What is a Generation?
The Generations section at miart spatially inhabits the core of the fair, as the privileged conjuncture of modern and contemporary art. Here, the effort in conceptualising a generation and its legacy becomes productive: meaning is generated by the juxtaposition of artists belonging to different decades, no matter if they are attributed a status of emergent or established. As of the 2017 edition of miart, Generations comes to renovate the THENnow section inasmuch its expansion. Indeed, if THENnow put into dialogue an emergent artist with an historicized one, Generations will further explore that possibility of discussion by presenting two artists from two different generations.
With the guidance of Douglas Fogle, Independent Curator and Writer, Los Angeles; and Nicola Lees, Director and Curator at 80WSE Gallery, New York University, New York, who for this year are the curators of the section, the question of what the idea of a generation means will be explored through their selection of artists:
Pier Paolo Calzolari, Marianne Boesky, New York – Fernanda Gomes, Alison Jacques, London
Bas Jan Ader, Meliksetian Briggs, Los Angeles – Andrea Büttner, Hollybush Gardens, London
Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, ChertLüdde, Berlin – Anna-Bella Papp, Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Barbara Kasten, Bortolami, New York – Jessica Stockholder, Raffaella Cortese, Milan
Henri Michaux, Lelong, Paris/New York – Riccardo Baruzzi, P420, Bologna
Giorgio de Chirico, Tega, Milan – John Stezaker, The Approach, London
Dirk Braeckman, Zeno X, Antwerp – Armando Andrade Tudela, Francesca Minini, Milan
Pedro Cabrita Reis, Magazzino, Rome – Rodrigo Torres, A Gentil Carioca, Rio de Janeiro
Speaking about his role and approach for Generations, Fogle told us that “the exciting part of collaborating on the curatorial selections for this section is tracing connections between artists who came of age in different worlds and times. When you think about it, the generative DNA of a group of artists who emerged in the 1960s under the banner of Arte Povera, for example, share an incredibly similar set of concerns with a younger generation of artists around the world in their poetic use of ‘poor’ materials. This particular connection will be seen in a booth that will include the sculptural work of Pier Paolo Calzolari and Fernanda Gomes who are operating with a surprisingly shared vocabulary across space and time but are both producing exciting and relevant statements in the current contemporary context. Who is young and who is old? What is a historical movement and what is contemporary? All bets are off as the categorical imperative to label, classify, and contain is replaced by the fluidity of the contemporary conversation between materials and forms. Our roles as curators are simply to invite the dinner guests and let the conversations begin.”
If Fogle envisions Lees’ and his role as of facilitators, on the occasion of our conversation he also expanded the issue in terms of different contexts and expectations: “Back in the day there was a major ethical firewall between museums and any kind of commercial art activity (how long ago was that…the 1990s?). Someone should write a thesis on this history because the original emergence of the curator was as a connoisseur who was intimately involved in the art market. Today things have loosened up a bit: major curatorial work is being done in galleries and to a lesser extent in art fairs too, alongside the necessary contributions that are still being made by nonprofit institutions around the world. I think that it is interesting to involve curatorial voices in art fairs in the sense that curators have always been involved in the market in direct and indirect ways from the beginning. As fairs have become major venues for seeing contemporary art (how many people today go more to art fairs than museums?) it is great to have these curatorial voices as part of the mix.”
Installation view of Haris Epaminonda and Florence Henri at THENnow, miart 2016
Courtesy of the artists; Massimo Minini, Brescia; and Martini&Ronchetti, Genua
Last year, THENnow saw the participation of Haris Epaminonda, Nick Mauss, and Luca Monterastelli, who were invited, among other artists, by the curators’ section Jarrett Gregory (Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, LACMA, Los Angeles) and Pavel Pyś (Visual Arts Curator at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis).
Haris Epaminonda was paired with Florence Henri because of their use of spacing, mirroring and repetition as a means to test our perception of objects and their surrounding space. Epaminonda recalls that “when Pavel Pyś first proposed to show my work alongside Florence Henri’s photographs, I was intrigued and excited to work upon such a challenging task, that is to define how my work and Henri’s can co-exist and have a dialogue with one another. I felt a great responsibility to speak for both of us.” For her, to participate in this section of miart, “it is a great opportunity for everyone involved, namely the artist, the curator and the galleries, who can work together. By placing the artist from the past and the one from the present into the same contemporary moment, they make the two voices speaking and dancing together, as well as communicating something to the public. Hopefully, the latter can reflect upon and relate to the artists through new and fresh perspectives.”
Installation view of Nick Mauss and Gastone Novelli at THENnow, miart 2016.
