ArtSquare.io’s Highlights from Artissima 2019: A Walk Through Italy’s Most Important Contemporary Art Fair

Turin transforms itself magically during the Contemporary Art Week centering around Artissima, Italy’s most important international fair for contemporary art. A plethora of exhibitions, workshops, art events, and exhibitions took place in parallel to the fair -Monica Bonvicini’s site-specific installation exploring architecture, surveillance, power and gender “As Walls Keep Shifting” at OGR was our favourite. It was an honor for ArtSquare.io to organize one of these satellite events at OGR Tech. You can read about the event .

The main theme of the 26th edition of the fair, taking place as usual in the 20,0000 m² space of Oval Lingotto from October 31 to November 3, was Desire and Censorship. From an idea by third-time director of the fair Ilaria Bonacossa, the challenging and provocative theme attracted more than 55.000 visitors, among which were 5.500 collectors, as this article by The Sole 24 Ore reported.

Deeply rooted into the exciting cultural scene of Turin but international in outlook, this year’s edition featured 208 international art galleries from 43 countries, 19 of which were non-European including stands from the Middle East (grouped in the new Middle East Hub) and South America. Artissima can also boast the involvement of top-notch art market professionals: more than 50 curators and museum directors this year served in the fair’s special juries. See for yourself prizes, winners, and other highlights from the fair’s director and organizers .

Artissima was the place to be. We feasted our eyes on the most strikingly-curated stands of the fair and, interesting new entries, and fascinating discoveries. Here’s our selection of highlights, curated by ArtSquare.io’s Art Department.

Melissa McGill, , 2019, photograph from performance. Image courtesy of Mazzoleni Art.

Melissa McGill, , 2019, photograph from performance. Image courtesy of Mazzoleni Art.

London- and Turin-based art gallery Mazzoleni Art contributed a monographic booth on American artist Melissa McGill and her public artwork Red Regatta. The exhibition consisted in photographic records of the artist’s spectacular performance which took place between May and September 2019 in Venice during the Biennale: a series of four large-scale regattas with traditional sailboats featuring hand-painted red sails crossed Venice’s canals and lagoon in unison as part of an orchestrated choreographic piece.

Melissa McGill, , 2019, photograph from performance. Image courtesy of Mazzoleni Art.

A work of public art as well as a performance, McGill’s red sails (painted in 52 shades) pay homage to the architecture of the Lagoon and its colorist tradition, spanning from Titian to Tintoretto. In all its magnificence and large-scale impact, the artwork also gestures alarmingly to the intrusive and disruptive storming of people that is destroying the city. As the artist herself said speaking during a special talk at the Oval, “My reds activate a contrast between the sky and the sea, pointing to the forces of life, passion, urgency, and Venice itself, with its red terracotta bricks and roofs.” Red Regatta was undoubtedly one of the most stimulating and visually stunning groups of objects from the fair, presented in a sleek in minimalist booth that framed perfectly the chromatic intensity of the photographs. Watch a fascinating video of the regattas crossing Venice .

Loredana Longo’s Carpets at Francesco Pantaleone Gallery: Stepping on Art as an Act of Rebellion

Loredana Longo’s , one of the carpets on view at Francesco Pantaleoni Gallery’s booth. Image courtesy of Irene Fanizza for Artribune.

Loredana Longo’s series of fire engraved carpets presented by Sicilian gallery Francesco Pantaleone invited Artissima visitors to take a walk through art and step on it, literally. Longo uses fire to engrave iconic quotes by politicians, writers, and other public figures on Persian carpets that lie on the floor for the audience to walk on (you can watch a video of her art-making process ). Longo says she’s “fascinated by the idea of fixing a thought onto an object that you can step on. This is my way to make the ordinary part of the world of art. They want us to see the art world as slick and beautiful, my carpets are an act of subversion against that idea.” Longo turns upside down expectations of what a work of art is supposed to be. Her carpets are made of contrasts that are both aesthetic and political-western rhetoric versus non-western aesthetic, the destructive force of fire versus the pleasurable texture of velvet, the rapid gesture of fire engraving versus the slow and laborious process of carpet weaving, the conflation of the domestic (the carpet) and the public (the quote). Certainly a revelation of this year’s edition, the artist also had a show in London during the prestigious Frieze Week.

