A guide to Artissima 2023: what not to miss during Turin’s art week

As usual, the first weekend of November is dedicated to contemporary art in Turin. Both at the fair, with 181 participating galleries this year, and in the city, we have selected the must-see events.

by Irene Sofia Comi

If Artissima’s reputation is that of Italy’s most experimental contemporary art fair, this 30th edition seems to be no exception. From November 3rd to 5th, Turin opens its doors to the public and hosts, inside its Oval Lingotto, 181 Italian and foreign galleries (up from last year’s 174) from around the world, 39 of which are exhibiting for the first time. The curator of the 2023 edition, Luigi Fassi, boasts extensive and international institutional experience. As he puts it, “The nearly forty galleries participating in Artissima for the first time in 2023, along with the countless reselected and returning ones, are proof of the fair’s attractiveness and ability to be a catalyst for experimentation, research, and market investment in the arts.” In addition, 68 galleries are proposing monographic and curated projects, confirming Artissima’s interest in presenting itself as a fair with an educational and cultural approach as well as, ça va sans dire, an event focused on the economic-commercial interchange.

In this direction, at a time of crisis of values and of a dangerous homogenization and polarization of thought, for its 30th anniversary Artissima chose a figure like Fassi as its curator and Relations of Care as its theme. The theme takes inspiration from the thought of Renzo Taddei, a Brazilian anthropologist dedicated to formulating a hypothesis for overcoming the crises of our time by taking inspiration from the indigenous Amazonian way of thinking. “This is the message that the 2023 edition conveys, it’s an invitation to trust the imagery created by artists and their works, drawing inspiration and suggestion to reshape our thoughts and accompany the change of our people,” Fassi states.

“Dove finiscono le tracce”. Detail of the work City of Moscow (Map: Geodetic Bureau for the planning of the city of Moscow, 1940) by William Kentridge on display in the foyer of the Teatro Carignano in Turin. © Giorgio Perottino

In the hope of avoiding undue cannibalizations of “authentic” concepts from other cultures, this edition of Artissima will host Renzo Taddei, who will give a “light lectio,” inviting us to follow this model and abandon any ideology of otherness and superiority of the Western man over nature (and human beings themselves, we may add today, after the events of the last few weeks). Therefore, we hope to experience an edition that will rouse us from the torpor of our mid-season coats and that, going beyond the fashionable and viveur aesthetic glares and sparkles, will awaken some consciousness in regard to listening and respecting the other.

Among the initiatives at the fair, in addition to a series of talks on the theme of care, there is “Made In,” in which four companies that will host fours artists-in-residence since 2024 (dott.gallina, Guido Gobino, Kristina Ti and Pininfarina Architecture), a collaboration with Juventus. The fair also aims at opening a dialogue with the Fondazione Torino Musei, as well as with Main Partner Intesa Sanpaolo and partners UNA Esperienze and illycaffè and its illy Present Future Award, through which the fair expands further into the city with three curated projects.

Bekhbaatar Enkhtur is the winner of the 23rd edition of the illy Present Future Prize, supported by illycaffè since 2001 and awarded to the project considered most interesting in the Present Future section, which Artissima dedicates to the discovery of new talent. The artist is presented by the Matèria Gallery, Rome.

While far from its post-lockdown presence, the online component remains. In Fassi’s intention, who last year spoke to Domus about Artissima “as [...] a museum, about which one discovers works, stories and paths,” the digital aspect remains as a cultural mediator that accompanies visitors once again on the Artissima Voice Over platform, through digital audio guides and the new “The Stereoscope of Loners” podcast produced in collaboration with Il Giornale dell’Arte.

Then, there is Turin, in its week of maximum visibility (and not too long after, C2c). For years Artissima has been contributing to the promotion of a research-oriented collecting in the city as well, thanks to the capillary relationship the fair weaves among numerous public institutions, museums, foundations, and galleries, making Piedmont one of the most competitive regions in terms of high-quality art offer related to contemporary. In addition to the most celebrated initiatives – such as Michelangelo Pistoletto’s exhibitions at the Castello di Rivoli and that of Paulina Olowska and Peng Zuqiang at the Fondazione Sandretto, and the Luci d’Artista open-air museum, curated by Antonio Grulli – here’s what not to miss during the Turin art week; a selection of events that stand out for different reasons, including their experimentation, topicality, atypical venues, and proposals outside the box.

