Global Village

Left: Artist Thomas Bayrle. Right: Artissima director Sarah Cosulich. (All photos: Pia Capelli and Perottino-Alfero-Tardito)

AS FAR AS ITALIAN ART FAIRS GO, nothing gets as international as Artissima. With its surreal number of curators (more than fifty) contributing to sections and prizes, its roster of global collectors, its constant new entries among exhibitors (Iran and Dubai are the latest additions), and its parade of collateral fairs and shows, Turin’s contemporary fair is the epicenter of an explosive Art Week.

Committed art travelers spend four or five days immersed in art and design, rushing from a castle to a former royal palace (Turin has been a capital city for most of its existence, and the first of the Regno d’Italia under the Savoia until 1865), and from a digital-art exhibition to an electronic music festival. Bouncing among the mainstream, the punk, the aristocratic, and the underground, almost never sleeping, we manage to leave town having gained some pounds, carrying some limited edition of fondants by maître chocolatier Guido Gobino (this year signed by Thomas Bayrle), and smelling of truffle to the tips of our hair.

And yet, the Turin Art Week is also the epitome of Italianity, as it seems to feed on contradictions and uncertainty. When the doors of the Oval open on a warm Thursday, the cultural elite of the city is supposedly in turmoil, as the first statements of new mayor Chiara Appendino (young, female, and from the antiestablishment M5S party) on the future of art institutions and blockbuster exhibitions have provoked at least one notable resignation (Fondazione Torino Musei’s president Patrizia Asproni). The traditional Turinese book fair has lost some limbs to its rival, Milan, sparking outrage. Artissima director Sarah Cosulich is at her fifth and final year at the helm, though she is hoping to be appointed again—which is unusual, since previous directors have left well before the end of their tenures, to greener pastures: Francesco Manacorda to Tate Liverpool, Andrea Bellini to the CAC in Geneva.

Left: Artist Jan Schabus and dealer Norma Mangione. Right: Dealer Sara Zanin and artist Evgeny Antufiev.

This edition, the twenty-third, is thus sometimes perceived as that of Turin’s “crisis,” but in my years covering Artissima I have never seen such a global attendance and wide range of collateral events. At the main fair, the quality is consistent: New art prizes are born every year, and large committees of curators wander among the 193 booths, trying not to bump into one another—the herd metaphor is definitely fitting. Sales are okay, “but it’s more about new contacts,” says everyone. (Being the last remaining country in Europe with a 22 percent VAT on works of art, it’s a miracle Italy still has an art market at all.)

The first person I meet as I check in at my hotel in Piazza Carlina is Christine Macel, the artistic director of next year’s Venice Biennale who is getting familiar with the impossible logistics of her task and with the Italian art world in general. We are both too impatient to wait for the scheduled shuttle so we call a taxi and get to the Oval before everyone else. I tag along just to see how many of the local dealers recognize the most powerful woman of 2017, and I am not surprised to see that her face and name don’t always strike a chord. (Dealers, do your homework!)

A nice interlude among the booths is “Corpo. Gesto. Postura,” the in-fair exhibition curated by Simone Menegoi that revolves around the theme of the body and gives international visitors a hint of the richness of Piedmontese collections (with works by John Bock, Sarah Lucas, Anna Maria Maiolino, Giuseppe Penone, Francesca Woodman). One of the key elements of the week is the newly built network among Turinese museums, now connected not only by shuttles (definitely an improvement from previous years) but also by an articulated exhibition plan that sees Ed Atkins both at Castello di Rivoli and Fondazione Sandretto, Wael Shawky at Rivoli and at Fondazione Merz, and lures you from one venue to another.

Left: Collectors Tony Podesta and Dalila Barzilai Hollander. Right: Collectors Leif Djurhuus and Ole Faarup.

At 6:30 PM, just as Artissima officially opens to the public, I’m off to the opening of Rosemarie Trockel’s “Reflections” at Pinacoteca Agnelli, in nearby Lingotto—the former FIAT headquarters. After a long drive, Artissima’s minivan deposits a large group of international curators in a dark and deserted parking lot, miles away from the actual entrance (I am beginning to think that uncomfortable minivans with drivers from hell are the price we pay for our privileged art-world existence). We find our way back and climb up to Renzo Piano’s “Scrigno,” where Gianni and Marella Agnelli’s collection is displayed too. Here, the committee of honor (and power) is all female: president Ginevra Elkann, director Marcella Pralormo, Trockel herself, dealer Monika Sprüth (who has produced Trockel’s amazing new body of ceramic mirroring sculptures), and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. Pralormo, who also runs a yearlong public program of conversations with—and about—collectors, explains that Trockel’s enthusiastic participation was unexpected: “We were lucky to be chosen for this exhibition. She has canceled many before, and doesn’t usually attend openings, being a little agoraphobic.”