Kentridge, Kosuth, Zorio: Contemporary Art Masters at Lia Rumma

Joseph Kosuth, , 1989, from Lia Rumma’s booth at Artissima 2019. Image courtesy of Galleria Lia Rumma Milano — Napoli.

Lia Rumma is not only renowned for featuring works by some of the greatest Post-war and contemporary artists from around the world; the gallery also boasts extraordinary collaborations with international artists acting as curators of its art fair booths. Following Joseph Kosuth’s curation of the gallery’s stand at Frieze Masters, it was artist Alfredo Jarr who curated the stand of Naples- and Milan-based gallery at the 26th edition of Artissima. Drew in by Vincenzo Agnetti’s engraved axioms on bakelite, visitors solemnly ventured into the strikingly designed ensemble of chronologically distant works by different artists. One common theme underlying the bold juxtapositions of objects in the booth was the mysterious and violent death of Italian intellectual, director, essayist and poet Pier Paolo Pasolini.

William Kentridge, , 2014. Courtesy Galleria Lia Rumma Milano — Napoli.

This small charcoal-on-paper drawing by South African artist and art world superstar William Kentridge set the tone and theme of the booth. Paired with it, in a strikingly conceptual move, were a neon work by Joseph Kosuth and a wall text by Marzia Migliora. Red and grey hues were the chromatic key that links the works on display, picked up by Ugo Mulas ‘s stunning photograph of Maria Callas on the wall flanking Kentridge’s drawing, the actress looking shocked as if she was witnessing the director’s slaughter; and by Vanessa Beecroft’s giant and disturbing photograph of a strangely laid table around which semi-naked, doll-like women seat aloof. The work by renowned British artist uses a grotesque imagery to criticize consumerist society, addressing a theme that Pasolini focused on continuously in his body of work.

Vanessa Beecroft, , 2003. Courtesy Galleria Lia Rumma Milano — Napoli.

At the end this densely conceptual exhibition, viewers were prompted by a mirror work by Marzia Migliora to confront themselves, look inwardly as well as outwardly at reality by positioning themselves in relationship with the objects and themes of the exhibition: violence, death, capitalism, politics, and the power of art to say anything at all.

Center: Marzia Migliora, , 2017–2018. Left: Gilberto Zorio, , 2007. In the back: Joseph Kosuth, , 1966.

At the end this densely conceptual exhibition, viewers were prompted by a mirror work by Marzia Migliora to confront themselves, look inwardly as well as outwardly at reality by positioning themselves in relationship with the objects and themes of the exhibition: violence, death, capitalism, politics, and the power of art to say anything at all.

Nicola Bolla, , 2019, presented by Photo & Contemporary. Image provided by the author.

Nicola Bolla, , 2019, presented by Photo & Contemporary. Image provided by the author.

An artist and a doctor, Nicola Bolla (1963-) works with sculptures and notions of nature and artifice. Turin-based gallery Photo & Contemporary presented one of the artist’s Swarovski-studded sculptures, a skeleton lying lifeless in the chair of a lounge-perhaps an airport lounge. Bolla makes use of precious and seductive materials to prompt us to reflect back on the transience of human life and wealth, adding a twist to the tradition of vanitas subjects in art history. Probably the most snapshotted work of the whole fair, Bolla’s Vanitas is part of a series the artist has started in 1997-well before Damien Hirst shocked the art world in 2007 with his diamond-encrusted, 18th-century skull “For the Love of God”. Bolla’s “Vanitas” was on sale for €48,000.

Originally published at https://www.artsquare.io on November 12, 2019.

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