Turin is gearing up for the 20th Artissima, and judging by the enthusiastic tone of the press releases, directors anticipate strong sales and record visitor numbers. The ambitious fair was recently named one of the world’s best by New York-based Skate’s Art Market Research, ahead of vaunted names such as Frieze and Art Basel Miami Beach. This accolade isn’t undeserved; Artissima’s distinction lies in its enthusiastic experimentation, even if returning director Sarah Cosulich Canarutto is markedly more cautious than 2010/11 director Francesco Manacorda. The expansion of the fair from 172 galleries in 2012 to 190 (sixty of those from Italy) this year will likely reveal its future inclinations, and whether it’s possible to continue to be innovative while maintaining the numbers.
For the fourth successive year the Oval Lingotto will host the fair. The building, designed for speed skating events during the 2006 Winter Olympics, offers a spacious setting flooded with natural light – not only ideal but crucial if the fair anticipates more than the 50,000 visitors in 2012. Working within the conventions of more traditional art fairs Artissima is broken down into five more or less self-explanatory sections: Main Section, New Entries, Present Future, exhibiting small solo shows by emerging artists, Back to the Future, which re-introduces works from artists active in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and Art Editions.
The notably strong Main Section of Artissima exposes its international ambitions. For example, the artist-led Brazilian gallery A Gentil Carioca have travelled far to join other names such as Aike Dellarco out of Shanghai or Athr, one of the first contemporary art galleries in Saudia Arabia. Gracing Artissima for the second time, Athr will be showing the works of four young artists: the precise photography of Ahmed Mater, examining changes wrought by modernization; the hyperrealistic, hypothetical digital collages of Hazem Harb; the evocative architectural prints of Sami Al Turki; and the humourous and energetic mixed media works of Ayman Yossri Daydban.
Kazuko Miyamoto, BACK TO THE FUTURE 2013, Untitled, 1982; Courtesy Exile and Kazuko Miyamoto, At Back to the Future, Artissima 2013
This year highlights in Back to the Future will include Turin’s esteemed Guido Costa Projects exhibiting the playful sculptural interventions and photographs of Turin-born artist Piero Gilardi, Berlin’s Exile will present ephemerally reflective works from Kazuko Miyamoto, and London/Brussels-based heavy hitter MOT International will hang eighteen framed stills from Ulay’s There is a Criminal Touch to Art (1976). In this historic performance, Ulay enacted fourteen “actions,” ultimately stealing Carl Spitzweg’s picture of the Poor Poet (1839) from Berlin’s National Gallery (and thereby the "symbol of the German soul") to hang it in the home of a poor Turkish family.
Juxtaposed with Back to the Future, Present Future promises, as always, to be an exploratory adventure of emerging artists: highlights include artist Alfredo Esquillo, Jr. from the Philippines, Yee I-Lann from Kuala Lumpur, Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck from Dubai, and Christoph Meier from Catania. New this year is the Ettore Fico Prize, awarding 15,000 Euros to a single artist shown at Artissima. Of the three prizes awarded at the fair, this is the only with an entirely Italian jury – making one speculate that the winner of this prize will likely also be Italian.
Alfredo Esquillo, Jr., Coronation Room, 2013, oil on ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) panel, brass relief, 121.92 x 274.32cm (triptych); Courtesy of Tin-aw Art Gallery and the Artist, At Present Future, Artissima 2013.
One of the most gratifying guilty pleasures of the fair, and Turin in general, is the culture of slow food – the region is, after all, the birthplace of the movement. For the third year in a row, Michelin-starred chef Giovanni Grasso will return to the kitchen in the VIP lounge, wowing visitors with his delectable takes on traditional dishes. If you only try one dish here make it a Paolo Parisi egg – these delicacies come from goat’s milk-fed Livorno hens, which are then slow-cooked by Chef Grasso and topped with fresh truffle shavings.
Outside the Oval directors of five local art museums will enthusiastically launch “One Torino.” This fresh initiative stages “independent, yet interlinked group shows” organized in collaboration with seven curators throughout the city, revealing Turin’s continued aspirations to cement their position as a major player in the European art scene.
What has made past editions of Artissima so impressive has been the playful creativity directors have brought. Groundbreaking experiments pushed boundaries, such as the production of eighty cakes representing great artworks in 2011 to launch the Back to the Future section. Artissima’s program in 2012 and this year has been to expand the fair outside the fairgrounds, transforming it into a citywide event. Dialogue, research, and exchange continue to remain at the core of Artissima, and hopefully it will continue to experiment, not just expand. As it grows, it continues to attract true art enthusiasts – some who come to look, some who come to buy. Maintaining the right proportions of these two groups will be the key to Artissima’s future prosperity.
(Image on top: ARTISSIMA 2012; © Photo: Enrico Frignani.)