The most significant contemporary art fair in Italy is to open its doors to collectors this week in Turin. This year’s edition of Artissima will also introduce some new projects, perhaps one of the most exciting being In Mostra, a special exhibition which will focus on showcasing the works from Piedmont’s private and institutional collections. To discover the importance of this new endeavor we shared a talk with In Mostra curator Stefano Collicelli Cagol, the man responsible for the selection of the works and the concept behind the exhibition.
Stefano Collicelli Cagol is currently Curator at Large at the Trondheim Kunstmuseum in Trondheim, Norway. Over the years he has collaborated with various Italian institutions, museums galleries and foundations, some of them being Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, GAM – Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin and Museo Marino Marini in Florence. Last year he also completed a PhD in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art, London and he was one of the tutors and coordinators of the first edition of CAMPO – Corso per Curatori, in which he taught History of Exhibitions and Curatorial Practice.
In Mostra section was reinvented under Stefano Collicelli Cagol’s supervision and turned into a spectacular independent exhibition entitled Inclinazioni, revolving around the idea of inclination. Where did this idea originate from, what were the main selection criteria and what other interesting events and programs will 2015 edition of Artissima bring? Stefano Collicelli Cagol kindly agreed to answer our questions, so scroll down and read our interview with In Mostra curator…
Widewalls: Over the years, you have collaborated with various institutions, from private foundations to museums. Is this the first time you are curating an exhibition within the scope of an art fair and what does it mean for you professionally to be the part of Artissima?
Stefano Collicelli Cagol: As you said, this is my first time in which I am involved in the programme of an art fair or within the commercial sector, since so far I have been working always for foundations or museums. I am very happy that my collaboration with such a different context is happening at Artissima and within a project of the scope of In Mostra, where I have been invited to select a series of works and materials, not for selling and belonging to a range of different institutions and not-for-profit associations involved in the production, education to and distribution of contemporary art. Artissima is a great international platform, with a strong research in each of its sections thanks to the contribution of many distinguished colleagues, so I am glad of being part of this collective dialogue.
WW: This year’s edition of the art fair will introduce the new "In Mostra" program, featuring works of 30 artists and focusing on the artworks from the Piedmont collections. How hard it was to choose the artworks, and what was the main selection criterion?
SCC: In Mostra is a spin-off of Musei in Mostra, a project in which more than twenty regional institutions presented themselves through a work of art of themselves, each one in its own booth. This year, In Mostra instead will present a proper exhibition with around 40 works of art, sometimes more than one for institutions. To organise the exhibition, at first, I went through all the collections and the materials that each institution could lend for the project. At that time, I had the vague idea of working with the grid, since it reminded me of both the urban organization of the city of Torino and of the exceptional institutional network devoted to contemporary art existing in Piedmont (with respect to the rest of Italy). I then became interested in trying to create a more complex narrative around the exhibition, by putting into question the very concept of the grid and the symbolic world associated with it. At that moment, I came across to the book by Italian philosopher Adriana Cavarero dedicated to the idea of inclination as a critic of rectitude, so I started playing with this idea to create a series of archipelagos of works of art belonging to different institutions able to start a dialogue with the space of In Mostra. For me the relationship with the actual space where the encounter between visitors and works of art will happen is as central as the concept around which the exhibition develops. Eventually, the selection of the works displayed became an organic process, trying to unfold the different approach to the idea of inclination through a back and forth between the exhibition, its display and the selection of the works. I had a great support from all the institutions involved and the Artissima staff.
WW: The theme and the title of the exhibition follow the notion of inclination. In your opinion why is the idea of inclination so captivating, and what levels of physical and metaphorical inclinations can we expect from the exhibition?
SCC: As expressed by Italian philosopher Adriana Cavarero, which inspired in many different ways the exhibition, the act of reclining towards something or someone relates to the idea of taking care, making someone recognizing that we are all vulnerable, precarious and in a state of mutual need of each others. By assuming an inclined posture we unbalance ourselves, losing our centre and autonomy, conditions traditionally associated with a vertical position. Historically this position links to the idea of rectitude, a prerogative inscribed in the male body, being men considered more able to control their inclinations. Therefore, to think about inclination and inclined position, it means to think in a different way the subject of politics and to the politics on the subjects. There is an urgency to realise on how the concept of inclination is part of the life of everyone – and even inscribed in the organization of particles that compose the entire universe, as we learned from the physics of the twentieth century. In In Mostra, visitors will be invited to reflect on the power of inclination through playful works such as Powerless structure of Elmgreen and Dragset, or more provocative ones such as Untitled (Basketball Drawing) by David Hammons. Other times, they will be invited to perform themselves the loss of balance with works such as the magnificent stairs by Gianni Colombo or by inclining towards the tiny and vulnerable head by Marisa Merz.
