Artissima 17: Lingotto Fiere in Turin

Aoife Rosenmeyer

November 9, 2010
Artissima, Turin
November 5–7, 2010

We were a few lonely clouds last Thursday, wandering around Turin’s Lingotto district trying to find Artissima’s new location in the Oval, a recently built exhibition hall tucked out of sight from the main road. Our path took us under the monumental ramp of the former Fiat factory that stands for the region’s proud industrial heritage, a fitting introduction to the city and the hybrid nature of this art fair. While other fairs stage curatorial programmes that feign distance from commercial interests, Artissima is only in part a sales platform, a large part of its remit being the promotion of regional institutions. The salient point is that many of those institutions exist thanks to the largesse of industrial families, whether they found eponymous foundations like the Agnellis or the Re Rebaudengos or they support existing art spaces. Not to mention that the region’s grit and manufacture are in the DNA of the Arte Povera movement, so production and dissemination are constantly intertwined.

Inside the new hall the open space and ribbed roof threatened initially to subsume works; a fine iron sculpture by Alice Cattaneo at Galleria Suzy Shammah struggled for independence from its surroundings. But it was soon business as usual, balloon-like film lighting helping form a neutral and practical context in which the art could entangle visitors. Without a doubt the highlight of the fair was the section Back to the Future, devoted to ‘monographic exhibitions by artists who were active in the 1960s and 1970s and have not received the attention they deserve in recent decades, but whose work is of particular relevance today’. A jaded eye might view this innovation by new fair director Francesco Manacorda as Machiavellian mining of unexploited market niches, but in its first iteration it brought fresh air into the aisles and laid down the gauntlet to many younger artists. Stockholm’s Brändström and Fruit & Flower Deli looked justifiably smug with their joint adjoining stands, one a gallery of early Jan Håfström works, largely on loan, the other his more recent oeuvre. One doubts whether John Latham, Lisson’s contribution to Back to the Future, was truly lingering in obscurity, (apparently he is little known to Italian collectors,) but Antoni Miralda’s film Paris: La Cumparsita, on view from Galeria Senda or Adolf Luther at 401 Contemporary were exciting rediscoveries.

Beyond the trade stalls, Manacorda gave regional institutions a generous platform and also commissioned an interlinking, or cross-contaminating, space from Raumlabor, whose waste material structures echoing Michelangelo Pistoletto’s piles of clothing provided discrete but blurring areas for the programmes of dance, cinema, discussion and typography. Tobias Rehberger was ubiquitous, he designed the exhibitors’ café (those without appropriate passes could peer through a window gap but not come in—I shamefacedly admit that the coffee inside was both beautiful and tasty); customised a car on show at the fair; and was behind one of the 2010 Luci d’Artista light art commissions in the city centre. Indeed once they made it to the fair, visitors gathered momentum and moved out into the metropolis, swarming variously over the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, GAM, Castello di Rivoli and Fondazione Merz; on Saturday night local galleries were subjected to a vodka-thirsty stampede—if, that is, the incomprehensible gallery map could be deciphered.

Returning north at the end of the weekend, we visited Pistoletto’s Cittadellarte in Biella en route. A few years ago the artist launched a sustainable creative city in a city in a disused wool factory, home to artists, architects, designers and a considerable collection of his own work. The crowds had not made it here; on a Sunday the river thundering by the remnants of manufacture was the loudest voice. In its 17th year a combination of ambition, businesslike pragmatism and innovation has made Artissima a sterling success; though the term is unpleasant, ‘creative industries’ appear to be blooming where once cars were made. It is to be hoped that Pistoletto’s aspirations will be equally enduring.

Art Market

Aoife Rosenmeyer is a Northern Irish critic based in Zürich.

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November 9, 2010

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