Monthly Archives: November 2015


This report from Turin at the time of Artissima appeared on

“SOME OF THE OTHER FAIRS need to step it up,” artist Hugo McCloud declared as we stood outside of the brightly lit Lingotto Oval on the opening night of the twenty-second Artissima. Formerly a skating ring built for the 2006 Winter Olympics, the pavilion is nowadays oval in name alone. Artissima director Sarah Cosulich Canarutto, whom I had run into earlier at the plush VIP Lounge styling itself as an “Opium Den,” took me up to a suspended observatory kitted with design furniture, where the jury members for the different prizes convened. (Rumor has it that it was designed for the director to sleep in.) From that elevated vantage, we could see at a glance the neat rows of fair booths on each side of the two central Janus-like sections, looking forward and back with curated solo presentations of young emerging artists (Present Future) and historical avant-garde figures (Back to the Future).

Artissima is the curators’ fair par excellence. “Curators are involved at every level—the juries, the selectors, the people participating in the walkie-talkies,” critic and Per4m coordinator Simone Menegoi assured me. His cocurators, Chris Sharp and Sophie Goltz, concurred. Sharp had just had a public manicure session with artist Julie Béna; I eyed his polished nails enviously. Nail Tang, named after the Parisian Galerie Joseph Tang representing Béna, was one of twelve works showcased as part of Per4m, which prides itself on being “an actual section of the fair” as opposed to a collateral program of events. You wouldn’t necessarily know the difference, Menegoi conceded, as nearly all performances take place in a designated part of the fair at an assigned time. But they are in principle for sale like any other works. (I hated to ask how many actually sold.)

Left: Dealer Jocelyn Wolff. Right: Dealer Felipe Dmab.

Since practically everything at the fair—except for the main gallery section, perhaps—appears to have been “curated,” not least the eclectically oriental Opium Den, I half expected OwenCorp’s Michèle Lamy, who I spotted sitting in the VIP lounge surrounded by her retinue, to tell me she was responsible for some of the finer catering on offer, like the delectable green apple sorbet I was about to tuck into. “My input,” she said, pointing with her bejeweled fingers to a young woman kneeling by the table, “is that I gave birth to that girl.” Her daughter, artist Scarlett Rouge (surely a stage name?), had designed the fetching knitted rugs for the Opium Den—enough to make Edward Said turn in his grave.

With no magic carpet to spirit us away from the fair, McCloud, his dealer, and I had to wait for a cab to take us to Fondazione 107 for a sneak preview of the New York–based artist’s show opening the following evening in one of the repurposed, out-of-the-way warehouses that Turin has in abundant supply. Rouge, who moved to Turin with her partner a year ago, gave me a lift back to the city center. A wrong turn set us adrift in some eerily empty industrial zones, but we still made it to Bar Cavour, facing the baroque facade of Palazzo Carignano, before everyone else. Strains of what turned out to be Darren Bader’s Proposta per le 9 Sinfonie emanated from a vacant nobiliary apartment overlooking the piazza, whose bare rooms were each filled with the rousing sounds of a different Beethoven symphony.

The extended OwenCorp family, sporting gorgeous Rick Owens–designed creations, eventually joined us for a light supper of Piedmontese specialities washed down with champagne, ceaselessly replenished by Bar Cavour’s assiduous staff. We lingered in the elegant mirrored interior whose refinement no VIP lounge could possibly emulate until it was time to head to the Artissima bash at the Circolo dei Lettori in yet another monumental palazzo. For all its faded opulence and some decent music, the rammed yet somewhat sedate party—where everyone I spoke to seemed to have stayed “for just half an hour”—did not seem to warrant the effort it took to get inside.

Left: Artist Paul Etienne Lincoln and dealer Guido Costa. (Photo: Agnieszka Gratza) Right: OwenCorp’s Michèle Lamy.

