Truffles, visits to private collections and tons of prizes: Turin’s contemporary art scene shines during the Artissima fair
Before heading to Turin last week, an American collector gave me an unforgettable review of the city’s Artissima art fair: “It’s the only fair where you can exchange art for truffles.
The comment turns out to be more attitude than reality (although the prices are somewhat comparable, Italian truffles are around $1,500 a pound), and while I haven’t seen any knobby mushrooms circulating in the fair, I ate them elsewhere on handmade tagliatelle during my visit. What the collector meant was that in Turin, food, wine and art are part of a whole, much more than in other fair cities like Basel, Cologne or even Madrid. This is Italy, after all.
The city of Turin, nestled like a posh base camp in the Italian Alps, is one of the country’s wealthiest cities, and the region in and around it is the heart of big industry and commerce. bank, as well as nobility. Among the companies headquartered are automakers Fiat and Alfa Romeo, Italy’s biggest bank Intesa Sanpaolo and coffee brand Lavazza, to name a few.
Turin is also the former seat of Italy’s royal family, the House of Savoy, and that history lingers in the air along its parade-ready avenues. The fair’s VIP roster, in turn, is clustered with deep-pocketed, cultured shareholders as well as distant dynastic riches and, above all, the eagle-eyed curators of the various foundations of these two sets.
Some of these important personalities from the region dined together on Wednesday evening, around white-covered tables at the Michelin-starred restaurant at the Castello di Rivoli. They were brought to the museum to celebrate the opening of Olafur Eliasson’s “Trembling Horizons” exhibition.
In the other wing, a labyrinth of palace rooms contains Cerutti’s historical collection, as well as the rather expensive Beeple collection. A human, a digital sculpture of a walking astronaut, on loan from digital art collector Ryan Zurrer. It rubs shoulders with that of Francis Bacon Study for Portrait IX (1956–57).
An Italian collector I met sat near the pair of works. “If the French had an inch of the taste and talent of the Italians…” he said, speaking neither of Bacon nor of Beeple, whose work he did not like at all, but of the very architecture of the château. which surrounded him.
Everything that happens in Turin is certainly imbued with a bit of aesthetic magic, because the sites and the landscape of the city are particularly beautiful. The studio of the late artist Carol Rama is here, on the top floor of a historic building, where she blocked all the windows because Turin was too beautiful and distracting for her. It remains intact and, since its death in 2015, is open for visits.
To build his universe at the Castelo di Rivoli, Eliasson has also darkened the museum of teverything and the long wing of the Manica Lunga gallery, which has been interrupted by kaleidoscopic sculptures that you can enter. Wobbly light projections create an illusion (of sorts) that the projections extend beyond the walls of the room.
While Rivoli’s show seemed to aim for embodied sensation and immersion, less engaging was American artist Arthur Jafa’s installation at OGR Turin, housed in a late 19th-century steam engine repair shop. century, another testimony to the former industrial power. in Torino. Viewers sat on a large wedge of wood that shook and vibrated under the weight of a booming soundscape accompanying an 85-minute video of a rough sea made up of computer-generated black rocks. The ocean of stones moves back and forth, rising in places to seem to threaten to overwhelm the viewer before receding again, and the horizon returns.
The film installation, conceived in collaboration with London’s Serpentine Galleries, was another brilliant manifestation of Jafa’s nuanced investigation of black identity through the avenues of visual archives and music. He described abstract film work, a bold step away from his fast-cut found works, a la Giornale d’ell Arte like a [James] Turrell chained to the bottom of a ship.
Meanwhile, the Artissima art fair, around which all these big-budget openings have been coordinated, is known to be ripe for new discoveries, a reputation I found true.
It is housed in the former Olympic sports arena of the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. And while there was a more collaborative spirit here, it was visibly international, bringing together 174 dealers in 27 countries. It’s not a regional fair either – Italian galleries outnumber visitors.
Seven curators are involved in the selection of works or galleries for the fair in different capacities, which brings a range of positions. There is, for example, a section dedicated to drawing, and emerging art is at the heart of another centrally located sector called ‘Present Future’, not tucked away in a back corner like many other fairs. The new director of Artissima, Luigi Fassi, is also curator.
Delegations from institutions were omnipresent. “I hate art fairs, but I love Artissima,” a German museum director told me between sips of cold Barrolo wine. And while there’s an almost dizzying amount of different awards handed out over the four days of the fair, it’s a good-natured effort to deliver real-world commitment from fair sponsors.
There was also a roll call of acquisitions: the The Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea CRT acquired 10 works; Rivoli Castle purchased a group of poignant sculptures – large reconstituted clay urns made with the ashes of olive trees burned by Rossella Biscotti – on display at Mor Charpentier; and the work of Simone Forti, exhibited at Raffaela Cortesi, was among the works acquired by GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna di Torino.
Overall, merchants seem pleased with the quality of the fair and the interest and engagement of its visitors, not to mention more intimate access to the Italian elite than one might encounter. at larger fairs like Art Basel. Although, as one dealer said, you might have to give a heavy discount for a work here, it’s usually because what you’re selling is going into a terrific public collection.
Foreign collectors were in town, including Frederic de Goldschmidt and Alain Servais, among special attendees at Patrizia Sandretto re Rebaudengo’s annual dinner at her home, which included curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, artist Oscar Murillo, the outgoing world director of Art Basel Marc Spiegler and Jafa. The lavish and artfully choreographed dinner is hosted by the influential patron of contemporary art, a cornerstone of Turin’s art scene. This is evidenced by its foundation, which presents a major exhibition of contemplative paintings by Victor Man and a new commission from Beirut artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan. At home, on the ground floor, there are works by Avery Singer, Maurizio Cattelan and Jana Euler; the house naturally has its own floor plan available to visitors.
“I’m quite happy that in the fair in my hometown there are the right amount of people”, Sandretto re Rebaudengo said, referring to Paris+ and Frieze, which were marred by overcrowded rooms and long lines. “You can walk around and talk with the galleries,” she noted.
That said, in Italy, as everywhere else, the effects of the pandemic linger, one of which is that artworld venues have seen declines in attendance – and, in tandem, ticketing revenue – as well as more precarious situations for funding. This is not helped in any way by the war in Ukraine.
Just before the start of Turin Art Week events in Florence, Uffizi director Eike Schmidt was forced to keep the museum closed for a public holiday due to reduced staff costs. After a thorny comment from new Culture Secretary Gennaro Sangiuliano, Schmidt reminded his new boss that Italian museums needed economic “reinforcements”. No one I spoke to in Turin knows exactly what the new government, led by a right-wing coalition, will mean for the cultural field, let alone society in general.
As such a hub, customers love Sandretto re Rebaudengo are perhaps increasingly essential to the city’s art scene, as emblems of stability in times of flux. A museum curator from Turin pointed this out to me, saying that private money has helped them get through the last few years and keep putting on ambitious exhibitions. Artissima and Turin are particularly well equipped, not only because of the apparent wealth of the region, but because there is an ingrained spirit of collaboration, between the State, the art market, institutions and private companies. .
Take for example Intesa Sanpaolo’s new Gallerie d’Italia, its fourth museum, which opened this year and focuses on image-based media. The private collection also has a public mandate: during Artissima, the cinematographic works of some galleries participating in the fair were presented at the Gallerie d’Italia.
“I really believe that it is important to find ways to collaborate between all of us in Turin,” noted Sandretto re Rebaudengo as she flipped through her Artissima map and described her week of exhibition and awards plans. “It’s the best way forward right now.”
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