Bologna Art Fair

Stefano Pasquini, 2006


Since Silvia Evangelisti was appointed director last year, the Bologna Art Fair has greatly improved. Bigger spaces, a clearer spread of the exhibitors, a satellite pavilion for young galleries, and especially a new open-mindedness about collateral events within the city made this year’s Arte Fiera a fresher and definitely most enjoyable event.

Also, the fact that many galleries in the past lost their interest in participating to the oldest fair in Italy – it is now on its 30th year – made it possible for younger and unusual galleries to show their hidden talents in the most visited fair of the country.

All that said, walking through the pavilions the first thing that spreads to mind is that it’s just another fair. After a few dizzy minutes, the eye has to adjust to the overwhelming lighting, and the quantity of artworks that assails you from every corner can be ignored to enter a bubble of calmness and self-consciousness that makes you forget this is just pure business and actually lets you enjoy the experience of the art object.

Laurina Paperina is a young artist from Trento who I’ve been following for quite some time. Her hilarious drawings portraying superheroes are simple and fresh, yet reveal all the cynicism and irony that is best known in Italian political satirists. I was glad to see that her gallery, Perugi, finally gave her the amount of visibility she deserves.

The colorful sculptures of Sun Rae Kim, present in both Galleria Blu and Galerie Robert Drees booths, were a nice novelty to me. The process is simple, you take a doll (I presume) and make a rubber cast of it, then cover it with delicate colorful paper leaves, making what resembles a child of the future’s cocoon, something between a potpourri second skin and the lost aura of a forgotten manga.

Another interesting booth was the one of Base from Tokyo. The weird, erased paintings of Ji Danchun were a pleasure to my eyes, so close to the contradictions of contemporary society, they make you smile with lightness – perfect for heavy times. Miwako Iga presented a series of mini plastic bras to comment about their uncomfortability, funnily titled We always talk of our own ache, while Akiko Tsuda reworks Renascence poses through decorative resin mannequins.

Arndt & Partner presented a solo exhibition of Nedko Solakov, an artist I didn’t know, yet I can really relate with. His fucked up conceptual watercolors show a distinct intellect, attentive to what is going on in the world, yes disillusioned to the possible solutions. Psychologically speaking, it’s great to let it all go through watercolors and irony.

French galleries participated en masse to this fair, which is something quite unusual. This gave the provincial punters of Bologna the opportunity to admire some fabulous work of Anette Messager, some weird shoe sculptures by Madeleine Berkhemer, and a wonderful installation by Pascale Marthine Tayou. An eclectic artist, he filled the space with freakish colorful abstract drawings, neatly framed, and a massive log of wood turned upside down. Titled She & He, it featured two long piles of broken slides, badly glued together, but with two neat cds underneath to act like coasters. A beautiful metaphor of the contradictions of the modern couple.

As far as Italian galleries are concerned, not much novelty was displayed. As usual Massimo Minini and S.A.L.E.S. had the strongest Italian work on view, but I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of upcoming Amste. A young gallery from Lissone, it featured Cesare Biratoni, Marjan Laaper, Jennifer Nuss, Adriano Persiani and Tomas Vu Daniel, and all of them are worth the mention. Definitely a gallery to keep an eye on.

For the rest, I was interested in seeing a definite improvement in the quality of many “photoshop works”, namely a wonderful Flemish-like “painting” by Emily Allchurch, presented by Galica, an obsessively repeated portrait of a young girl by Claudia Rogge at Galerie Voss, and some amazing areal views by Hiroyuki Masuyama at Studio La Città that made you re-live your last flight in one, single, very long photograph.

Sculpture was big this year, and I found some very interesting pieces that – if I were a collector – I would definitely think about taking home. A Grizzly Little Fucker by David Mach, funny Chewing gum boys by Tommi Toija, a strange metal cityscape by Baltazar Torres, some awesome fabric heads by Louise Bourgeois, excellent flying rubbish by David Lindberg, and a saddening, beautiful radio-video-robot piece by Nam June Paik, who died while the fair was up. Let’s hope the great video master career will be celebrated with the major retrospective he deserves.

The best experience of this art fair was, for me, the possibility of admiring L’esprit Nouveau from the inside. It’s a little satellite pavilion that Le Corbusier designed in 1925 as an art space, featuring a housing module replicable on two floors and a circular-shape annex. It was built in 1977 and it is regarded as a manifesto of modern architecture and Functionalism. All my life I found the building  closed to the public, and when I finally entered I was not disappointed. Although slightly crammed with artworks from emerging galleries, the space revealed itself with the purpose of what it was designed for: a living/working space for an artist. The easiness of the feeling of the space inside it is rather hard to describe, but it was indeed a highly enjoyable experience and, as an artist, it made me really feel at home. It’s a shame modules like that are not available to artists for real.

 Originally published in New York Arts, 2006