Published on Tuesday, November 30, 2010You are the youngest Italian curator to rise so high in New York. How do you feel about this and what does this promotion as both associate and exhibition director at the New Museum mean to you?
At the moment, actually, this promotion puts me in a state of anxiety since the programming still has to be invented, starting this coming summer. Therefore there are endless possibilities. What are you thinking of?
Instead of thinking about exhibitions and artists I'm thinking of formats and series. In short, I am setting the framework with which to structure the exhibitions themselves. I certainly would like the New Museum to show a balance between the work of great artists of today and tomorrow, alongside works by artists of the past who have been unjustly forgotten. I wish it were a place where the New, inspired by its own name, would be enriched by different shades and tones. The New Museum is changing the profile of the LES - Lower East Side, from around the Bowery slum to a new area of art. What role do you want to give to the museum? What are you planning on changing, innovating and continuing?
The New Museum is part of a change in the Lower East Side involving many other actors and characters, from galleries to boutiques, restaurants and shopping malls through neo-yuppies. In fact I believe that, from a strategic point of view, the most important role of the New Museum is just to keep alive the cultural fabric within the LES: usually as a neighbourhood is transformed in NY, it becomes little more than an open-air shopping centre (see Soho or Nolita). The New Museum, however, along with the galleries that have grown around it, has the responsibility of maintaining a high rate of culture and art in a neighbourhood where history is closely tied to that of contemporary art. From the seventh floor of the museum there’s a view of the buildings where artists of the calibre of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, William Burroughs or Lynda Benglis, Basquiat and many others had their own studios.
The Trussardi Foundation has been an important stepping-stone for you. How do you intend to continue your collaboration with the foundation and how do you consider the relationship between art and fashion? Of course I will continue to work for the foundation as I have done in recent years. The Trussardi Foundation is truly a unique reality thanks to its flexibility and professionalism. Our shows are always the result of great logistical and production efforts that I believe can only be achieved with a team such as ours and a president like Beatrice Trussardi, who is open to producing and supporting the more unusual projects. I would never think of leaving the foundation, as it is an extraordinary laboratory, recognized and appreciated by artists and professionals worldwide. In fact by next January part of the centenary celebrations of the Trussardi brand and the foundation will play an important role in a major exhibition in Florence, hosted by Pitti Immagine.
What about the relationship between art and fashion? I can only speak highly of it: thanks to fashion resources highly complex projects and exhibitions have been developed. The problem is not the relationship between art and fashion in itself: it all depends on the idea of patronage that fashion houses adopt. The Trussardi brand doesn’t believe in the ‘80s contamination, with artists becoming designers, perhaps because they already practiced it. Trussardi is rather concerned with the idea of excellence and culture in order to support the best art with the most ambitious and even stranger exhibitions, in the belief that a major fashion brand should have the responsibility and intelligence to support excellence and quality in every field, fashion as well as art, design or, more recently, in the state of the art cuisine.
Italian cities are going through difficult times. Cities like Venice (but not only) are invaded by giant advertising, splitting cultural Italy between realists (needing money) and idealists (who say that beauty is untouchable). How do you consider the question from a NYC point of view? Maybe NY is the worst example from which to consider these arguments because Times Square has raised the level of publicity for the social and cultural phenomenon, making it a fundamental element of our urban experience: the bottom of the Pop Art comes down to Times Square, from the need to learn to digest everpresent and intrusive visual elements. I'm not nostalgic and I believe we can find creative ways to live even with the most extreme examples of our visual culture. The antidote, however, is very simple: we must respond to giant advertising with art, in order to accustom the public to live images with equally aggressive messages, but much more complex and layered.
Is it a question of role? Contemporary art is a language that can teach us to better understand and reject the simplicity and single-dimensionality of the advertising language. It is precisely for this reason that there is nothing that makes me angrier with those who are ready to speak evil of contemporary art, and to reject projects even when provocative, but then say nothing about the thousands of poor quality images in front of our citizens everyday. Going back to Cattelan’s example, how is it possible that a poster portraying Hitler cannot be displayed in Milan, when everywhere you turn there are posters of anorexic minors, or post human, however, that simulate fiery embraces and exchange glances with physical models looking like doped footballers? Why is Photoshop’s deformity of a female body in acrobatic poses with which to show pants, groins, thighs, bags, bracelets and shoes with heels, still more acceptable than the photograph of a miniature sculpture with hands folded? Religion has nothing to do with it here really, since Christians, Muslims and Jews should share the respect for women in the same way...
In Turin, Bellini and Merz are setting the Castello di Rivoli on the footsteps of the PS1 in New York: younger, open to the public, friendly and full of events. Do you think New York is still the model to follow? Does the city remain the world centre for contemporary art? New York is still the centre of the art market: a man named Philippe Segalot has just auctioned art for 80 million dollars, which is not even a record, but that’s equivalent to the cultural budget of NYC... This gives an idea of weights and measures put into play in that city. However, it is clear that the art world is far more complex and international. Hong Kong is already set to become the Eastern Basel, with a sharp increase in the fair. Asia is increasingly present and - to be part of the market - Gagosian has an office in Hong Kong and plans to open up a space. I was in London recently and it is surprising to see how the largest cities in the world have realized that the future is multicultural, when in Italy we're still talking about regions and bell towers.
Do you think that the production and use of the art of tomorrow will use new tools, spaces, and curatorial practices? I do not usually make predictions. What is certain is that collectives and groups have always been there. Maybe now they have a new force because the information is simply too much to be handled by one person only.
In Italy there are museums and then there is no money to run them properly... In Italy there is no such thing as the tradition of trustees and donations. Of course this is due to both tax and historical reasons, but maybe that is the area in which there is much to do. Don’t forget that many American museums operate and exist thanks to large donations made by individuals. I think that in Italy we still lack the knowledge of art as a common good.
What are the substantial differences in the relationship between politics and art in the two realities, the American and the Italian one? It would make for a very long speech and a pretty boring one. But I can tell you in NY I have never met a politician or an official, if not when they came to the inauguration or to visit the exhibitions. The city of NY has donated about $ 10 million at the New Museum as part of the stimulus package for the revival of Lower Manhattan. In return, they just pretended that we did our job well, even better: that is, recognized the professionalism of an institution, the argument goes, maybe a nice contract follows because we respect all safety regulations, but under no circumstance did the politician come to ask for anything, let alone put the name of Mayor Bloomberg on the invitation. In fact, Bloomberg himself came to the museum to thank us...
Will you display Italian contemporary art at the New Museum? Of course, even if I do not like to choose artists by nationality. I always say that I shall never ask a passport to an artist before deciding to exhibit his work. At the New Museum many Italians have already passed: people like Micol Assael, Alighiero Boetti, Maurizio Cattelan, Roberto Cuoghi, Diego Perrone, and certainly many more will pass by. The important thing is for their works not to be simply Italian but rather, bounded to international comparison.
You’ve done a few things with Maurizio Cattelan and Ali Subotnick: Berlin Biennial in 2006, the creation of Charley magazine and you founded the Wrong Gallery, now at the Tate Modern in London as a work of art and reproduced as a multiple sale in New York galleries. How much of the "artist" have you got within you and what do you think of the relationship between curator and artist?
There is no artist within me, though perhaps I feel a little impatient when it comes to bureaucracy and unnecessary rules. As of the artst/curator relationship, this is a topic that requires a whole separate interview. I like to think that the curator should mainly concentrate on the work rather than the artist: the artist can be reached through the work. Usually artists appreciate this tension towards their work and all related processes.
curated by nicola davide angerame