Artissima

This report from Turin at the time of Artissima appeared on artforum.com:

“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.

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