Review of Artissima, Turin

On 6 November, the city of Turin welcomed the 2014 edition of Artissima, Italy’s largest and most prestigious contemporary art fair. A well-established event already in its 21st edition, it sees 194 galleries exhibit works at Oval Lingotto. A vast space, originally designed for the 2006 Winter Olympics, it is now frequently employed as an artistic arena for the many fairs and festivals hosted by the Alpine city.

Of the galleries invited to exhibit by the Fair’s committee, 57 are of Italian origin, whilst the remaining 137 are international establishments deriving from 34 different countries. The galleries have been selected to represent “the emerging voices of the contemporary scene,” thus providing a comprehensive insight into the future of the international art world. The Fair is divided into six separate sections; the Main Section, New Entries, Present Future, Back to the Future, Art Editions and the newly introduced Per4M.

Artissima was originally formed as a private endeavor, but in 2004 local authorities for the Piedmont Region, the Province of Turin and the City of Turin obtained control of the Fair and delegated its administration to Fondazione Torino Musei. Its identity is therefore an intriguing synthesis of both cultural and commercial functions. Artissima not only provides significant financial profits for the city but; by attracting the most significant players within the Global Art Scene, it also provides the opportunity to raise Turin’s international profile through the City’s investment in contemporary art. This focus lends Artissima its unique character and sees its influence reach beyond the realms of the Fair itself and into the fabric of Torinese society. In addition to the six main sections at Oval Lingotto, there is an extensive schedule of cultural events and exhibitions within the City that are running in conjunction with the Fair.

Artissima situates itself in the realm of the innovative. With New Entries representing 11 newly established galleries and Present Future exhibiting the works of twenty emerging artists, the emphasis is undoubtedly on the new rather than the already established. In showcasing its most recent category of performance art the Fair opened up an interesting dialogue on the commercial viability of such an art form. This is a concept that was specifically addressed by organiser Sarah Cosulich in the opening Press Conference. What, apart from the tangible certificate of purchase, is acquired by a collector investing in performance art? For Cosulich the answer was responsibility. The duty of showing the work and ensuring its continued position within the Art World at large. As a category Per4M therefore fully reflects the “spirit” of Artissima in its insistence on maintaining an interaction with the public and thus providing a cultural function.

Walking around Artissima it was apparent that many of the works displayed are by artists well regarded within their own community but not yet established outside their particular sphere. Parisian gallery Mor.Charpentier chose to present several works by Enzo Maines, a young artist studying at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Artes. Maines has exhibited extensively within France but with the gallery’s patronage is now emerging on the international art circuit. Noteworthy for their elegant simplicity his sculptural pieces adopt “poetic narratives” to address the fragility of our existence. His work Les Amantes consists of a double-wicked candle, which sits upon a metal stand and burns concurrently from both ends. As the candle is consumed its weight alters causing it to swing from side to side, which in turn produces an arc of dripping wax at the base of the stand. In the moment that the flame ‘lovers’ finally meet they also cease to exist and all that remains of their narrative is this wax trail.

The New Entries was a particularly strong category within the Fair and of particular note, six-month old, London based gallery, Copperfield. The works on display centered round the concept of perception and the ability to manipulate the reading of objects and space. Italian artist, Rä di Martino, exhibits an intriguing project that focuses on the interaction between reality and imitation. For this particular work she has used archival photographs taken from the Imperial War Museum of the “dummy tanks” built during World War II. She alters them by pigmenting the surface or attaching pieces of the material the “tanks” were built from, thus addressing the idea of photography as a medium that is often assumed to truthfully represent reality but can in fact be easily manipulated. Her research has focused on the interesting phenomenon of building false wooden tanks, which are employed to trick enemy pilots who cannot differentiate between the real and the replica tanks. In addition to the archival material she has created her own scaled down reproduction of the replica tanks, once again playing with the idea of reality and perception.

Whilst the Fair itself lasts only three days many of the exhibitions occurring around the city will run until January and February 2015. For more details see

Rhiannon McGregor

1. Rä di Martino, Authentic #2 (2014), Carbon pigment print and mixed media, 55 x 34cm, Courtesy Copperfield Gallery.