The next morning, we started bright and early with a visit to the much-loved but fusty GAM Collection, followed by that of the outlying Castello di Rivoli with its sweeping views of the Alps. Francesco Bonami’s two-part “Tutttovero” group show—effusive in its very spelling—was spread over both venues, bridging two of the city’s most important public art institutions, dedicated to modern and contemporary art respectively. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who has been tasked with coordinating their programs, is only due to take up her position in January 2016, but at the crowded opening of Rachel Rose’s prize exhibition, the returning director of Castello di Rivoli gave the impression of being already in charge.

The winner of last year’s Illy Present Future Prize is certainly having a moment. (She won for her video A Minute Ago, brought by the prescient Parisian gallery High Art.) Unlike Cosulich Canarutto, understandably eager to claim the artist as an Artissima discovery, Rose appeared keen to play it down. “It all happened kind of at once,” she said, alluding to the Frieze Artist Award as well as the Serpentine and the Whitney solo shows, the last of which had opened only three days before. For her prize exhibition at Castello di Rivoli, she wanted “something small and intimate,” and that’s exactly what it was. The solo exhibition consisted of a single video installation, Interiors, projected against a lunette-like gray backdrop matching the shape of the semicircular space fitted with a cream-colored carpet (“the colour of Cosmic Latte,” according to the press release).

Back at the fair, I joined a sizable group of visitors for the first of the oversubscribed and occasionally quite entertaining walkie-talkies, in this instance pairing Documenta Kassel’s Pierre Bal-Blanc with Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo of the eponymous private art foundation, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. If Artissima employs many a curator (some fifty of them, in fact, for this edition alone), it also gives collectors more visibility. This year, curators were invited to team up with a collector of their choice and to take a few works or booths that spoke to them as the starting point for an itinerant conversation à deux.

Left: Dealer Ellen de Bruijne. Right: Castello di Rivoli director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev with artist Rachel Rose. (Photos: Agnieszka Gratza)

The walkie-talkies, however entertaining, are not what makes a fair exciting, as far as Martin McGeown is concerned. The codirector of Cabinet Gallery was at Artissima to show Pierre Klossowski’s erotic large-scale drawings, among the standout solo presentations in the Back to the Future section. Forty (or was it 60?) percent of the works on view at the fair struck McGeown as “inconsequential.” Be that as it may, the remaining 60 (or 40) had much to hold one’s attention, from videos and documentation of Michael Smith’s performances at Ellen de Bruijne Projects and Japanese artist Chu Enoki’s camp self-portraits in White Rainbow’s thoughtful display to Alina Chaiderov’s twin sculptures in Galerie Antoine Levi’s spare but surprising installation (those curious enough to walk behind a deceptively plain, painted closet discovered its shelves were packed full of real bananas), which deservedly won this year’s Illy Present Future Prize.

The Bal-Blanc–Re Rebaudengo pair sat across the table of honor at the wedding-style reception—complete with a marquis, a (birthday) cake, and speeches—hosted by the collector at her villa that evening. Aside from Stedelijk director Beatrix Ruf, Serpentine director Hans Ulrich Obrist, Art Basel director Marc Spiegler, McGeown, and Christov-Bakargiev, the table counted four artists, quickly pronounced “great”: Rose, Adrián Villar Rojas, Ryan Gander, and Ed Atkins, there to plan his solo show at Castello di Rivoli next year. Gander happened to be in town to show work he had made with his six-year-old daughter, who is already “good at making bad paintings,” as the proud father put it.

I missed my chance to see Villar Rojas’s rock garden at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo by night, as Obrist urged us to do in his speech, since the installation is lit with natural light alone. (For his own part, Obrist, the cofounder of the Brutally Early Club, was planning to catch a 5 AM concert programmed in Turin’s Club to Club festival, running concurrently with Artissima.) Instead, I joined Artissima curators Menegoi, Eva Fabbris, and dealer Norma Mangione, en route to the Mad Dog speakeasy, whose doors would only open once the magical phrase “Norma is drunk” was pronounced. What is it with fairs and speakeasies? You can’t have one without the other.



This report from ARTBO 2015 and Bogotá Art Month appeared on

“Colombia is having a moment,” says MoMA’s Director of Adult and Academic Programs Pablo Helguera, echoing the upbeat mood at the Corferias Convention Center, where the ten-year-old ARTBO — Bogotá’s most prestigious art fair — is held at the start of October. The fact that at least four other fairs are taking place concurrently in the capital city and beyond to coincide with the start of the “Art Month” provides a measure of local artistic and cultural activity. Bogotá alone boasts sixty art galleries and fifty-eight museums.