WW: Are there any artists whose work will be on display in the Inclinazioni exhibition that you especially admire, and what will this new program offer that is different or especially worth seeing?
SCC: I am very happy with the selection of In Mostra, I believe there is a fine balance among the works and the space of the Oval and I am grateful to all the institutions involved since they supported my choice lending the works of art I wanted. I tried to select works that are relevant within the story of their collections and that not always are easy to see, it is the case of the magnificent Tancredi and Felice Casorati works from GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea or with the James Lee Byars from Castello di Rivoli – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea. Although the exhibition last only four days, I think it is a great opportunity to have an encounter with some of the most refined and rarely seen works of art preserved in the Piedmont region. This year, the area of the project will be a large open space of almost 700 square meters where works of art will be in dialogue between themselves, choreographing the visitors. Moreover, I played a lot with the notion of subtraction, trying to create a void around the works that creates a contrast with the experience of the series of the boots filled with works that one can perceived in the rest of the Oval corridors, where the main sections of the fair are happening. I would definitely recommend to walk over the Colombo’s work, one of the three gates of the exhibition together with the works by Urs Fischer and Andro Wekua and the gate built by Philipp Tmischl for the occasion. I am also particularly happy of the collaboration between Camera – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia, with the Fondazione Franca e Franco Basaglia, Venice and the Dipartimento per la Salute Mentale (Mental Health Department), Trieste, which resulted in the presence of Marco Cavallo, a four meters high papier-mâché horse protagonist since 1973 of Franco Basaglia’s fights against the confinement within institutions of patients with mental issues.
WW: The season of art fairs gathers seasoned collectors and first-time buyers from all over the world. Are you a collector, what are your favorite art genres, movements or artists, and if you could have any artwork in the world what would it be?
SCC: I am not a collector myself and I have not a favorite art genres, movements or artists, if I could probably I would collect something that I feel particularly close to myself for a number of different reasons.
WW: As a curator who also had the opportunity to lead the course in curatorial practice, what is your opinion on the younger generations of art specialists and what do you think will be those skills and qualities they will have to develop in order to become successful professionals and embrace all the changes in today’s art world?
SCC: I think it is important to have something to say and to understand how to express it. For me, the most interesting curators are those who are willing to take risks and not only focus on networking. I started ‘andando a bottega’, or let’s say learning by doing. I had the opportunity to work as an intern or as an assistant of great people from whom I learnt a lot of practical skill, while the PhD in Curatorial studies at the Royal College of Art in London helped me to strengthening some ideas and tools I gathered from practicing exhibition-making. To read, to listen, to hang out with the artists, to take risks, to look for the unexpected, to leave the comfort zone, to explore imaginaries overlooked or different from the mainstream proposals is what I have always being interested in. I guess everyone has to find his/her own way to create his/her own tools of work and what they want to communicate through making exhibition.
WW: Apart from your own exhibition, what are the other projects and events you will enjoy personally and recommend to the Artissima visitors?
SCC: Speaking of young curators, I definitely recommend to see what Clog – a very home-made space for display conceived by the witty Lucrezia Calabrà Visconti – will cook during the evening of 7 November, alongside the other not-for-profit spaces of Turin Cripta747 and Almanac. On Friday evening there will be the night of contemporary art with various openings around Turin. A hidden jam of Turin is the Museo Casa Mollino, alongside the Po river. During Artissima, all the major institutions of the city will have great exhibitions, from Adrian Villar Rojas at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo to Rachel Rose and Tutttovero curated by Francesco Bonami at Castello di Rivoli (with a second instalment also at GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea), an exhibition dedicated to Piero Gilardi e Ugo La Pietra at PAV – Parco d’Arte Vivente and Christian Boltanski at the Fondazione Merz. After the closing time of the fair, if still around a visit to Collezione La Gaia, at Busca, it should be a must, but that is by appointment only.
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Stefano Collicelli Cagol Portrait. Photo: Ludovica Carbotta