Courtesy of the artists; Campoli Presti, London/Paris; and Galleria dello Scudo, Verona
Nick Mauss realised a wall drawing as a backdrop for Gastone Novelli’s poetical inscriptions on outsize canvases, in which tenuously drawn letters and words were suspended in a delicate balance. Mauss frankly states that for him “it only makes sense to confront and work with other artists, living or historical. The current overemphasis on and demand for contemporaneity is extremely limiting and unfounded. I consistently push against this erasure of influence, contradiction, and resonance. Working ‘with’ Gastone Novelli was interesting insofar as his work was completely new to me. I noticed correspondences right away: an interest in drawing as writing, for example. I generally take great pains to negotiate a certain tension between my work and the works around me; but in this case I was able to maintain a distance to Novelli that allowed me to simply see what would happen when our work was presented in parallel, without forcing a notion of ‘dialogue’ or overstating the case.”
Luca Monterastelli’s works were exhibited with the ones by Pietro Consagra, given their common interest in the nature of sculpture per se. For Monterastelli, “any comparison with a great master is to be approached with a certain delicacy; therefore, I always try to maintain a certain detachment, which helps me to separate the intensity of the work from the brightness of the artist per se. The section was a great opportunity to get closer to Consagra’s work, to feel it, and to try to understand its nature. Nevertheless, I have been faithful to my initial project: I identified what for me were the fundamental steps in Consagra’s research, and then I tried to examine them from a scientific point of view. For me, that was the key to enjoying the sculptures by Consagra and to transform my aim into an effective integration.”
Installation view of Luca Monterastelli and Pietro Consagra at THENnow, miart 2016
Courtesy of the artists; Lia Rumma, Milan/Naples; and Galleria Tega, Milan
If some of the artists involved in the section were enthusiastic about their participation, no less were the gallerists’ responses that we have collected, from Emanuela Campoli of Campoli Presti, London/Paris; to Marta Fontolan of Gavin Brown, New York/Rome; to Alessandro Pasotti of P240, Bologna; to Patrice Cotensin of Galerie Lelong, Paris/New York; and to Chiara Rusconi of Apalazzo, Brescia.
Emanuela Campoli confirms the experience of her gallery as positive: “The collaboration with Galleria Lo Scudo, Verona, allowed to contextualise in a different way the work of Nick Mauss as well as to re-enact the works by Gastone Novelli. Fundamental was the role of the curators, who stimulated the dialogue and created a great synergy between the galleries and the artists. In general, the ‘curated’ sections within fairs represent a good platform for the galleries, as they allow them to create a detailed discourse about the works on display and greater cohesion in the display of the works. But it is also true that this is specifically effective at miart because of the extreme care and involvement of the directors, who follow the galleries with attention and participation. The conception, preparation and promotion of each project is designed in minute detail and developed alongside the galleries and artists. This is also facilitated by the size of the fair, which helps a direct relationship between the organisation and the participants.”
Gavin Brown’s Director Marta Fontolan reports “a wonderful experience participating in the THENnow section at miart’s 2016 edition. The peculiarity of the project was triggered by a conversation between Rirkrit Tiravanija and Korakrit Arunanondchai, who was previously one of Tiravanija’s students. miart enabled this conversation to expand in the form of a project, which we had the luck and honour to display at the fair. THENnow offered a framework—both on a content and structural level—for such conversations and projects to happen. On a different note, as the art fairs continue to expand and become a fixture within the art world—in its calendar, distribution, consumption, structures of display, promotion and reception—, it is inevitable and profitable for its players to think of ways to refine its mode of existence. The curated sections allow for more experimentation within agreed parameters, favouring different conversations, versatile results and focus on an expanded audience.”
Installation view of Rirkrit Tiravanija and Korakrit Arunanondchai at THENNOW, miart 2016.
Courtesy of the artists; Gavin Brown, New York/Rome; and CLEARING, New York/Brussels
Patrice Cotensin from Galerie Lelong likewise remembers that her experience was very positive: “the surprising relation between Jiří Kolář works and Ibrahim Mahama works, which was centred around the theme of ‘collage,’ produced a strong effect on the audience. Some people already knew Mahama because of the Venice Biennale, but ignored Kolář; some others knew quite well Kolář and were happy to see him coming back together with a young African artist. This ‘couple’ generated a real energy. Moreover, the collaboration with gallery Apalazzo was very nice and friendly.” Apalazzo’s co-owner Chiara Rusconi indeed agrees: “the quality of the section was very high and we found a great deal of attention from collectors, museums and independent curators. miart’s platform offers solidity and experimentation at the same time, and provides an intense and exciting VIP program which is attended by many international collectors.”
Concluding our overview is Alessandro Pasotti, owner at P240, Bologna. For him, the participation of his gallery was “an interesting opportunity to create a dialogue between our artist Irma Blank and another artist who was not represented by our gallery. This meant to establish a closer relationship with an international gallery and, above all, to give to our artist the chance to be presented at the fair in a context of greater visibility and among important works. In addition, the section was curated by internationally renowned curators, which of course provides the opportunity to collaborate with important professionals.”
Cover image: Installation view of Rirkrit Tiravanija and Korakrit Arunanondchai at THENnow, miart 2016 (detail). Courtesy of the artists; Gavin Brown, New York/Rome; and CLEARING, New York/Brussels