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Artissima’s Ilaria Bonacossa Tells Us About Planning An Art Fair In A Pandemic
The contemporary art fair is going ahead in a new IRL format
Feature 28 Oct 2020

It’s been a difficult year for the art world, and especially for the arts in Italy. Yet despite this year of turmoil, the art world persists, even when it seems like everything is pushing against it. Artissima – one of Italy’s best-loved fairs – was all ready to go ahead as planned, until it had to switch everything up at the last minute. Determined to take place despite the odds, Artissima will still happen IRL, opening on November 7 for two months in a brand new format in Torino. We spoke to Ilaria Bonacossa – Artissima’s director – about planning an art fair during a pandemic, Artissima’s programming, and her favourite Artissima moments. 

Ilaria Bonacossa by Giorgio Perottino

How did you first become interested in art?

I have always loved going to museums, I come from a family of collectors and my mother is a restorer of ancient paintings. The transition for me was from the world of art to the world of contemporary art that was looked upon with suspicion in the family.

How difficult has it been planning Artissima during such a strange time?

Very difficult, sometimes I had the impression of being a hamster on the wheel. But with my team we worked tirelessly this year, inventing new projects with expertise, creativity and determination, dismantling and reassembling the fair in response to changing needs, without ever losing faith in the outcome of being able to bring our galleries to Torino.

In recent months, we have worked on the organisation of a “Covid-conscious” fair that could welcome galleries, the public and our partners to Torino in November, in total safety and in compliance with current regulations.

In the context of global uncertainty, the sudden changes of scenario and the resulting insecurity that governs the decisions of individuals have forced us not to proceed with opening Artissima in its usual format as a large fair that in 4 days calls thousands of people to be together in a closed environment. In order to avoid squandering the exceptional efforts made to date, however, we have imagined a new mixed version of ARTISSIMA both physical and online for the presentation of art in Torino. An “unplugged” version of Artissima that supports the art system and its players in an innovative way, narrating contemporary art and its discovery through the work of Italian and international galleries that have always supported the fair with loyalty and enthusiasm.

Artissima 2020

This year you are changing up your format, can you tell us a little about that?

From November 7, 2020 to January 9, 2021 the museums of Fondazione Torino Musei will host a curated selection of works by the galleries selected for Artissima 2020. The exhibitions will present an overview of highlights of what the audience would have seen in the booths of the fair, responding to the theme of Frenetic Standstill, selected by me in close dialogue with more than 120 gallerists involved. The exhibitions are made possible thanks to the support of Camera di commercio di Torino and Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea CRT.

The three museums GAM, Palazzo Madama and MAO will play host to the historic sections of Artissima respectively: the Main Section, presenting a selection of the most representative galleries on the international scene; the New Entries section dedicated to emerging international galleries under five years old showing at Artissima for the first time; Dialogue/Monologue for galleries with an experimental approach which intend to present a monographic booth or a dialogue between the works of two artists.

We are also launching a new cross-media platform, Artissima XYZ, that offers an immersive digital experience. This year, the sections Present Future curated by Ilaria Gianni and Fernanda Brenner, Back to the Future curated by Lorenzo Giusti and Mouna Mekouar, and Disegni curated by Letizia Ragaglia and Bettina Steinbrügge will exist on the platform Artissima XYZ, supported by Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo, and online from 3 November to 9 December 2020.

The new platform offers fresh experiential content, video, photos, interviews and podcasts, to explore the work of all the main figures involved: galleries, artists, curators. Each curatorial team has selected ten projects for each section, featuring ten artists each, presented by their galleries, and pursuing a precise thematic orientation.

Art Mapping, Artissima. Zhang Enli, Landscape, Museo Villa Croce, Genova, 2014. Foto Nuvola Ravera. Courtesy Museo Villa Croce and the artist

Can you tell us anything about any programming for this edition of the fair?

Artissima has shaped four new projects this year, in collaboration with its partners and with important institutions of the territory.

At GAM in Torino, a location of Artissima Unplugged, from 7 November 2020 to 9 January 2021 two exhibitions will be on view: Folle, with a selection of historic photographs of crowds dating from 1930 to 1980 from the Archivio Publifoto di Intesa Sanpaolo, and JaguArt – The Italian Talent Road Show, with the winning emerging artists of the talent scouting project realised in collaboration with Jaguar.

From 5 to 15 November 2020, at Binario 2, OGR presents an important video work by Natália Trejbalová – About Mirages and Stolen Stones (2020) – which investigates the relationship between art and technology. The project is the result of collaboration between OGR and Artissima and is presented in the context of the Biennale Tecnologia programme.

Finally, at Combo, from 5 to 8 November 2020, visitors can see videos produced by the young artists Caterina Erica Shanta and Liryc Dela Cruz during the residency of the Torino Social Impact Art Award.

Disegni, Artissima 2020. Isabella Bortolozzi, Cantor, Cyber Slut From Mickey & Minnie Suck, 1996

What has been your most exciting moment working with Artissima?

It is difficult to say; the installation of my first edition in 2017 with the energy and the frenzy of a perfectly functioning machine that brings in two days nearly 200 galleries to mount their booths. On another note the opening of Artissima Telephone in 2019, a show at OGR with works from the galleries reflecting on our relationship to the world through this ever present device.

Who are your art world sheroes?

Well so many it is hard to pick. Palma Bucarelli, the historic director of Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Rome who fought to buy Burri and Fontana when all the establishment was against her. Carol Rama, a revolutionary artist who lived in Torino, on whose show I worked as a young curator in Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, and to whose revolutionary model of feminism we are launching a prize this year with Fondazione Sardi per l’Arte.

Artissima 2019

What do you think the art world might look like post Covid? And what are your hopes for the future?

I hope this crisis will help us focus again on the human dimension of the art world, on the relationships at its chore and not just on the need of selling more at higher prices. This crisis has pushed all of us to discover talents in proximity helping in all art scenes younger talents to emerge.

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