Artissima 2017. What was missing? Champagne and toilet paper

To enhance the fair’s international appeal, take more care of the details. The gallerists speak out.

Artissima 2017

“Champagne, the champagne’s lacking at Artissima.” These are not the words of Queen Marie-Antoinette in her comfortable prison of the Conciergerie in Paris. The speaker is Francesco Pantaleone of the Galleria Pantaleone and he’s talking about this year’s edition, which has just come to an end. And you can hardly blame him: Artissima is a fair where art is sold, art is expensive, and when it comes to luxury, like much else, the details are important. Nicola Mafessoni, director of the long-established Galleria Massimo Minini, agrees, adding that what is wanting is an eye to certain details. “It’s too hot,” he tells me over the phone. “You’re sure these details are interesting?” he asks. They certainly are. So he continues: “There’s no toilet paper in the washrooms, there’s an endless queue for the car parks and there are no taxis at the exit. And the catering service? Miart by comparison is the Venaria Palace.” But when it comes to the sales figures, no one is complaining.

Everyone can see the Italian collectors are back. Some point out that foreign collectors (with money) will come only if they find the touches of luxury mentioned above. Mafessoni himself admits: “We’ve sold works at average prices, ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 to 25,000 euros. It certainly went off better than the last two editions.”

But the quality of the fair, which sells contemporary art, not oil at so much per litre, is above dispute. Everyone says Artissima remains the benchmark Italian contemporary art fair, with the galleries discovering talents and cherishing their artists. The 24th edition of the fair lavished special attention on emerging artists and young collectors, to invest in the future of art. To encourage the growth of new collecting, there was a new section devoted to drawings. In this respect Pinksummer, a Genoese gallery, showed that it was perhaps the most avant-garde: it had two monographic exhibition spaces, one devoted to Invernomuto (an Italian duo) and one dedicated to Marina Castillo Deball. Outside Lingotto, the gallery rented a 600 sqm hangar to host the show “Don’t look like a line”. The installation was curated by Baukuh and on display were all the artists the gallery is currently backing. Says the co-director Antonella Berruti: “Turin has the best art fair in Italy. It has the right collectors, and they scout for talent. This is missing from other cities.” And, talking about collectors, Mario Cristiani of Galleria Continua noted: “The Italians are back. Perhaps compared to the past, there’s less of that fear of the taxman that was typical in the years of deepest crisis.” But Mafessoni (Minini) reckons the shortage of international money matters, because there is no “VIP programme to attract international collectors”. According to Franco Noero, of the gallery of that name in Turin, Artissima offers quality, it’s an important institution. And above all Turin in these days was bursting with vernissages (we wrote a special on the subject here). “You can see the offerings at Rivoli or the opening of an important new space like OGR.” Showing at the fair for the first time is the Galleria Clima. Its director Francesco Lecci says: “We’re satisfied. We choose fairs for specially to meet with American collectors. Compared to past editions you can notice the change of direction. It’s brought a breath of freshness.”

As director, Ilaria Bonacossa has brought in changes: a better layout and greater uniformity in the spaces, with all sections being given equal prominence. The design and installation were by Vudafieri Saverino Partners in Milan. It is also true that official numbers compared to the last few years have not moved much. This edition had 52,000 visitors, in 2016 it was 50,000, and 48,000 in 2015. Number of exhibitors is unchanged.  

Press office answered to this with some photos. "The excellent IItalian prosecco is still fine, right?" 


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