to a funhouse of the artist’s most memorable works: mushrooms, amusement-park rides, and all. 

I fought my way through the hoi polloi and back to the city center, where two generations of galleries were inaugurating new spaces on the eve of the fair. Massimo De Carlo launched a Rudolf Stingel show in his second Milan space, near La Scala, in a palazzo designed by Giuseppe Piermarini, and Federico Vavassori opened an elegant exhibition of Emil Michael Klein on the first floor of an apartment building near the Castello. I dipped into Gió Marconi to catch a healthy suite of Günther Förg paintings from the early 2000s before heading off to De Carlo. Arriving at the strike of 8 PM, a posse of late-comers was politely turned away. “What, are we in Zurich now?” one joked.

Left: Dealers Cora Muennich and Emanuela Campoli. Right: Dealer Chiara Repetto.

Thursday morning was game day: the opening of the fair. While MiArt is something of a regional event, with Italians comprising roughly two-thirds of its 150-plus participating galleries, the crowd (curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Jens Hoffmann and artist Sheila Hicks, among others) and creative layout projects an impressive cosmopolitanism and curatorial cogency. News broke just the other week that this would be the last edition helmed by artistic director Vincenzo de Bellis, who has been appointed curator of visual arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. I caught the Warhol Foundation’s Joel Wachs taking a breather during the preview, who shared that the efforts of Alessandro Rabottini, MiArt’s deputy director, justified the jaunt from New York. Indeed de Bellis and Rabottini engineered a system that exceeds expectations.

Two curated sections in particular offered more than the standard, siloed merchandising. THENnow featured sincere syntheses between “historical” artists and those working today, via pairings made by LACMA’s Jarrett Gregory and the Walker’s Pavel Pyś. A standout was Campoli Presti and Galleria dello Scudo, respectively showing Nick Mauss and the late Viennese-born Milanese painter Gastone Novelli. The more ingenious section was Decades, selected by Alberto Salvadori of the Museo Marino Marini in Florence. As the name suggests, participating galleries presented group shows of work, culled from their own stables, representing bygone pockets of the twentieth century. Richard Saltoun’s “The Body as Language,” featuring 1970s works by twenty female performance artists, was a superlative survey for a fair. However, it was bested for the Premio Herno prize by Wilkinson’s more succinct and interdisciplinary presentation of ’80s works by Jimmy De Sana, Joan Jonas, Laurie Simmons, and others, inspired by a cover of the short-lived ZG Magazine.

Left: Dealer Maggie Kayne and Hammer curator Aram Moshayedi. Right: Dealer Paolo Zani of Galleria Zero (left).

With just three long halls, time was the organizing motif of MiArt, which ran from the earliest decades of Decades to the principal contemporary section of the fair to the new galleries in the Emergent section—and onwards with the subsequent furniture area, Object. 

As for the present, on Thursday night dealers wandered toward Porta Vittoria for MiArt’s state dinner–style banquet held inside a cavernous decommissioned palazzo–cum–ice-skating rink. I sat with the Hammer Museum’s Aram Moshayedi, dealer Maggie Kayne, and curators Douglas Fogle and Hanneke Skerath. A towering curtain of white fringe separated the main field of tables from the peripheral ones. Ethereal blue spotlights washed over the scene, blending everything together in the same icy hue. The negronis flowed freely—there and onto the unofficial afterparty at Bar Basso, the perennial local end up.

Around town, a string of special exhibitions played tricks with time. The final, 1940s home of the Futurists was the site of an apartment show organized by Galleria Zero featuring Dan Finsel, Mario Dellavedova, Renzo Martens, and Christine Sun Kim, among others. Unsurprisingly, the building is in the process of being converted into luxury condos, and our trip up the stairs was like an archaeology of gentrification. Another construction-zone exhibition was a solo show organized in a former Montessori school north of Porta Venezia, future home of a new project space called The Classroom. Videos by Italian-Libyan artist Adelita Husni-Bey documented workshops she had organized for pre- and post-pubescent students to role-play situations related to autonomy, cooperation, and social power structures. Meanwhile, down the street and underground in the posh catacombs of the Albergo Diurno, the Fondazione Trussardi staged a tourist-friendly show of abject creations by Sarah Lucas using commonly available Freudian ingredients such as pantyhose and eggs. 

The next night, Kaufmann Repetto and Sadie Coles hosted a dinner with the Fondazione Trussardi in the equally ancient Bistrot Giacomo, a tony fish restaurant. Collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Fogle, and the new American curator of the Pompidou Florence Derieux mingled amid the intimate interlocking leather-bound libraries and velvet salons. Standing amid the crowd to toast Lucas, Trussardi artistic director and New Museum associate director Massimiliano Gioni christened her the “new Madonna of the Bathroom.”

Left: Serpentine chief curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and collector Nicoletta Fiorucci. Right: Dealer Hélène de Franchis.

Saturday saw a second wave of openings on MiArt’s side of town. A younger crowd swarmed de Bellis’s space Peep Hole, showing paintings from the 1960s by septuagenarian Paolo Gioli, and across the street Lia Rumma had installed a new projection by William Kentridge. The Toilet Paper party that night seemed as if it might send me down the drain, worn out and overwhelmed by the storm of design people descending for the massively popular furniture fair Salone del Mobile.

Right now Milan feels effervescent, not always the case for the sober, fashionable city. My coda to MiArt week was a cocktail Tuesday night celebrating the Serpentine on the roof of the Rinascente department store, where news had yet to break about Yana Peel’s appointment as the storied galleries’ new CEO. The art crowd was heading out, supplanted by the stylish design wallahs, but MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, one of the visionaries straddling the worlds of ostensibly functional and functionless beauty, was there. She told me a story about returning to Milan, her hometown, years ago after having relocated to the states. As if they could smell it on her, shopkeepers all spoke to her in English. Why? She was smiling.

Left: Dealer Norberto Ruggeri. Right: Artissima director Sara Cosulich Canarutto and dealer Nicolò Cardi. (All photos by Alessandra Fuccillo, Kevin McGarry, and Georgia Cadenazzi)

Left: MCA Chicago senior curator Omar Kholeif and artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Right: Dealers Cecile Surga and Serena Magni of Piero Atchugarry Gallery.

Left: Dealers Federico Vavassori and Laura Salvo. Right: Art16 director Nathan Clements-Gillespie and collector Beatrice Bulgari.

Left: Angela and Mimmo Jodice. Right: Dealer Maria Bernheim and Nicolas Bernheim.

Left: Artist Gian Maria Tosatti. Right: Jewelry designer Valentina Romen.

Left: Artists Rasmus Myrup and Alessandro Bava. Right: Artist Paul Thorel and dealer Sergio Casoli.

Left: Collector Giulio di Groppello and artist Massimo Bartolini. Right: Dealer Leopold Thun of Emalin and producer Asli Samadova.

Left: Paola Clerico and visitors. Right: Artist Nico Vascellari.

Left: Wanås Konst Foundation's Sofia Bertilsson and writer Pia Capelli. Right: Scholar Nathaniel Wolfson and curator Michele D'Aurizio.

Left: Goshka Macuga android at Fondazione Prada. Right: Dealers Marta Fontolan and Giulia Ruperti.