‘Artissima’ is one of the leading contemporary art fairs – and this year it’s almost the twenty-second edition. With a great number of initiatives, Turin is very international, when it comes to visual arts. Sabrina Möller talked to Raffaella Cortese about her story, the art market and their participation …
You’re one of the international best known galleries from Italy. How and when did you come up with the idea of founding a gallery? Could you tell me more about the beginnings?
I started working in the arts about thirty years ago working for other galleries. I spend five years at a gallery specialized in futurism and avant-garde. After that I worked for a contemporary art gallery until I decided to open my own one. Of course, it was not that easy. I started with a small space and after seven years we developed our space constantly. Today having several premises is great for the artists, for example the young artist Francesco Arena – he decided to use all the three places and to make a kind of a trilogy. It is a great experience to work in different spaces with different projects and to create a connection between different works and artists.
Are these three places very different from another?
The first one I opened is very different. It is bigger with high ceilings and it is not open to the street. There are no windows and you cannot see anything from the outside. But I also wanted to have a place with windows to the street because I realized that people walking by like to look inside. This can also be seen as a sort of education.
Your gallery is based in Milano. Could you tell me more about the current art scene in Milano?
At the moment there are quite positive developments in the arts in Milano because of important exhibitions, such as La Grande Madre curated by Massimilano Gioni, and the new Prada foundation. This is very important because we don’t have a contemporary art museum. But luckily we have this foundation that makes impressive exhibitions in a challenging space. The foundation has international appeal which is especially important for our artists. I believe that the Prada foundation, the activities of the galleries and the exhibitions are very important for the creative atmosphere in Milano.
What are your criteria choosing new artists for your gallery?
First of all I need to feel an emotion. Then, I try to explore and to delve into the work of the artists, investigating some themes. For example identity is one of the most significant aspects in the world and I am really interested in digging deeper. If we look at Roni Horn or also Kiki Smith – they work with their bodies and their emotion, and so does Marcello Maloberti. Most of my artists are women because I like the sensitivity of female artists. I think they need to be recognized more, also in terms of market. This is the reality. But altogether we live in a good time and people are getting more and more aware of women’s possibilities. It is a good time, not only for the art world but also for all of us.
You’re participating in art fairs like Frieze New York and Art Basel. What makes Artissima so attractive to you compared to these fairs?
I’m participating in Artissima since 18 years now. It is a great Italian fair and I believe in my country even if we have some political problems – I still believe in the Italian collectors and foundations. Of course I like Artissima – it is a small international fair with high quality. Sometimes I like to be at smaller fairs because there you can find a new generation of collectors. But of course I like the bigger fairs like Basel and Frieze for other reasons as well.
The auction market is getting stronger and stronger and currently many galleries are closing down. How is the future of galleries going to look like?
That is a great question. On the one hand auction markets are very dangerous. Of course they make a good job, but only for lucrative artists. Sometimes we have this big problem that the prices at the auctions are much cheaper than at the galleries. Today collectors are very well-informed about prices. I really tried to discuss with some auction houses on why we don’t collaborate to make more competitive estimate, but they didn’t seem to understand. On the other hand the auction market is important because if you need to sell something this is the quickest way to do it. A gallery can only do this over a longer period of time. Either way I am critical about auctions because they are so business and market-oriented and I can’t overlook the cultural aspect of art.
Could you tell me more about your booth concept?
We have a concept focusing on identity with Roni Horn, Kiki Smith and Anna Maria Maiolino, presenting abstract sculptures and photos. We also show some beautiful collages by the American artist T. J. Wilcox. The sculpture by Arena is referring to the body of the artist and the sculpture by Balka shows a part of thefloor from his house – sometimes it is more abstract sometimes more figurative but there is always a connection to the body and to the identity as well as to the importance of our physicality. Then we have Franco Vimercati whom I adore. I opened my gallery twenty years ago with this artist. I am really proud to present him here again fourteen years after his death.
Most of the gallery owners are also collectors. Which artists do you collect?
Could you give me a recommendation for one young artist you recently discovered? Which artist did recently impress you and why?
Young means twenty or thirty I guess. Anyway, Francesco Arena is the latest artist I “discovered” somehow. All in all Italian artists need to be recognized more. Sometimes Italian collectors forget about young Italian artists and even the Italian museums are lacking in support. Of course we have some very famous Italian artists, but there are still artists out there who show talent and didn’t receive the popularity they should have.
How is the fair going until now? Did you sell?
Yes – we sold a big installation of Francesco Arena, which is located in the gallery, but we met the collector at the fair and he came to see it. We also sold Kiki Smith and Anna Maria Maiolino. We are very positive and hope to end up with a satisfying result.
// Interview by Sabrina Möller
via stradella 1,4, 7 • 20129, Milano • Italy • www.galleriaraffaellacortese.com
ARTISSIMA – 6/11 – 8/11/2015
More informations on www.artissima.it