Padiglione Crepaccio

At the upcoming Venice Art Biennale, the Crepaccio Pavilion at — which Domus is supporting with a partnership project — will sell the works of ten young artists via an online platform, raising the profile of artists excluded from the Venetian stage. Can a pavilion-as-provocation rewrite the rules of the contemporary art system?

This article was originally published in Domus 969 / May 2013

“Adopt a young artist.” This is what the Crepaccio in Milan has been doing since last summer. But this is also what it will be doing on a larger scale at the Venice Biennale, with the creation of an entire pavilion showcasing young artists selected by Caroline Corbetta and promoted on the online platform. During the preview (from 29 to 31 May) it will be possible to visit Ca’ Soranzo, set up as a live-work space hosting some of the artists involved in the project, and which will be fitted out to accommodate all ten of them. The artists’ work will be the subject of an in-depth focus on, also involving three guest editors—one per day—including Domus’s deputy editor Roberto Zancan. The artists are the prime movers behind this unique pavilion and its paraphernalia. For example, Thomas Braida designed the bag that will carry press information and a special version of this article/manifesto, distributed both within the pavilion and at the entrance to the Giardini. The provocation launched to the art world is clear. We thought it would be useful to reflect on the insights offered by this project with Maurizio Cattelan, whom Braida adopted as the pavilion’s “tutelary deity”, or perhaps a “saint to honour”.
Thomas Braida: Crepaccio
Thomas Braida and Valerio Nicolai bring the initiative’s key players to virtual life in the rooms of the Ca’ Soranzo in Campiello dei Calegheri (near Campo S. Angelo and Campo S. Stefano), which will house the Crepaccio Pavilion

Maurizio Cattelan: Was there really a need for another pavilion at the Biennale? Nowadays, Venice is so invaded by national pavilions that there’s no more space in the Giardini.


Caroline Corbetta: Yes, it really was necessary! First of all, ours is not a national pavilion, but one that’s local and global at the same time. I’d call it “glocal”, if I may use an ugly word. Furthermore, it exists both physically and virtually. The Crepaccio Pavilion at (“The Venetians”) is given over to young artists who work and study in Venice, but who, for one reason or another, draw no particular benefit in terms of visibility from the fact that their city is transformed into the world’s most important contemporary art stage once every two years. Actually they practically disappear. So we’re aiming to offer them this visibility — both in the lagoon, where we will be exhibiting their works during the Biennale preview, and through, the online store for fashion and design (and recently also art). Throughout the Biennale, not only will their works be on sale via the website, but there will also be content focusing on their projects, made available to a global audience of more than 7 million people each month. Do you see? Wasn’t it you, when you were still an artist, who said that you were interested in discussing your art with the greatest number of people possible? Like you — especially with some of your early projects such as the fake Flash Art cover featuring yourself — we’re working within the system in a way that I’d call “camouflaged”. We’re using its rules to provoke and stimulate thought, with an attitude halfway between serious and facetious, balanced between the past and the future. The decision to sell the artists’ works on, for example, harks back to the origins of the Venice Biennale, when it was possible to buy the pictures and sculptures on show. Now, though, the market operates behind the scenes.


Maurizio: Okay, so this pavilion was definitely necessary. But I’d say you actually took your inspiration from Warhol, from his way of being at once inside and outside the art world, and from the idea of seeing art not as something sacred but as one of the many forms of cultural expression. This kind of approach made art more accessible. Warhol was unprecedented in terms of popularisation. He’s a yardstick against whom all contemporary artists must measure themselves.


Caroline: Perhaps all curators, too.

Crepaccio: Thomas Braida e Valerio Nicolai
Ten artists are involved: Thomas Braida, Fabio De Meo, Marco Gobbi, Max Gottardi, Luca Migliorino, Valerio Nicolai, Barbara Prenka, Valentina Roselli, Caterina Rossato and Serena Vestrucci
Maurizio: Yes, especially now that a major transformation in exhibition formats is taking place. When I was invited to Venice for the first time back in 1993, for a young Italian artist the Biennale represented a chimera, perhaps the greatest goal you could aspire to. I don’t know if that’s still true. But it’s interesting how you are bringing in these young artists who in reality are already there, even if the experts who come to Venice from all over the world for the event usually don’t pay them much attention. I’ve never heard of a pirate pavilion — or “camouflaged” pavilion, as you say — with this level of preparation, both in terms of the project and its communication. For a while now, my main source of inspiration has been the Internet, because the Web is everything at once: it’s a container. The only difference is its interactivity. What we’re seeing today is above all a new situation in which, for the first time, everyone can say something. You’re bringing these young artists to a vast audience. It’s an immense challenge. They’ve got to have something to say. But it’s interesting that you and are helping them to say it. Being in the game is crucial. I always say, “Adopt a young artist,” because investing in the young is the right thing to do, and you’re making this possible on a global scale. It’s very exciting — and innovative. After all, Federico Marchetti’s Yoox Group is doing the same thing with art as he’s already done with fashion: he’s bringing it to the Internet, thus combining elite work with accessibility. Opposites come together, creating something that didn’t exist before. The art world is changing, and with your pavilion you’re creating a scouting project that will help galleries, which are historically going through a period of weakness, besieged as they are by auction houses. Before, your work didn’t end up at auction until you were dead. Now it’s all different. But let’s talk about the young artists involved: who are they, how old are they and what do they do?
Thomas Braida e Valerio Nicolai
Thomas Braida and Valerio Nicolai, Padiglione Crepaccio at, project for the 55th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale
Caroline: There are about ten of them and none were born in Venice. Their average age is 27, so they’re no longer kids, even if some of them, intoxicated by the city’s wonderfully soft, bohemian atmosphere, are still studying so they can put off the moment when they have to return home or rejoin the world. At first glance, they can be divided into two groups: those at the Accademia di Belle Arti, who mainly focus on painting, and those at the IUAV, who are more conceptual (the painters have affectionately nicknamed the conceptual artists the asciuttoni, or the “dry types”). In reality, they mostly all spend time with each other; they’ve formed a community revolving around the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, where, sooner or later, each of them obtains a studio and/or participates in an exhibition. But here’s the paradox: it seems that no curator, not even the freshest interns at the international mega-firms that have arrived in the city (above all Pinault and Prada), has ever visited their studios. It’s as if there’s no bridge between these two worlds. The work of these young artists is in the international language of contemporary art, and my hope is that with this “artistic Esperanto” they will be able to communicate with the millions of users. But seeing as the pavilion starts its life in Venice, during the three Biennale preview days, we had to set out from the local dimension so we could grab the experts’ attention. We decided to set up the pavilion in the 16th-century house where the artists usually sleep and work. The atmosphere will be informal, accessible and authentic. At the same time, there will be a fair amount of mise-en-scène, like a theatrical production. After all, an exhibition is always a type of show.
Thomas Braida e Valerio Nicolai
Thomas Braida and Valerio Nicolai, Padiglione Crepaccio at, project for the 55th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale

