The fair in Turin attracts fewer visitors compared to the pre-Covid period, while the market soars for ‘historicized’ pieces. A reflection on the state of contemporary art is therefore inevitable.  

A weekend full of events, celebrations, visitors, music, shows.
Artissima – one of the most important international contemporary art fairs in Italy – ended last Sunday in Turin.

Too many press releases celebrate the great numbers of 2023, without mentioning, however, the numbers of the 2019 edition. If we were to create a simple graph, it would become obvious that the visitor numbers have significantly declined, by approximately 20,000 fewer. What is happening to contemporary art?

Yet, the market seems not to feel such a strong downturn. Inflation soars, two conflicts worry, yet purchases go up.

© Photo Credits: Perottino-Piva-Peirone / Artissima 2023

Important parallels are traced, especially in the auction house market, where significant sales emphasize the interest in a more historicized contemporary art: Lucio Fontana, Mario Schifano, Carlo Carrà, and Filippo De Pisis, just to name a few.

‘With his Cielo per A (1964), a unique work in terms of quality of execution and dating, Mario Schifano has confirmed himself as an artist of great appeal to Italian and foreign clients. The work at auction was fiercely contested by numerous bidders both online and over the phones, thus soaring from a starting bid of €20,000 to an impressive €327,600.’

Freddy Battino – head of the Modern and Contemporary Art department at Ponte Auction House – tells us. Is the market perhaps shifting to more well-known artists? More ‘reliable’ artists? Those who we find in art history textbooks? Perhaps collectors are looking for a past, a past that blends beauty with culture, that touches the soul without artifice, parties, or strobe lights. 

© Photo Credits: Perottino-Piva-Peirone / Artissima 2023

Art is always a great celebration, but not an excuse. Art is not the theme of an event that attracts guests and then is forgotten by them. The art of the early 21st century gathers young artists who want to tell, excite, protest, just as all the great masters of the past have done.

All art has been ‘contemporary’ but then, how can we support it? Is this the right way? Many are the questions and answers, but only collectors can provide them.

Perhaps the responsibility is due to the troubling reality. Be careful, however, form matters, at least as much as content.

© Photo Credits: Perottino-Piva-Peirone / Artissima 2023

Opening image: Mario Schifano, “Cielo per A.” 1964, enamel, graphite, pencil and trichlorethylene print on paper inlaid by the artist, cm 62x89,5. Sold € 327.600. Photo courtesy Il Ponte Casa d’aste 


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