At dinnertime an existential choice has to be made: Should we join the young crowds at Arto Lindsay’s concert, part of the Club to Club music festival, this year hotter than ever (45,000 tickets sold)? Or should we dutifully attend Artissima’s party at the place any art pilgrim dreads most: the baggage-claim area of Caselle airport?

It’s midnight when we bravely attend the third opening of the day: the Others, the art fair founded six years ago by Roberto Casiraghi. First housed in Le Nuove, the former prison, it has now repaired to Regina Maria Adelaide, a former hospital and trauma center still complete with fluorescent lights and horrific machinery for the straightening of children’s scoliosis. One gallery takes advantage of the environment and shows images of dental procedures. “Don’t you find this a more relaxing setting?” Casiraghi jovially asks. (I don’t.) He says he is also location-scouting in Milan for the Miart week in April: “If you don’t have a parasite fair, you’re a loser,” he jokes. An unending flow of young visitors proves his point. Yet the Others has lost curator Olga Gambari to NESXT, a new nonprofit project/happening/festival that starts off on the right foot this year at the former industrial space Q35.

Left: Silvia Fanti, Filipa Ramos, Sarah Cosulich, Elisabetta Rolando, dealer Isabella Bortolozzi, Franz Bernardelli, and Frederique Begholtz. Right: Pinacoteca Agnelli director Marcella Pralormo and Alain Elkann.

The following morning, a sleep-deprived VIP tour leaves at 9:15 AM for Galleria d’Arte Moderna (GAM), where an exhibition brings together two hundred works by revolutionary Turinese artist Carol Rama. Director Christov-Bakargiev, who is also in charge of Castello di Rivoli, is there to welcome us: ubiquitous, rumored to be difficult, absorbed in her smartphone, but smiling and always dressed in bright, optimistic orange. We introduce ourselves (again), and I realize how much of the Turin Art Week is in the hands of strong, controversial (but these are synonymous) women. When Artissima went for a new corporate image a few years ago, and chose pink with spiky flowers, it was prophetic.

At GAM, I am lucky enough to be picked up and driven to Reggia di Venaria Reale––the “leisure and hunting” baroque residence built by Duke Carlo Emanuele II of Savoia in the seventeenth century—where logistics are complicated by a national strike that includes part of the museum’s staff. (A national strike. Of museum attendants. During Art Week. How Italian is this?) The video and sound installation by Milanese duo Masbedo—Nicolò Massazza and Iacopo Bedogni—and curated by Paola Nicolin is worth the forty-minute trip. Three huge screens occupy the long nave of Citroniera with the images and repetitive noise of the restoration of delicate masterpieces: a Rosso Fiorentino painting, a medieval crucifix.

Friday night belongs to Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo: The dinner at her house is the event of the week. More than 150 guests have flown in from across the planet to enjoy risotto, agnolotti, and speeches by an international array of museum directors. Among them are Tom Eccles, director of the Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies, and Carlos Basualdo and Timothy Rub from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Both institutions have just held their board meetings at the Re Rebaudengo’s mansion: “I thought it’d just be easier to invite them here,” says our host, whose fondazione hosts a show by Josh Kline and a video installation by Harun Farocki. She has just given a guided tour of the fair (a “walkie-talkie”) and the following day, with her typical uber-human energy, she will take her American guests (Art Basel’s Marc Spiegler included) to her Guarene d’Alba country retreat for a truffle-themed weekend.

Left: La Gaia's curator Eva Brioschi. Right: Artissima's Back to the Future curator Eva Fabbris.

On the slip of paper I have been given at the entrance is the number 1, the lucky number of my table. I will be sitting with Patrizia, Kline, Spiegler, the Zabludowicz clan, and a tall easygoing young woman in a green dress. I give her my best informal Ciao!, before realizing she is Chiara Appendino, the aforementioned mayor. (Oops.) She is immediately summoned by Patrizia, who has taken her under her wing (and will hopefully advise her on the intricate dynamics of the Italian cultural world).

Appendino takes the microphone to declare: “Contemporary art is not just a matter of economics, but it’s about growing together as a community.” But everyone is too busy networking and taking in the latest additions to Re Rebaudengo’s ever-changing display. Two more works by Maurizio Cattelan have made their way to the marble hall of the residence, along with a large Rudolf Stingel by the white sofas. Curious collectors tour the house with a map.

