Wet Paint in the Wild: Magazzino Italian Art Museum Director Vittorio Calabrese Takes Us From Upstate New York to Houston and Beyond

Here's what a week in the museum director's life looks like.

Vittorio Calabrese at Sant'Ambroeus in Tribeca.

Welcome to Wet Paint in the Wild, an extension of Annie Armstrong’s gossip column wherein she gives art-world insiders a disposable camera so they can give us a peek into their corner of the madcap industry.

I’m of the opinion that the Magazzino Italian Art museum in Cold Spring, New York is perhaps the most photogenic museum in New York State. Fight me on it! I dare you. The area itself is especially beautiful in the summer, and the museum’s programming of Postwar and contemporary Italian art matches perfectly. Thus, I took the chance to hand a camera over to its director, Vittorio Calabrese, for a summery week in Upstate New York. Here’s what it was like…

I arrive at Magazzino in the early evening on Saturday for the start of an active weekend full of community events. The light is particularly striking at this hour and the grounds around this sculpture by Giuseppe Penone welcome our guests this evening. The museum is usually closed at this time and I love to experience this time of the day on our grounds, surrounded by such an explosion of nature.

I take a 10-minute drive over to Manitoga/the Russel Wright Design Center, where we’ve collaborated on an installation of works by Italian design duo Formafantasma. This project is the latest of several of occasions in which Magazzino has collaborated with nearby local institutions in the Hudson Valley.

While the show has already been open for a month, we hold a celebratory event for local patrons hosted by executive director Allison Cross, my partner-in-crime on this project. Our excitement is evident thanks to the passionate hand gestures we are making as we address the crowd.

One of my favorite pieces by Formafantasma installed at Manitoga is a chandelier made of inflated cow bladders and illuminated above the dining room area.

I run back to Magazzino where I welcome music group Jog Blues before their performance in our courtyard later that evening. Jog Blues is a band led by my close friend, Jonathan Rose, that brings together global sounds and genres such as, jazz, blues, and Indian classical music. The lead singer, Siddartha Mukherjee, had a voice that really echoed through the space.

Jog Blues rehearsing in the courtyard of Magazzino at golden hour.

While the concert is playing in the piazza, I allow myself an evening walk-through of the museum after hours and spend some time with the artworks in the empty galleries. A piece by Marisa Merz, newly installed in our second gallery, caught my eye, the light reflecting on the metal surface…

…as did Mimesi by Giulio Paolini in our seventh gallery, both transformed by the light at night.

I stop by our last gallery, hosting the work of Piero Gilardi, and gaze at the saturated polyurethane works throughout the space. These works are named Tappeti-Natura (Nature Carpets) and are centered on themes of ecology. I keep thinking about how they were originally intended to be habitable, and how the viewer would have been able to stretch out on top of them. I would love to have had the chance to lay on a carpet of waves next to the seagulls pictured here.

By the time I return to the courtyard where the concert is to take place, our team and guests are dancing. Here, Eve, who runs our external affairs at Magazzino and Thomas, our preparator, really get into the dynamic and nuanced rhythms of Jog Blues.

Our shuttle driver, Jay, watches from the roof above looking down over the courtyard while everyone is up and dancing.

Sunday is Putnam Pride and our visitor services assistant, Bernadetto Tomaino-Barrett, organizes our presence at the event and is there representing Magazzino in full flare. We also present a specially printed t-shirt to honor our involvement. Magazzino has proudly sponsored this event for the second consecutive year and a delegation of team members is tending a very special booth.

Drag Queen Shay D’Pines dances and sings in Brewster, New York, surrounded by families and members of our community.

On Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., I host the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce’s periodic breakfast meeting on the grounds of Magazzino. Representatives of many local businesses, local politicians, and community members are present.

Architect Miguel Quismondo and I present on Magazzino’s new Robert Olnick Pavilion to open in 2023. It will host more gallery space, a cafe, and our new education department.

After breakfast, I visit Dolce, the newest member of our Sardinian donkey community, who lives on the hill looking over the museum. She is less than a month old and so friendly!

After a busy week, I return to Brooklyn where my cat, Zeppola, welcomes me showing his belly proudly, ready to cuddle. I feed him before heading out again.

As if my schedule hasn’t been busy enough, I take a two-day trip to Houston to join my dear friend Ylinka Barotto to see her newly opened exhibition “Baseera Khan: Weight on History” at the Moody Center for the Arts. I absolutely love the exhibition, although I am very confused and disoriented by my first trip to Texas overall.

When I return to Cold Spring, we begin our big weekend of “Cinema in Piazza,” our annual film series that takes place in Magazzino’s courtyard in collaboration with Arte Cinema in Naples and the Cold Spring Film Society, who generously donated this popcorn machine to us for the weekend. Here is Tom mastering popcorn production.

Eve, at check-in, proudly wears a mask with printed “%100 Italiana” that she found on her recent trip to Italy. She is a true Italian now!

Magazzino’s designers, Yoshi Waterhouse and Beatriz Cifuentes, engage in conversation with Kathy Brew, director of the second film to be featured in the Cinema in Piazza series, Design is One, which speaks about the lives and work of legendary Italian designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli, mentors of Magazzino founders Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu. The sunset happens to be stunning that evening.

On Sunday, we commit the day to visiting a few local institutions, such as Boscobel, which has a massive and brilliantly white dogwood tree at the edge of its view over the Hudson River. Eve and our curatorial and programming assistant, Chiara, thoroughly enjoy the dogwood.

We stop at Dia Beacon to see the installation of works by Mario Merz curated by Matilde Guidelli Guidi. I love the cross pollination of Italian Art in the Hudson valley.

We do a bit of shopping in Beacon, stopping at Little King, a bakery and concept store with many lovely products, such as these sparkly sloth change purses. Not so sure I will ever use them, but they definitely catch my eye.

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