“All These Fleeting Perfections” | Alberto Geisser Civic Library

In the contemporary iconosphere, both authorial and functional photography are at the center not only of visual culture but also of the everyday visual experience of the community. This is the setting for the group exhibition “All These Fleeting Perfections” curated by Domenico Quaranta in collaboration with Artissima. Through photographs, videos, installations, and paintings by 27 artists from different generations – from Eva & Franco Mattes to Thomas Hirschhorn, from Thomas Ruff to Franco Vaccari, passing through the younger artists such as Rebecca Moccia and Federica di Pietrantonio – “All These Fleeting Perfections” aims to explore the dimension of the post-photographic age, questioning the persistence of photographic images in the contemporary representations entertaining some link with reality. Reflecting on the constant, albeit contradictory, survival of the photographic function in contemporary artwork, the exhibition takes its cue from Italo Calvino’s short story “The Adventure of a Photographer” (1955), in which the “fleeting perfections,” evoked in the title of the exhibition, refer to unrepeatable childhood moments, which persist only in photo albums. The exhibition takes place in the newly restored Biblioteca Civica Alberto Geisser and anticipates some themes of the new EXPOSED. Torino Foto Festival, opening next spring with its first edition entitled New Landscapes (May 2nd – June 2nd, 2024). Until Sunday, November 5th, 2023.

Gianni Caravaggio, “Per analogiam” | Gam – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino

Gianni Caravaggio calls the work of art “a device for demiurgic acts.” And it is precisely this feeling that one subtly “senses” while walking through the halls of GAM. The museum is dedicating a solo exhibition to the Abruzzo-born artist (1968, Rocca San Giovanni, Chieti) that takes stock of his sculptural production. Entitled “Per analogiam” and curated by Elena Volpato, the exhibition hosts a collection of works created from 1995 to the present, including five pieces created for the occasion. Over the span of nearly 30 years, a specific “sense of sculpture” emerges. In his practice, Caravaggio places durable and permanent materials such as polychrome marbles, bronze, and aluminum in dialogue with other materials that are lighter and more ephemeral, foreign to the canon of plastic art, such as talcum powder, sugar, and styrofoam. An exhibition that has the merit of letting the works speak, works which then acquire a place of honor in the lineup and morphology of the event. As Volpato stated, “We avoided presenting collectives of many artists so that the theme would not overlap like an overdetermined interpretative grid, but it was the individual voice of the works to specify the thought processes.” November 1st, 2023 through March 17th, 2024.

Khalil Rabah, Through the Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind” | Fondazione Merz

“Through the Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind” is the exhibition by Khalil Rabah (Jerusalem, 1961), designed for the spaces of Fondazione Merz and curated by Claudia Gioia. In this tragic historical and political moment, this title cannot but attract attention. Hoping that the power of art and the immediacy of the image can affect contemporaneity and the processes of memory construction, the artist reconstructs an analysis of history and its interpretations through painting, sculpture, and installation, questioning the narratives and perceptions that generate and sustain it, in a “process of veridicization.” Established as nomadic museum in 2003, for the first time, Rabah’s traveling art project takes a different form and transforms the Foundation’s spaces into an archaeological construction site in which visitors are invited to immerse themselves in a historical narrative restored through testimonies and clues. Using the exhibition machine, the artist wants to show the mechanisms of narrative and identity construction conveyed by the museum itself, a place that, often inevitably as Boris Groys has argued, becomes a place of power. October 30th, 2023 to January 28th, 2024.

“Where the trail ends” | exhibition across the historic center of Turin

In the name of the bond that ties the Turin fair to institutions and more broadly to city places, this year the Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea CRT together with Artissima presents the widespread exhibition “Where the trail ends”, curated by Luigi Fassi. The exhibition is hosted in five iconic locations in downtown Turin and features works by internationally renowned contemporary artists. While discovering or rediscovering city buildings and collections, the visitors will interface with several two- and three-dimensional and environmental works acquired over the past two decades and now part of the Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea CRT collection. They reflect varied themes but are brought together by a common poetics that combines autonarration, microhistory, and personal intimacy with the global geopolitical dimension and transnational reflection on subjectivity and identity. Witness Cally Spooner’s cryptic sonorities-warnings, William Kentridge’s embroidered and drawn tapestry of the city of Moscow, Peter Friedl’s dense flags from around the world, Simon Starling’s moving images (in a tribute to Carlo Mollino), and Francesco Gennari’s white marble “formless contractions.” The route runs from Palazzo Perrone di San Martino to the medieval courtyard of Palazzo Madama, passing through the courtyard of the National Museum of the Risorgimento and continuing to Teatro Carignano, concluding in the fireplace room of Teatro Regio. Thursday through Sunday, November 12th, 2023.