The capital’s burgeoning art scene reminds Helguera of Mexico City — where he hails from — in the 1990s. The New York-based artist and educator is here to give a lecture-performance as part of Foro, a series of talks and discussions curated by José Roca. Formerly adjunct curator of Latin American Art at Tate Modern and artistic director of FLORA ars + natura, which wins my vote as the most alluring of Bogotá’s new contemporary art spaces, Roca seems to have no trouble getting his pick of curators, artists and museum directors to fly halfway around the world in order to join him for panel discussions at the fair and, while they are at it, do some studio visits and get to know the local artists.

In return, ARTBO has introduced the Prodigy Award – FLORA Grant for the most promising emerging artist or collective from Colombia featured in the non-commercial Artecámara section of the fair. The grant comes with the opportunity to do a year-long residency at FLORA ars + natura and to put on a solo exhibition at ARTBO the following year. This year’s prodigy, Sandra Liliana Rengifo, was chosen from among thirty-three artists for her wistful video projection Pil På Himlen (Flecha En El Cielo) (2012–15), full of dusky skies and birds flitting across them.

Colombia is home to over 1,850 recorded bird species, the largest number in the world. Unsurprisingly, an avian theme crops up in displays by local artists around the city, not least at Roca’s FLORA, located in the working-class San Felipe neighborhood. In addition to a sound piece, which greeted visitors with bird song upon arrival, and an installation that had the central spiral staircase engulfed in yards of cord as part of her Nido, 2015, Maria José Arjona’s entrancing durational performance saw the artist sit perfectly still for hours with her head nested inside a cage inhabited by live canaries; she originally wanted it to be an eagle.

Apparently used to catch jungle birds, a delicate net, whose torn fabric had been mended in places with gold thread, was suspended throughout a booth in Luz Angela Lizarazo’s red de niebla (2015), a solo presentation in ARTBO’s new SITIO section designed with more experimental and interactive projects in mind. Gold is another persistent motif in a city that is home to the stunning Museo del Oro and whose main airport is called El Dorado. Collector José Darío Gutiérrez’s newly opened space by that name joins more established gallery spaces, including NC-arte and Valenzuela Klenner Galería, in the arty neighborhood of La Macarena. Espacio El Dorado’s inaugural show “Nudo ciego” [Blind Knot] by Bogotá-based Eduard Moreno focuses on the Magdalena River and its threatened biodiversity.

Bird calls imitated by humans resonated in the courtyard and garden of Casa Museo Quinta de Bolivar, against the backdrop of jungle-clad mountains, in Alberto Baraya Gay’s offering for the Luis Caballero Prize, one of eight solo projects shown in art spaces, museums and less-expected venues such as the tomb-like interior of the Monumento a los Héroes in the case of Juan Fernando Herrán Carreño’s sculptural and filmic installation titled Héroes mil (Thousand Heroes) (2015).

No survey of Bogotá’s contemporary art scene would be complete without a mention of the Instituto de visión, run by an enterprising all-female trio of curators out of their gallery space in the San Felipe area, a short walk away from FLORA. Curated by Maria Wills and Beatriz López, their gallery show paired Fernell Franco’s hand-painted photographs of interiors and dwellings in Cali (Colombia’s third city with a thriving art community of its own) taken in the 1970s with recent sculptural works by Felipe Arturo, made using concrete and ephemeral materials such as coffee, brown sugar and other foodstuffs. The contents of three bottles displayed on a shelf thus replicated Coca Cola’s original formula: a mixture containing bourbon and coca leaves.

Made with foreign visitors in mind, the homemade “Bogotá survival kit” — handed out to fair goers along with a party invitation or two at Instituto de visión’s understandably popular gallery stand in ARTBO’s main section — contained abundant supplies of coca tea bags and candied fruit paste to cope with altitude sickness and other fair-related ailments.