All-around miart the Herno Prize
Dating back to the late ‘40s, a small Italian company set on the torrent Erno started to produce raincoats. Success came soon after, and in the ‘80s Herno was one of the first Italian clothes brands opening to the Japan market. The company, founded by Giuseppe Marenzi with the support of his wife Alessandra Diana, is now run by their son Claudio Marenzi, who has since pushed his family tradition in coat-making towards innovation and the production of Winter clothes more in general, by not discarding at the same time the quality of Italian manufacturers and materials.
This interest into the discovery of new style solutions and hi-tech garments is echoed in the investment that Claudio Marenzi has ever shown for the sustain of arts and culture. That of Mr Marenzi is “a passion,” as he told us, revealed also by his long-term commitment to collecting works of modern and contemporary art. “Actually,” he said, “I believe that art and fashion are just different faces of the same coin and that one cannot be there without the other! It can be said that they both need a certain balance between creativity, aesthetics, functional impact and enjoyment which, to a certain extent, can be the basis for the best contemporary art piece as well as for an excellent manufacturing product. Moreover, many of the works in my collection are displayed inside the Herno building, both in the work areas and in those where we receive our guests and clients since we believe in the importance of making them visible and shareable.”
Booth of Wilkinson Gallery, London, at miart 2016, Milan
His generous investment into the arts has been confirmed also two years ago when Mr Marenzi decided to offer his sustain to miart with a prize bearing the name of his company. The aim of the Herno prize is to promote, within miart, those displays tackling the very same commercial context of an art fair as well as the usual architecture of the gallery’s booth. The prize is indeed specifically dedicated to the practice of the exhibition making because, in the words of Mr Marenzi, “the importance of art does not pass only through the works themselves, but also through the way in which each gallerist decides to present them to the audience.”
So far, the recipients of the 10,000 Euro of the Herno Prize were Established Contemporary’s section participants Richard Saltoun, London, together with Seventeen, London/New York, in 2015; and Wilkinson Gallery, London, in 2016. Recalling his overall positive experience at miart, Richard Saltoun stressed the “excellent support, advice and help from miart’s team” for the presentation of John Hilliard’s works in parallel with the ones by Jon Rafman presented in a shared booth with Seventeen.
John Hilliard, Study for Camera Recording Its Own Condition (7 Apertures, 10 Speeds, 2 Mirrors), 1971. Courtesy of the artist; and Richard Saltoun Gallery, London
Amanda Wilkinson too, the owner of Wilkinson Gallery, registered a very beneficial situation at miart: “The sections have a distinct focus and are well laid out with the architecture of the fair. The curators are attentive before during and after the fair which is unusual. Generally, the fair has strong support from the city and there was a steady flow of visitors on each day.” Wilkinson’s booth explored the complex decade of the 1980s through “an issue of ZG magazine, a very important outlet in New York and London in that period, with the aim to illustrate key concepts and ideas prevalent in the ‘80s. All the artists on the booth–such as Dara Birnbaum, Joan Jonas, Jimmy De Sana, Derek Jarman and Laurie Simmons–were featured in the magazine at some point.” The booth was awarded by an international jury formed by Lionel Bovier, Director of MAMCO, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva; Anna Colin, Associate Curator of Fondation Galeries Lafayette, Paris, and Co-director of Open School East, London; Annie Fletcher, Curator of exhibitions at Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director and Head of Exhibitions and Public Programs at the Jewish Museum, New York, for the solidity of the display design as well as the rarity of the works of the artists exposed.
Jimmy DeSana, Sweatshirt, 1980-1982. Courtesy of the artist; Wilkinson Gallery, London.
But the Herno prize is also an interesting occasion to think about the expanding importance of curatorial means into the commercial context, a trend which Lionel Bovier confirmed in his experience: “I have witnessed, through visiting the Art Basel fair during the last 25 years, the rise, development, and success of curated sectors in a commercial context. I am interested to see now how galleries are developing curated projects, bypassing any defined location within the fair, and questioning the need of external curators to do it. For the diversity of exhibited artists proposed to the visitors, for the quality of presentations in the booths and in order to move on from the original ‘trade fair’ origin, I think it is the way to go for every gallery.”
Discussing the consequences of that blurring of means and goals, Jens Hoffmann told us that “in many ways, art fairs have made large-scale, international, group exhibitions obsolete. Only a decade ago, one would go to the Venice Biennale or some other type of wide range overview shows to discover new and emergent artists. Yet, with the expansion of the art world and multiplication of its players, biennials function less and less as those places of original discovery. To give art fairs curatorial structures seems consequential, as it allows for various formats to be explored in the commercial context, whose aim can be said somehow distant from an educational one like a biennial or a museum exhibition. At this point, no art fair can be without at least one, or even more, curated sections, which nevertheless happen to be the most interesting parts of art fairs. The question is how far can one go with curating art fairs, since galleries also want to have the independence in regards to what, how and who to present their work. The idea behind curated sections at art fairs is to offer more than just a purely commercial perspective, to make the fairs more lively and to distinguish them from one another.”
Cover image: Portrait of Claudio Marenzi