Sarah Cosulich   ph. Michele D'Ottavio


The 22nd edition of Artissima opens its doors to the public from 6/11 – 8/11/2015. We already met Sarah Cosulich Canarutto – director of Artissima – to talk about the upcoming edition and what makes this fair so successful…

Sarah Cosulich Canarutto © Michele D'Ottavio

Sarah Cosulich Canarutto
© Michele D’Ottavio

Soon the 22nd edition of Artissima opens its doors to the public. Directed since 2012 by you, Sarah Cosulich Canarutto, it features 207 galleries from 31 countries over the world. 67% of the exhibitors are coming from oversea. What are the reasons for this worldwide popularity and interest?

Experimentation and innovation are two of the fundamental prerogatives of Artissima, a fair in which to discover young artists, new trends and fresh ideas. Its main objective is to present the highest quality artworks, established and cutting-edge galleries, new geographies and perspectives. Artissima’s identity and specificity rely on research, starting with emerging young artists and continuing with the most representative figures of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The fair involves a large number of renown and respected international curators in its projects, juries, committees, thus guaranteeing excellence in the selection and a constant eye on the avant-garde. This is what I believe makes Artissima a relevant fair on the international scene.

Since its establishment in 1994, Artissima presents itself with a careful selection of art, due to experimentation, research and a good working curatorial framework. The art market can sometimes be wide and confusing – how is it possible to guarantee the same high standards of quality every year? Can you even keep track on the fast changing art world?

No other fair can count on such a wide number of important curators participating in its projects. Not only they are involved in the selection of galleries and artists but also in the promotion of the fair on a worldwide scale. A good example of the specific research done by our curators is Present Future, dedicated to solo presentations by young emerging artists. The illy Present Future Prize has launched artists such as Rachel Rose, Phil Collins, Mateo Tannatt, Patricia Esquivias, Luca Francesconi, Shizuka Yokomizo, Padraig Timoney, Michael Beutler and Melanie Gilligan – just a few of the past winners who have gone on to become internationally renowned and respected.

A fair cannot keep track on the fast moving and changing art world as it changes so fast but with the help of advisors in specific areas the research is more complete.

The auction market is getting stronger and stronger and currently many galleries are closing. How is the future of the art market going to look like? Which concepts are going to be functioning in the next five to ten years?

The world of art needs galleries as much as it needs auctions. Galleries are the fundamental partners of artists, they grow with them and then make them grow. But there is a big disparity between galleries working with established artists and those that take risks for the sake of research. What has changed is the size of the market: it has become even more competitive and difficult but this also gives more opportunities to artists themselves. Artissima’s growth hasn’t stopped as we have invested in our specificity. We have had an increasing numbers of collectors, public and sponsors. We have achieved this in the only feasible way: through the high quality of our galleries and their willingness to believe in a “curated” fair not simply a commercial one, as well as to amazing artistic institutions that Torino offers.

Could a fair like Artissima be affected by a possible increase of Pop Up Galleries? And if so, in which ways?

Artissima is a flexible fair. It has accessible costs for young spaces presenting emerging artists and also for galleries that dare to present lesser known but important artists and projects. We have to remain competitive and attract both new galleries and collectors that wish to discover.

You have been the director of Artissima for the fourth time by now. The fair claims to reinvent itself by experimenting with new formulas and unprecedented initiatives from year to year. What are the biggest changes that have happened since the last four editions?

Artissima is a fair which stands out and challenges major international art events. Recently the fair has widened both it’s international scope as well as its experimental identity, pioneering new ways to involve curators and collectors and adding a new innovative performance section. Artissima was the first contemporary art fair to introduce a focus on the historical avant-garde and the first to give a commercial stage to performance art. We were also the first fair to reward young artists with a museum exhibition, the first fair to transform talks into itinerant conversations throughout the booths, the first fair to include an exhibition of exceptional institutional collections, and – starting this year – the first fair to have a VIP Lounge conceived as a curatorial project.

If quality is a key ingredient in Artissima’s growth, acquisitions within the fair are the recipe for continuing to improve quality: spurring artistic research and the city. With this in mind, this year we have worked on a project to encourage new collecting, attracting ever more collectors from all over the world. More than in any other previous edition, they will be the true protagonists of the fair. We are proud to be the fair of ‘firsts’ and we hope to continue to create new paths.

There are six sections that Artissima 2015 comprises: three fair exhibitions and three curatorial. One of these sections has been launched last year: Per4m. It is the first ever section on the international art fair scene devoted exclusively to performance art. How was the visitors’ reaction when Per4m launched in 2014? What is going to happen at this section this year?

The public’s reaction was astonishing; it was the first time a fair presented performances as a non-collateral event. The public was entertained, intrigued, involved and often surprised. Performance has no rules when it comes to time, duration, choice of space, interaction with the public, and this was a challenge for us. Last year we partnered with artists that focused mostly (if not exclusively) on performance, while this year we chose artists that work in different media. There will be more Italian artists this year as well as international names such as Christian Falsnaes, Annika Kahrs, Julien Bismuth, Oscar Santillan, and Iza Tarasewicz.

One of the most successful public events at Artissima proves that this fair stands out and challenges major international art events: The Walkie Talkies feature a series of informal conversations that move freely through the spaces of the fair. Could you tell us some details about how this new form of art education works? How is the general feedback?

This year the Walkie Talkies will be structured as informal conversations between one curator and one collector amidst the fair booths. They are very brief encounters, formulated almost as intermissions, as opportunities to discuss, provoke, expose ideas and considerations. Instead of being held within a conference room, these conversations are aimed to achieve closer encounters with the art public by offering them unusual paths and point of views around the works using the booth as temporary sets for the conversation. The speakers are invited to choose specific artworks or artists’ position on which to focus their dialogue and to freely develop their unique itineraries around displays, situations or approaches.

Each curator-collector couple creates a 30 minute tour based on their preferences and there are 4 visits available each day, for a total of 12. The visitors love the project as it‘s a way to learn more about works, artists and approaches through the eyes of speakers that can be very different. It’s like looking at art through multiple and diverse gazes.

The new section from last year and the Walkie Talkies are a good example for the innovative zeitgeist of the fair. Are you continuing this trend with launching something totally new this year?

Being innovative is one of our prerogatives. This year, for the first time, the Back To The Future section dedicated to rediscovering the avant-garde, focuses exclusively on the decade 1975 and 1985 as it is considered a fundamental source for so much of the art produced today. The In Mostra section has been completely reinvented and has become an independent exhibit presenting the works of 30 artists from the best private and public collections of the city. It will be curated by Stefano Collicelli Cagol based on the idea on “Inclination”.

We have also turned the VIP Lounge from a purely functional area to an installation. This project is curated by Maurizio Vetrugno, who will create a luxurious, eclectic space called the Opium Den where our guests will be immersed in a unique atmosphere.

At such a wide range of different artists it is hard to choose – but which artists or galleries are your favourites this year?

I will be able to answer that only after seeing the fair and the booths installed. But as a fair director I have to keep it to myself. And of course in the future work the objective of having more and more favourites every year.

Can you give us a sneak peak on the ideas for next year? What can be expected? Are there any big plans or new ideas we should know about?

There are some ideas boiling. But it is important to mix the ideas with the concrete experience and learning process of the previous edition.

Thank you!

// Interview by Anna Maria Burgstaller



6/11 – 8/11/2015

The preview and vernissage will be held on 5 November (invitation only).
More informations on

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