The next evening is the art galleries’ White Night. “It will rain. It always does,” an experienced friend tells me while we head toward Palazzo Madama to pay one euro and see Grazia Toderi’s collaboration with Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, a poetic cabinet titled Words and Stars. Outside, it’s not just raining: It’s pouring. Both Guido Costa and Norma Mangione have planned large performances that take place anyway. At Palazzo Carignano, doors are open to the new magnificent venue of Franco Noero’s gallery, featuring a museum-worthy show of Mapplethorpe portraits.

Left: Getty Institute Pietro Rigolo, producer Nataša Venturi, and performer Michelangelo Miccolis. Right: The Others' Director Roberto Casiraghi (right) and Maddalena Bonicelli.

“You only get it once. Don’t miss it,” is the warning I receive about Sunday’s very exclusive invitation to La Gaia’s collection in Busca, near Cuneo, where Bruna Girodengo and Matteo Viglietta have built a spacious museum for their collection of more than two thousand pieces. It began with nineteenth-century paintings and is now one of the most powerful and graceful collections of contemporary art in Italy. Every year during Artissima they welcome a lucky few, redo the display, and then famously feed their guests at the nearby San Quintino country resort. In the four-story building there are iconic works by Giovanni Anselmo, Aldo Mondino, Bruce Nauman, Anish Kapoor, Carl Andre, Robert Morris, Bill Viola, and Anselm Kiefer. “About fifty works are always out, on loan, but some others are too fragile to be moved—Pino Pascali and Boetti never leave the building,” explains curator Eva Brioschi. The collection is busily networking with Centre Pompidou, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, and the Dia Foundation. The Viglietta are also patrons of Documenta.

They let go of their trademark Piedmontese shyness only over lunch, when a shower of giant white truffles covers fresh pasta and cheese fondue. And it’s then that I recall the words of Carol Rama’s nephew: “She was very connected, and well aware of what was going on in the rest of the art world, but never wanted to leave. She had exactly the life she wanted in Turin.”

Left: Dealer Pierpaolo Falone. Right: Dealer Christine Koenig.

Left: Art Basel director Marc Spiegler with P420 gallerists Fabrizio Padovani and Alessandro Pasotti. Right: Collectors Carlos Marsano, Daniela Belmont, and Rafael Franco.

Left: Artist Marzia Migliora and her work at La Gaia. Right: Artist Julien Creuzet.

Left: Collectors Luis Felipe Cordero, Patrick Hamilton, Moira Garces, and Sergio Ferreira. Right: Curators Cristiano Raimondi, Krist Gruihthuijsen, Daniel Baumann, Joanna Mytkowska, Christine Macel, Gary Carrion-Murayari, and Eva Fabbris.

Left: Collector Gemma Testa. Right: Designer Patricia Urquiola.

Left: DAMA Curator Domenico de Chirico and dealer Jakob Pürling. Right: MiArt director Alessandro Rabottini and collector Josef Dalle Nogare at La Gaia.

Left: Dealer Francesco Pantaleone with artists Giuseppe Stampone and Eugenio Tibaldi. Right: Artists Flavio Favelli and Franco Guerzoni with dealer Marta Pellerini.

Left: Designer Allegra Hicks and agent Luca Selvi. Right: Operae curator Annalisa Rosso and Piece of Cake designers Luda Galchenko and Vladimir Chernosvitov.

Left: Katharina Maderthaner and Giuseppe Adamo with dealer Giovanni Rizzuto (center). Right: Dealer Francesca Migliorati and La Gaia's Bruna Girodengo.

Left: Mutina Prize writer Gianluigi Ricuperati, dealer Niccolò Sprovieri,Sarah Cosulich, winner Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Massimo Orsini, Marco De Vincenzo, and Patricia Urquiola. Right: Premio Illy curator Luigi Fassi, winner Cecile B. Evans, Sarah Cosulich, dealer Barbara Seiler, Illy's artistic director Carlo Bach, and Carolyn Christov Bakargiev.

Left: Owenscorp's Michèle Lamy, Felipe Pena, Ana Elisa Cohen, Kitty Scott, Josè Roca, and Sarah Cosulich. Right: Pinacoteca Agnelli director Marcella Pralormo, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, artist Rosemarie Trockel, and dealer Monika Sprüth.

Left: The Others' curator Greta Scarpa and artist Luca Gilli. Right: Artist Marcello Maloberti and curator Barbara Casavecchia.

Left: Advisor Ekaterina Luki with collectors Filomena Marques and Julia Kowalynska. Right: Masbedo at Venaria Reale.

Left: Collector Vivian Lindau with dealers Ari Ackermans and Salman Matinfar. Right: Ginevra Elkann.