Roman Holiday

Left: Dealer Federica Schiavo, curator Ilaria Gianni, dealer Paola Capata, and Delfo Durante. Right: Performance of Rä di Martino at Granpalazzo.

ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY. And likewise the local contemporary art scene is not the result of a mere few years of professional effort. The city’s art world is now more scintillating and festive than ever, and in late May a meritorious group of exhibitions forced us to run a marathon course just to keep up.

Fast on the heels of strong openings in May of Alessandro Scarabello at The Gallery Apart, Rob Sherwood at Federica Schiavo, Camille Henrot at Fondazione Memmo, Brian Eno at Valentina Bonomo, and Tomaso De Luca at Monitor, more and more offerings left no respite for the art-going public. Magazzino inaugurated a show of drawings by David Schutter, one of the artists in residence at The American Academy in Rome, attended by collectors as various as Raffaella and Stefano Sciarretta, Carlo Berarducci and Benny Lucherini, and Giovanni and Valeria Giuliani. “There’s so much history that it is difficult to make new works,” Schutter worried. “It is impossible to say something conclusive about Rome, that’s why I’m loving it so much.”

Dinner followed at the home of Mauro Nicoletti, where American Academy director Peter Benson Miller; curators Pier Paolo Pancotto, Danilo Eccher, and Claudia Gioia; and former model Mirella Petteni Haggiag sipped wine and cavorted before works by Ouattara Watts and Elisabetta Benassi. “In terms of contemporary art, Rome is a difficult city,” collector Benny Lucherini said. “So connected to the ancient world that it has a hard time with the contemporary. However, when this wonderful synergy occurs, overwhelming the city in three, four days, you fall in love with Rome and forgive it… for everything that doesn’t work!”

Left: Collectors Adelaide Marchesoni and Massimo De Palma with dealers Francesca Minini and Jan Mot. Right: Emmanuel Hervé.

The next day T293 put its best face forward with an exhibition by Croatian artist David Maljković in their impressive new Roman venue. Headlining the event were critic Achille Bonito Oliva, always in the path of a camera; Veneklasen/Werner gallery’s Gyonata Bonvicini; dealer Damiana Leoni; and artist Nico Vascellari. From there we proceeded to Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, in the church of Sant’Andrea De Scaphis in Trastevere, site of an explosive exhibition by Mark Leckey, who has completely transformed the space, which is usually left in darkness, into an exultation of forms, light, and color. (Brown joined the fray with his young daughter.) Across the Tiber, a more contemplative project awaited at the Fondazione Giuliani, where Michael Dean, recently nominated for the Turner Prize, has freed up the foundation’s enormous space, inviting viewers to come face-to-face with the setting. The long evening of openings concluded with a big party at The Corner organized by T293, Gavin Brown, Fondazione Giuliani, and Cura magazine, a relaxed rendezvous of artists, dealers, and curators from the Roman and international jet set.

The next day Indipendenza opened its end-of-season show, featuring the work of Marc Camille Chaimowicz, and artist Bruna Esposito had a performance piece at the French Academy in the Villa Medici. But the best was saved for last. The art community repaired to Zagarolo, a small town of eighteen thousand inhabitants at the edge of Rome in the beautiful area called “Castelli Romani,” where Popes and aristocracy alike retired for the summer in extraordinary palazzos. There, in the evocative setting of the Palazzo Rospigliosi, two dealers, Paola Capata and Federica Schiavo, joined forces with curator Ilaria Gianni and event planner Delfo Durante to initiate the second edition of Granpalazzo, an art-fair-like event that was anything but commonplace, constructed like an international exhibition in rooms with high ceilings and late sixteenth-century frescoes. Collectors were invited to spend a long weekend devoted to aesthetic enjoyment and good meals in an authentic setting—a sort of slow-food approach to art, where the public could take time to chat with an artist or a dealer who might be difficult to see in Rome or, indeed, anyplace in Italy. The opening dinner was held at the Villa Tuscolana in Frascati, an exceptional location where, admiring the breathtaking view, collector Giorgio Fasol conversed with Alessandro Rabottini, newly appointed artistic director of MiArt and Corrado Gugliotta, La Veronica’s dealer, chatted with Luigi Fassi, director of the Steirischer Herbst in Graz, and curator Stefano Collicelli Cagol.

Left: Dealer Martha Moldovan with artists Jennifer Bornstein and Mark Leckey, dealer Giulia Ruberti, and artist Jos de Gruyter. Right: Dealer Gavin Brown with Rosy Brown.

