Miart 2016 Shines with High Quality and Early Sales
The European art world descends on Milan.
With this year’s increasingly dense global art fair schedule that sees the Saõ Paulo fair SP Arte coinciding with the milanese fair Miart, it seemed clearer than ever that, as Miart director Vincenzo de Bellis stated recently, small fairs just may well be the antidote to a system in crisis.
The preview day kicked off on Thursday, with a press conference announcing de Bellis’s departure after four dazzling years at Miart, during which he had drastically transformed the fair from an event for local secondary market dealers, to a vibrant and well-curated affair, attracting international exhibitors and European collectors to Milan. The week of the fair has now become filled to the brim with high-profile openings and events. (There’s Carsten Höller at HangarBicocca, Sarah Lucas at Fondazione Trussardi, a show curated by Thomas Demand and a solo show by Goshka Macuga at Fondazione Prada, and a slew of gallery openings to choose from).
De Bellis will go on to work as a curator at the Walker Art Center, and his successor at Miart has not yet been announced, but exhibitors across the board all agreed that it was his rebranding of the fair that lured them to Milan.
“It’s our first time at Miart and our very first fair in Europe. It’s such a beautiful fair,” said Colleen Grennan of LA gallery Kayne Griffin Corcoran, who decided to join after Francesca Kaufmann of kaufmannrepetto—who’s on the fair’s selection committee—suggested they take part.
The gallery was showing works by David Lynch, furniture by sculptor Mark Handforth, and interventions on vintage film posters by Aïda Ruilova. Collector Valeria Napoleone, who recently launched an initiative to increase the number of works by female artists in public collections, was spotted at the booth toting a bright coral handbag of her own design, and expressing interest in Ruilova’s work, which ranged from $10,000 – $16,000.
Showing furniture by artists makes perfect sense at Miart, which also has a carefully curated design section called Object. David Lieske of Berlin and New York gallery Mathew, got a booth adjacent to the design section and is showing a solo presentation by Than Hussein Clark (who’s a member of the collective Villa Design Group) which consciously played on the fluidity between art and design. The booth is a condensed version of a recent show by Clark at the exciting non-profit space Futura in Prague.The works, which range from $2,000-10,000, deal with debt—emotional, financial, personal—and included mixed media sculptures resembling telephones which ring occasionally, and two large, oblong photograms of bills, which resembled mirrors. “We’re across from Nilufar, the best design gallery in Europe!” Lieske beamed. “It’s our fourth time at the fair, it’s the best excuse to come to Milan.”
Milan-based galleries such as Giò Marconi—who are showing sculptures by Atelier Van Lieshout and intricate, humorous dioramas by John Bock—or the somewhat younger Brand New Gallery, also praised the impact of the fair on the city, which over the last two years has seen the galleries and foundations join forces to hold major openings around the fair’s dates. Fabrizio Affronti of Brand New Gallery reported brisk sales for all his artists, including sculptural photographic works by Kate Steciw which went for about $8,000 and a richly textured monochromatic canvas by Bosco Sodi, which went for $85,000 to an Italian collector.
As the day progressed, sales were picking up pace and Berlin gallery Exile sold all works at their booth by Paul Sochacki, including the enigmatic painting Smoking Kills (2015). The gallery’s Christian Siekmeier also reported high interest in paintings and sculptures by Memphis veteran Nathalie du Pasquier, who’s having a busy year, with an upcoming major show at the Kunsthalle Wien this summer, and across the pond, at Lisa Cooley.
The undisputed highlight at Miart, however, is the section Then/Now, curated by LACMA’s Jarrett Gregory and Walker Art Center’s Pavl Pys, which pairs a young artist with an historical position, represented by two different galleries.
Vistamare gallery shared a booth with Esther Schipper showing an unexpected but thoughtful pairing between Arte Povera artist Giovanni Anselmo and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, best recognized for his oculus rift piece at last year’s New museum Triennial. Both artists’ pre-occupation with physical tensions and organic materials brought together Steegmann Mangrané’s cut-up branches with inserted objects, and a blue pigment painting by Anselmo.
Other utterly successful pairings were evident in the collaborative work by Rirkrit Tiravanija and his former student Korakrit Arunanondchai, represented by Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Clearing, respectively (pictured at the top). The installation, priced at $150,000 was inspired by a Sarah Teasdale poem and included a denim-covered platform with burned patches and ashen tinder, and a video work capturing the fire.
Another charming pairing shown by galleries Campoli Presti and Galleria dello Scudo brought together works by Nick Mauss and calligraphic artworks by Gastone Novelli, which truly demonstrated the premise that all art is contemporary. Artist Anri Sala was ogling the works, which ranged from €20,000 for Mauss to €270,000 for Novelli, and were hung against a printed backdrop designed by Mauss.
Gallery Lelong shared a booth with Apalazzogallery, pairing works by Czech poet and artist Jiří Kolář with huge jute sack installations by Ghanian artist Ibrahim Mahama—priced at €40,000 each—the same kind of works that are at the heart of a bitter legal dispute between the artist, collector Stefan Simchowitz and art dealer Ellis King.
Over at the Decades section—a new addition to the fair where exhibiting galleries focus on one decade on the 20th century—was a treasure trove of historical positions and thoughtfully curated presentations. Blain|Southern represented the 1950s with sculptures by Lynn Chadwick, who represented England at the 1956 Venice biennale, with works ranging from £60,000 – 250,000. Michael Werner Gallery pithily captured the 1960s with stainless steel container by Piero Manzoni entitled Linea m. 1140 (1961).
London based gallery Wilkinson presented the 1980s with a booth inspired by the influential experimental publication ZG Magazine, focusing on one issue in particular—presented in a display case—which dealt with the theme of the double, and featured a photo by Laurie Simmons on the cover. The work Fake Fashion/ZG Magazine Cover, (1984) by Simmons was also hanging at the booth, alongside works by Dara Birnbaum, Derek Jarman, Jimmy DeSana, and Joan Jonas’s Double Lunar Dogs, which sold to an Italian foundation.
Of the four curated sections at the fair, the Emergent section strangely seemed the least enticing. Maybe it was due to the high quality presentations all across the main section of the fair, which were perhaps hard to match for the very young galleries invited to participate here. Or maybe it rather had to do with the floor plan, and the problematic positioning of the section which made it feel like an addendum.
Two booths stood out here, who opted for bold and sensual presentation rather than pared down, minimal, or ironic statements. Gilmeier Rech from Berlin presented a solo booth by Marco Bruzzone, who used pizza cartons as both backdrop for his colorful abstract paintings which resemble orifices, and for his sculptures, which he covered in especially sewn sweatshirts. Next door, an immersive presentation of works by Athena Papadopoulos drew everyone’s attention to the not-yet-opened London space Emalin, which will host its first exhibition this upcoming September. It doesn’t get more “emergent” that this.
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