Here Are 7 Standout Artists to Discover at miart 2018

Highlights include one artist's "Self-Portrait as Michael Pitt" and drawings made using an ink pen fashioned from roll-on deodorant.

Apparatus 22, Untitled. (2018). Courtesy GALLLERIAPIÙ, Bologna.

At miart, Milan’s international art fair, you can’t get too far before bumping into impressive works by artists like Michelangelo Pistoletto and Robert Indiana (though let’s hope we’re not literally bumping into them, like the woman who we witnessed trip over a fluorescent Gino Marotta panther during the VIP preview).

As it opens to the public today, this year, the Italian fair is packed with some 186 galleries flexing their rosters, as blue-chip stalwarts like Gagosian and Amanda Wilkinson make their miart debuts alongside many other newcomers. But for those who are tired of hearing the same names over and over again, and who are instead itching for new discoveries, here are seven rising but lesser-known artists who made breakout presentations at this year’s edition.


1. Zoe Barcza at Bonny Poon, Paris

Self-Portrait As Michael Pitt (There Is Poison in the Tap Water) (2018). Courtesy the artist and Bonny Poon, Paris.

At the upstart Parisian gallery, Bonny Poon, artist Zoe Barcza is showing self-portraits made for a February show at the gallery called “Property Sex,” and they might look familiar even if you’re not familiar with her work. If so, that’s because Barcza has used the American actor Michael Pitt as a proxy for herself. “He’s somebody I’ve always felt had a certain family resemblance to my face, but is also a sort of exaggerated pretentious version of myself, as he’s sort of like River Phoenix for the Tumblr generation,” Barcza tells artnet News.

The Barcza–Pitt figure is being devoured by smaller versions of itself, and little Pacman-style heads eat rough angular tunnels into the larger body in a strange form of “self-cannibalism,” hunting out small nuggets culled from Instagram. Barcza explains that these are “tokens of digital lifestyle information currency, from all these different dietary regimes, whether it be a ketogenic diet, or veganism, or straight-up conspiracy theory stuff.”

Recently, Barcza showed in a traveling exhibition in Copenhagen and Basel that was curated by Helga Christoffersen from New Museum. She is making four more of the Pitt/self-portraits for the upcoming Liste, where she is showing with Bianca D’Alessandro (the Danish gallery is also devoting a solo show to her in August) before another solo at Croy Nielsen slotted for November.


2. Apparatus 22 at Gallleriapiù, Bologna

Untitled. (2018). Courtesy GALLLERIAPIÙ, Bologna.

At Gallleriapiù, the work of the Romanian collective Apparatus 22 catches the eye. Text-based works tattooed on leather put forward the human body as a site for civilizational norms and emphasize its inability to resist the controlling powers of economics, politics, social movements, religion, and fashion that seek to alter it.

The collective was formed in January of 2011 by current members Erika Olea, Maria Farcas, and Dragos Olea, as well as the now deceased artist Ioana Nemes. Apparatus 22 works between Bucharest and Brussels and have shown at the 2013 Venice Biennale and MUMOK in Vienna, among others.


3. Marlene Steyn at SMAC, Cape Town

Installation at SMAC, Cape Town. Photo courtesy SMAC.

You can’t help but stop at Marlene Steyn’s solo presentation at SMAC. A plurality of self-portraits of the 28-year-old artist paper the walls of the booth, dangle from the ceiling, and twist into each other as sculptures. Many of the figures are clad in Nike and Adidas activewear, while others are meditating, searching for zen in the contemporary world.

“All of my work moves towards the same questions and themes, but I’m very interested in the process we follow to create a sense of self in this contemporary time—especially as a female,” Steyn told artnet News. “My work is a combination of deep-diving into the conscious, trying to find calm in the craziness of everyday life, while spiritually trying to make sense of what a self is.”

“I think we are too quick to form lines around ourselves and say “this is me,” and “this is not me,” but identity is much more entangled and interwoven, and we have many selves, which is why I speak about the self as a plurality,” she added.

Steyn’s fantastical paintings have been likened to Hieronymous Bosch, and she is currently being exhibited at the Zeitz Mocaa Museum in Cape Town.


4. Nicola Martini at Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin

Installation at DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM. Image courtesy DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM, Berlin. Photo by Emanuele Zamponi.

At Berlin’s Dittrich and Schlechtriem gallery, the Milan-based artist Nicola Martini has erected several large vertical aluminum pipes that are filled with about four or five liters of liquid shellac, an organic material usually used to cover the exterior of things, to seal or protect them. But here, the traditional commercial or industrial function of the material is halted, encased inside pipes with no air, so it can never harden.

“I try an impossible exercise to amplify our consciousness of perception of micro-processes that exist around us. Art is an excuse for knowledge. I am trying to experience the micro and macro realm at the same time, even for a couple of seconds,” Martini says. On the floor, three epoxy resin spheres function similarly, encasing Judea bitumen and red clay, which, like the shellac, is unable to harden or solidify. Instead, it rests in a conceptual state of purgatory.
Martini has had several institutional shows, and the artist also shows with Kaufmann Repetto in Milan. His work was included in the Palazzo Fortuny at the Venice Biennale, where he took over an entire room for the group show “Intuition,” curated by Axel Vervoordt and Daniela Ferretti.

5. Toygun Özdemir at Öktem Aykut, Istanbul

17 (2018). Courtesy Öktem Aykut.

Showing at Öktem Aykut, a contemporary art gallery based in Istanbul, is work by painter Toygun Özdemir. The work on view is part of a series of 10 paintings, only seven of which are on show at the booth in miart. Together, they explore various regional superstitions and beliefs about the unavoidable path laid out by destiny, as well as the decisions we make in life.

The same figure reappears on several canvasses, watching the ocean or having his tarot read (the hanged man: suspended, inactive). In another work, an old woman, perhaps at the end of her life, reflects on a pastoral scene from her childhood.

“I’m a Middle Eastern guy; I’m Turkish, and in Turkey, you don’t choose your path,” says Özdemir. “Somebody pushes you to do something, whether it’s your family or the government. You have to obey.” 


6. Stuart Mckenzie at TG, Nottingham

Installation shot of Stuart McKenzie at TG, Nottingham. Courtesy TG, Nottingham.

At TG, Nottingham, the gallery’s co-founder Joshua Lockwood-Moran explains that artist Stuart Mckenzie used roll-on deodorant containers to create these figures, first emptying out the product and replacing it with ink to make large roller-ball pens. 

“He used to work as a fashion illustrator in Vivienne Westwood’s studio, and he was there in the ’90s,” Godfrey explains. “These works are a progression, influenced by that period. However, instead of highlighting a silhouette like a fashion illustrator might, these are a bit more gestural and narrative building.” 


7. Angelika Loderer at Sophie Tappeiner, Vienna

Installation view at Sophie Tappeiner. Courtesy and ©the artist and Sophie Tappeiner.

Loderer, who lives and works in Vienna, was a student of Erwin Wurm at university, and critics classify her sculptural installations as “media-reflective art.” The design process is informed by the materials she uses, such as special molding sand, which can be cast but results in a fragile and temporary sculpture. The ephemeral and unpredictable trajectory of her work brings a performative dimension to it.

Last year, Loderer had a solo show at the gallery, before showing at the esteemed Vienna Secession in Austria. She won the Dagmar Chobot sculpture prize in 2016 and is currently nominated for the Kapsch Contemporary Art Prize. This winter, the artist will have a solo at Grazer Kunstverein and will show in a group show at Alaska Projects, Sydney.

Miart 2018 runs April 13 through 15 at fieramilano city pavilions in Milan, Italy.

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