Maurizio: You haven’t explained what Crepaccio is.


Caroline:  Do you remember Il Carpaccio, the restaurant where you go after your legendary swims when you’re in Milan? Since May last year, one of the restaurant’s 40-centimetre-deep windows has been hosting a heterodox programme of exhibitions showcasing young Italian talent. We came up with our name by changing two letters on the restaurant sign: from Carpaccio (the Italian dish) to Crepaccio (which means “crevice”). I’m managing it together with a network of permanent and impromptu collaborators, such as the artists Marcello Maloberti and Yuri Ancarani, who are trying their hand at curatorship. We say that you’re behind this project too, partly because the experience recalls the Wrong Gallery in New York, if only for its small size. At the entrance to the restaurant there’s also a photo of you eating with a huge bib on. With that photo hanging there, it’s like you’re a kind of tutelary deity for the Crepaccio, a saint to honour. Actually, the image has been reused by Thomas Braida, one of the young “Venetians” who had the job of creating the pavilion’s image. He’s got you wearing a Venetian carnival mask and pictured you intent on cuddling the Lion of St Mark, the symbol of Venice, small versions of which are given as prizes at the Biennale. Humour is a way of communicating. It’s like a smokescreen concealing an important message, which, if expressed literally, might be less effective. Irony often hides a dramatic moment.

Thomas Braida e Valerio Nicolai
Thomas Braida and Valerio Nicolai, Padiglione Crepaccio at, project for the 55th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale

Maurizio: Today, the financial crisis has opened up the possibility for experimentation, alternative programmes and new critiques that until recently seemed impossible. You’ve found a way of developing a programme that starts from little or nothing. It’s a form of criticism and I prefer facts to words, and you’ve used them to show that there are 100 ways of being on the scene. One of these could well be the Crepaccio Pavilion. The Financial Times has dubbed the trend among leading chefs to return to a strongly local base as the “new localism”. Perhaps we need to do the same in art. But artists who belong to a community rooted in a set place, as happens in Venice, must understand the global forces at work. They have to band together and create a system if they want to exist on an international level. In the end, the ten “Venetians” do not make up a movement or a school; they’re all working individually. Some will go far, and others won’t. But if they don’t create a system, they have little chance.


Caroline: Precisely. With this pavilion we also want to launch a call to create a stronger system here in Venice — especially during the Biennale, when the whole world turns up on our doorstep. This opportunity mustn’t go to waste. We’re creating the pavilion with, an Italian company that has succeeded in the field of e-commerce, which has been the prerogative of the English-speaking world. 


Maurizio: It’s an interesting historical moment for the Italian scene, too, at the Venice Biennale. Massimiliano Gioni has invited various Italian artists to take part in the international exhibition. The Italian Pavilion, curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, will definitely not be the embarrassment of recent years. And then there’s this new pavilion. They’re like three concentric circles.


Caroline: I’ve noticed an odd coincidence: this is your first Venice Biennale as a “retiree”, and your long-time friend and colleague Massimiliano Gioni is running it. But he hasn’t invited you and there have never been as many Italian artists in the spotlight as this year. Has your exit from the scene suddenly made space for others?


Maurizio: I’ve always tried to be there without being there. It was a way of taking part through absence, and I’ll continue to take part. 

Thomas Braida e Valerio Nicolai
Thomas Braida and Valerio Nicolai, Padiglione Crepaccio at, project for the 55th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale
Follow the conversation and watch the Padiglione Crepaccio at unfold in real time at: 

Padiglione Crepaccio at   

I "Veneziani"
Curated by Caroline Corbetta
With Thomas Braida (1982), Fabio De Meo (1986), Marco Gobbi (1985), Massimiliano Gottardi (1989), Luca Migliorino (1988), Valerio Nicolai (1988), Barbara Prenka (1990), Valentina Roselli (1986), Caterina Rossato (1980), Serena Vestrucci (1986)

29, 30, 31 May 2013, from 10:00 — 20:00 (by invitation)
Ca' Soranzo, Campiello dei Calegheri (near Teatro La Fenice)
Vaporetto stop: S. Maria del Giglio or Accademia, Venice

Every day, from 13:00 — 15:00, brunch with a special guest editor
29 May: Stefano Tonchi (editor, W magazine)
30 May: Roberto Zancan (deputy editor, Domus)
31 May: Linda Yablonsky (contributor, New York Times)

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