The first day of the fair was enlivened by performances: A swimmer in a blue bathing suit, directed by Rä di Martino, moved about the rooms, arousing curiosity. At 3 PM, Reto Pulfer staged a tea ceremony titled Crudofius (Eclectic syncretism). A bit later, Giuseppe Gallo, with the backing of the Fondazione Volume!, positioned himself on a high perch and threw into the building’s interior courtyard some heads of fresh clay, which thus became contorted in chance fashion. In the afternoon, the public assembled before the jury of the Premio Claudio, consisting of the cofounders of Cura, Andrea Baccin and Ilaria Marotta, and collectors Giorgio Angella and Ettore Alloggia. The winners? Piotr Makowski, of the Antoine Levi gallery, and Rodrigo Hernàndez, of P420. The works will be offered on a free lease basis to young families to encourage an interest in contemporary art.

On Sunday Gabriele De Santis held an amusing football game, where artists, curators, and collectors had to play, “encumbered” by a work they owned, which they had to carry. In the same courtyard, dealer Emmanuel Hervé attempted to hit the bullseye, represented by paintings from artist Roxane Burujerdi, with a bow and arrow.

All through the weekend locals and visitors walked leisurely around the palazzo’s rooms, talking to dealers and artists. “Normally at fairs they say ‘I’ll come back,’ and then they have other priorities like dinners, etc.,” said dealer Wilfried Lentz. “There’s so much to do. Here it is much more concentrated, which I think is very positive.” For his part, dealer Jan Mot praised the conditions for the exhibitors. “It’s very important to try to find new models for the art-fair business. People will like the fact that, outside the commercial context, it’s a fantastic area.”

At the end of the day, happy collectors and dealers were driven back to the eternal city and airport by shuttle-bus, all dreary matters like dismantling and packing of artworks taken care of, courtesy the staff of Granpalazzo. A lovely weekend indeed, and the perfect conclusion to a rich offer in Rome.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.

Left: Dealer Wilfried Lentz. Right: Reto Pulfer performance Crudo us (eclectic syncretism).

Left: Cura cofounders Andrea Baccin and Ilaria Marotta. Right: Architect and collector Carlo Berarducci with collector Benny Lucherini.

Left: Dealer Massimo Ligreggi and artist Rä di Martino. Right: Dealer Mauro Nicoletti and artist David Schutter.

Left: Dealer Miles Thurlow. Right: Dealer Vittorio Visciano, artist David Maljkovic, and dealers Paola Guadagnino and Marco Altavilla.

Left: MiArt artistic director Alessandro Rabottini with collector Giorgio Fasol. Right: Mirella Petteni Haggiag and dealer Mauro Nicoletti.

Left: Dealers Gyonata Bonvicini and Damiana Leoni. Right: Margherita Riccardi and dealer Mauro Nicoletti.

Left: Carlo Berarducci with curator Danilo Eccher. Right: American Academy in Rome art director Peter Benson Miller with artist David Schutter.

Left: Artist Elisabetta Benassi, dealer Gabriele Gaspari, and artist Alessandro Piangiamore. Right: Artist Nico Vascellari.

Left: Dealer Borja Díaz Mengotti. Right: Curator Silvano Manganaro, Sabrina Nucci, Lucilla Manganaro, Volume! Foundation coordinator Daniela Nucci, and Volume! founder Francesco Nucci.

Left: Dealer Corrado Gugliotta, Steirischer Herbst Graz director Luigi Fassi, and curator Stefano Collicelli Cagol. Right: Dealer Ilaria Leoni and artist Nicola Pecoraro.

Left: Dealers Alessandro Pasotti and Chiara Tiberio and Fabrizio Padovani. Right: Fondazione Giuliani artistic director Adrienne Drake and dealer James Gardner.

Left: Art critic and curator Achille Bonito Oliva with dealer Marco Altavilla. Right: Artist Stanislao Di Giugno, curator Ludovico Pratesi, and dealer Tiziana Di Caro.

Left: Dealer Edouard Malingue. Right: Silvia Marsano and artist Giuseppe Gallo.

Left: Artist Paul Czerlitski and dealer Fabrizio Affronti. Right: Dealers Miles Thurlow and Christian Mooney.

Left: Collector Matteo Bottari and dealer Antoine Levi. Right: Dealer Giuseppe Alleruzzo.

Left: Collector Giuseppe Casarotto and dealer Chiara Tiberio. Right: Artists Ra di Martino and Elisabetta Benassi.

Left: Collector Diego Bergamaschi with artist Giorgio Andreotta Calò and dealer Paolo Zani. Right: Lawyer Gianluca Meo and dealer Laura Chiari. (All photos: Marta Silvi and Georgia Cadenazzi)