Nobuioshy Araki, “Flower-life” | Mucho Mas!

Looking East, “Flower-life” is the first solo exhibition in Turin by renowned master Nobuioshy Araki, created in collaboration with AM Gallery in Tokyo. The title of the exhibition echoes that of the book published by the artist in 2018 and addresses the works on display within the artist run space, characterized by an intimate and personal approach in both female and floral subjects. Images belonging to the series “Flower Rondeau” (1999, in progress) compose an entire wall of colorful flowers, accompanied by the bondage photographs, in color and black and white, that have made Araki famous worldwide. “If Yoko had not given me permission to photograph, I wonder if my photographic life would ever have begun,” says Araki, who since his wife’s death in 1990 has continued to photograph the flowers she so enjoyed. On the other hand, bondage (kinbaku) is an important theme in Japanese culture, which can be traced back to the divine. Knotting as a sexual game is largely a legacy of the ukiyo-e (literally “pictures of the floating world”) of the flourishing Edo period (1603-1868). As founders Luca Vianello and Silvia Mangosio state, “‘Flower-Life’ (hana jinsei) is a sentimental and intimate journey about mourning, life, and rebirth.” Until January 28th, 2024.

Enej Gala. “The invention of footsteps” | Almanac Inn - Il Giardino di Aurora

“The continuous confrontation with kids of different ages creates a genuine and fruitful reality in which to grow. In the end, the path is marked more by encounters than steps.” This is how Enej Gala opens his interview. For Artissima, the young Slovenian-born artist presents a shared project. Between contemporary postmodern solutions and traditional culture and popular storytelling, Gala’s playful as well as disturbing works combine participation and painting creation, sculptures and installations, in particular exploring figure theater through the creation and use of puppets.

In the run-up to art week, Almanac – the Turin- and London-based association promoting the project – collaborated with several entities for its realization: Area Onlus, Associazione ACMOS, Il Giardino di Aurora and the non-profit space Alchemilla. This is how “The invention of footsteps exhibition” started, a project that involved groups of adolescents in workshops, fostering their participatory reflection on their own identity presence and the correlation between the latter and the automation of movements and sounds. Leaving “our footprints” in the kindergarten Il Giardino di Aurora on Via Pisa 43 in Turin (right behind Almanac, a venue hosting Nolwenn Salaün’s solo exhibition on the same days), it will be possible to see the video and sculptures resulting from this experience. Open November 3rd, 4th, and 5th.

“Luck Upside Down. Quando la fortuna è capovolta” | Studio Abra

Perhaps it is the esoteric imprint that personally interests the writer or the spontaneous nature of the nonprofit project, the fact remains that the curious exhibition-event Luck Upside Down. “Quando la fortuna è capovolta” deserves a mention. Hosted in an artists’ studio, it presents itself as a series of events, which while they catch the eye for their moments of aggregation, encounter, and self-discovery: rituals, workshops, evenings, exhibitions, dinners, and meditations, all in the setting of exhibitions, conceived as “activatable” works-talisman. As the title suggests, the project has an evident research-based nature and revolves around pseudo-magical manifestations. It moves in a shadowy dimension between presence, self-assertion, and divination, between astrology and psychology, personality theory and paramedical and diagnostic tools, in the broader scene of evolutionary astrology and tarology. Participating in the project curated by Paola Volpe (Rachele Montoro’s astrological alias) and Marta Montoni are Astri Amari, Michela Depetris, Rachele Montoro, Jack O’Flynn with Connie Hurley, Tamara Macarthur and Lisa Rytterlund, Megan Whitmarsh, and Rada Koželj. The exhibition is on open October 27th through November 5th, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Studio Abra, 15 Via Goldoni, Turin. 

Opening image: Gabriel Abrantes, Ghosts painting, 2022. Oil on linen, 203x283 cm. Courtesy Galeria Francisco Fino. Photo: Vasco Vilhena

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