The rise of Emerging Galleries at Artissima 2019: Tommaso Tisot and Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti on the New Entries Fair Fund

by Carla Ingrasciotta
October 22, 2019
Carla Ingrasciotta
Tommaso Tisot and Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti

Launching its 2nd edition, the New Entries Fair Fund is a fund created to encourage the participation of young galleries, supported by Professional Trust Company in collaboration with Artissima. Every year three candidate galleries in the New Entries section, selected for the quality of their research, receive a contribution of 4,000 euros each to finance their participation at Artissima, which is moving forward with its mission of providing a platform for young creativity by investing in the galleries of the future. On the occasion, we interviewed Tommaso Tisot, chairman of the board of Professional Trust Company, who selected the three winning galleries (Öktem Aykut, Istanbul, with a project on Can Altay and Ihsan Oturmak; Emalin, London, with a project on Athena Papadopoulos; Vin Vin, Vienna, with a project on Myles Starr) and curator Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti who joined the New Entries sector as curatorial consultant.

Carla Ingrasciotta: Can you talk about the initiative promoted by the Professional Trust Company?

Tommaso Tisot: The project began two years ago, based on my philosophy as a pure collector willing to stay close to artists, especially up and coming talents, supporting them in their career. It is also the result of exchanges of thoughts and opinions with the director of Artissima, Ilaria Bonacossa. The art system – both for artists and for the galleries that nurture them – is complicated, and it is hard to stand out. Thanks to the New Entries Fair Fund, three galleries can take part in the fair and gain international visibility for their work and that of their artists.
Professional Trust Company is a team of young professionals with a passion for contemporary art, which since last year has focused on the most important art fair in Italy in order to promote a project of patronage regarding galleries and artists. What has been created is an attempt to graft a small “patronage ecosystem” onto the art system, precisely what is often said to be lacking in Italy.

How did you go about the selection process? What were the criteria and elements of evaluation you took into account?

TT: First of all, there is a committee of experts of the fair, which together with the curator Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti makes an initial selection of galleries that have applied to take part in Artissima, particularly in the New Entries section. This section of Artissima is for the most interesting young galleries, with less than 5 years of activity, participating for the first time in the fair.
So, first of all, these are the fundamental criteria we take into consideration, because our mission is to support the younger galleries and artists who are at the start of their career in the art market. We then get involved in the choice of the three winning galleries, after this initial selection process, carefully evaluating the proposals of those we feel are doing interesting work in terms of research and talent scouting. In particular, we examine the artists and projects presented, and we study the work the galleries are doing in general. We pay close attention to new markets and to galleries that put an accent on experimentation.

Could you tell us a little something about the 3 winning galleries chosen by Professional Trust Company? (Öktem Aykut, Istanbul with a project by Can Altay and Ihsan Oturmak; Emalin, London with a project by Athena Papadopoulos; Vin Vin, Vienna with a project by Myles Starr).

TT: Öktem Aykut is a very interesting Turkish gallery, recently very much on the rise. It does very interesting work in a territory that is presently at the centre of strong contrasts, above all on a political level. The gallery and its artists are in a border zone between Europe and the Middle East, a very special situation that is giving rise to extremely stimulating artistic practices. What intrigued us, then, was the gallery’s ability to take an inclusive approach to the various creative communities of Istanbul, acting as a young gallery in such a particular country.
The gallery will bring two Turkish artists, Can Altay (b.1975 ) and Ihsan Oturmak (b. 1987), who share a strong interest in the rapid transformation of the Turkish society and in the viewpoints of their counterparts.
Can Altay points to the ways in which legal and conventional borders are transgressed. Through politics of space, he elaborates on the conflict between the traditional and the subjective.
İhsan Oturmak has come to develop an authentic figurative language in his paintings, in which he treats vital societal issues with an ontological and phenomenological approach. In his own words, “’the togetherness of the body and soul relates to the being, the togetherness of thinking and technique relates to the character of the work”. Oturmak’s technique stands out for its use of light and the way it represents human bodies.

