PRINT Summer 1998


Spazio Aperto

IT’S AN ALL-TOO-FAMILIAR STORY. Young artists everywhere seek recognition, yet for Italians, that recognition is rarely achieved through the support of museums or public institutions. Danilo Eccher, who became director of Bologna’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna in January 1996—he was previously the director of the Galleria Civica d’Arte Contemporanea in Trento—hopes to change that. He has initiated Spazio Aperto (Italian for “open space”), a one-year program of exhibitions and performances designed to acquaint the public with new developments in contemporary art.

The shows will follow one another in rapid succession; none will run longer than three weeks. The program was inaugurated in January with a group show, “Io, Una Seduzione Personale” (I, a personal seduction), curated by Vittoria Coen. Included were works by four artists who addressed ideas about selfhood: photo-based work by Elisabetta Alberti and Alessadro Rivolta, painting by Alessandro Aldrovandi, and installations by Raffaella Nappo. Since then, there has been a one-man show of paintings by Giovanni Manfredini, a two-person exhibit featuring Maurizio Arcangeli and Yumi Karasumaru, and, most recently, a show by Cristiano Pintaldi.

For each show, an independent curator has been asked to choose one or several artists and to explain that choice in a catalogue essay. In some cases, however, the curator has been assigned an artist or artists by the director, and has then been asked to comment on their individual works. If this sounds like an awkward approach—for both curator and artist—it has proven to be an agreeable challenge, says Eccher.

Spazio Aperto is being staged in the 500-square-meter (3,760 square feet) ground-floor space of the museum’s main building, a 1975 structure designed by Leone Pancaldi and located in a commercial zone just outside of Bologna. The second floor of the building usually houses a major temporary show while the third floor features a selection of work from the Galleria’s permanent collection of thirty-five hundred pieces. The objective, says Eccher, is for museum-goers to experience Spazio Aperto as an engaging, even challenging element of their visit. (Two other older gallery spaces in Bologna, the Villa delle Rose and the Museo Morandi, are also part of the Galleria d’Arte Moderna.)

Although the Cultural Commission of the Emilia-Romagna region has helped fund the Spazio Aperto project, the money has come with no strings attached. Some of the Italian artists involved live and work outside of Emilia-Romagna, and non-Italian artists are also included. The current group show, for instance, features work by Iranian Shirin Neshat and Genoa-born artist Vanessa Beecroft, both of whom now live and work in New York. All of the artists selected have been encouraged to show new work.

It is uncertain if Spazio Aperto will have a lasting impact on the way artwork is shown in Italy, or even if such an experiment can be repeated. Sadly, as Eccher acknowledges, the gallery has a skimpy budget—much like the relatively few other Italian institutions devoted to contemporary art—and is obliged to make considerable outlays, ranging from the costs involved in preserving its collection (which includes work from the nineteenth-century to the present) to those incurred in organizing major shows. Eccher has already mounted major, crowd-pleasing retrospectives of Christian Boltanski, Julian Schnabel, and Julião Sarmento, among others. In recent years, the gallery’s collection has grown, in part because of donations by established artists and private patrons.

If nothing else, Spazio Aperto, which was inspired by other, conceptually similar European programs, has already allowed young Italian artists to communicate and interact with one another, as well as to come into contact with non-Italian artists and the broad audience of a public museum. One can only dream that Spazio Aperto will encourage a different reception for the work of young artists who live in Italy, where careers depend less on the support of public institutions than on the instincts of a few enterprising local dealers—and especially on consecration by private galleries and museums outside of Italy.

Gabriele Guercio contributes regularly to Artforum.

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.