Emalin, a gallery based in London, was founded by two brilliant very young galleries, who before opening a permanent space in Shoreditch in 2016 operated in the art world with a programme of traveling exhibitions, and a project space for two years. The two young gallerists have specialized training that makes them true professionals in this sector, and conduct interesting research, as is also demonstrated by the fact that they represent artists from five different countries, with a focus on emerging multi-disciplinary and experimental practices.
The gallerists are working with Athena Papadopoulos (b.1988), a recent finalist for the Max Mara Art Prize.
Throughout Papadopoulos’ practice, dense collages incorporate chemically transferred images of female archetypes from personal archives – drawings, text, photographs – sewn alongside images from popular culture and art history. The compositional gesture of sampling and recombining imagery – destroying and reconstituting – proposes a way of thinking about the slippages of identity construction and the unfixity of female subjectivity.

Vin Vin is a very young gallery based in Vienna that works with international artists. The programme is heterogeneous in terms of media and aesthetics. It is oriented towards abstraction, an anti-decorative approach and the pursuit of art that sets out to raise questions, philosophical speculation that opens new paths, rather than dogmatic assertion.
The gallery brings Myles Star, an artist born in New York in 1987, residing in Vienna, with a body of work that reflects the total breakout of sex and sexuality, completely free at this point and no longer connected to a dynamic of intimacy. The artist has chosen the refrigerator and the bathroom as the places of a new, rediscovered intimacy.

You’ve been reappointed as curator of the New Entries section for this year’s edition of Artissima. What lessons will you bring forth from your previous experience at the fair and what new stimuli have since arisen?

Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti: The yearly panorama of emerging galleries is ever-changing and sometimes hard to foresee. Furthermore, the rules of Artissima are very strict: galleries have to be younger than 5 years to apply, and they can be accepted in the New Entries section only once.
This two-years experience taught me that, given these conditions, a great amount of time needs to be invested in the research process, in order to intercept newborn and less known initiatives. This year I focused especially on this, trying to look into less obvious research channels and to catalyze information about new projects from artists I trust. I think that looking at the galleries through the filter of the artists’ eyes can be a good way to find interesting and challenging new initiatives and invite them to apply.

Do you think that the Artissima collector base is oriented towards emerging galleries? Or how do you think these young galleries can establish themselves in the international market?

LCV: Artissima has always been known by collectors, professionals and the wider audience for displaying galleries characterised by a curatorial and experimental approach, and, coincidentally, this is the approach often brought forward by emerging galleries. For this reason, I think Artissima is the ideal fair for younger initiatives, especially if their programme presents a bold curatorial perspective. Moreover, Artissima gathers every year collectors and gallerists but also curators, museum directors, critics, and artists. It is one of the few projects that owes its commercial strength to the specificity of its artistic and curatorial quality, and I think that, for an emerging gallery, it is particularly valuable to establish itself in the international scene and market through such a compelling and culturally respected context.

Your curatorial practice investigates the concept of research and how this can be aesthetically translated into an exhibition. How much of this interest of yours is present in your collaboration with Artissima?

This year Artissima invited me and Guido Costa to curate together the collateral exhibition of the fair, that takes place at JANA, in the city center. When the Director Ilaria Bonacossa asked us to reflect on the concept of “desire” through the exhibition, Guido and I decided to position our research under the loose question “how can desire can be considered as an emancipatory force today?”. We researched the practice of artists engaged with the heritage of post-structuralist, post-humanist, queer and feminist thought, and developed a narration that we entitled Abstract Sex. We don’t have any clothes, only equipment. When confronted with the necessity to share our in-depth research with the wider audience, we decided to condensate the main thematic areas of the exhibition in three historical anecdotes from different epochs, that suggest unexpected alliances between bodies, objects, organisms, machinery and concepts, in order to disarm traditional representations of desire. For instance, in the Seventies a group of lesbians armed with sausages attacked Professor Jérôme Lejeune during an anti-abortion lecture. The event marked the birth of the “Commando Saucisson” (Sausage Commando), around which the Front Homosexuel d’Action Révolutionnaire later gravitated. In the protest, sausages became a parody of the traditional instruments of politics at the time, namely police truncheons and patriarchal penises. In this case, our research was crystalised in the narration of an event that emblematically shows how the re-connotation of a symbolic object can become an emancipatory strategy against patriarchal powers.

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