In an exclusive interview, Swide meets young Italian curator Massimiliano Gioni, recently nominated as Director of the 55th International Art Exhibition in Venice.
Art Biennale 2013
Massimiliano Gioni, born in Busto Arsizio (Lombardy, Italy) in 1973, has an extensive career as a contemporary art curator: Artistic Director of Fondazione Nicola Trussardi in Milan since 2003 and Associate Director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York since 2007, has been recently nominated Director of the 55th International Art Exhibition in Venice titled Il Palazzo Enciclopedico will take place in Venice from June, 1st to November, 24th 2013 at the Giardini and at the Arsenale as well as in various venues the city.
What does being a curator exactly mean? What is the most difficult thing about being one?
Ethimologically it mean “the one who takes care” of artworks. Simple as it is, as a definition it works very well: to take care of an artwork, to pick it, to display it in the best way and to relate it to others in order to create a dialogue, are the most simple aspects of this job and yet the most important ones.
When did you understand you wanted to be a curator?
Actually the word curator wasn’t used a lot when I starter to get into contemporary art – at around 14 years old. Then people talked about art critics, not curators.
In an interview you said you wanted this Biennale of Venice to be a “poliphony”, and in fact you entitled it “The Encyclopaedic Palace”. What did you mean?
I would love this Biennale to be – just like the Encyclopaedic Palace dreamed by the self-made artist Marino Auriti – a place where works of art and hallucinated dreams, ways to explain and recount the whole world and bright examples about the impossibility of knowing and explaining everything.
Artiglierie, Venice Biennale, one of the locations
The line between ground-breaking art – provocative in a smart way and artistic expression that is merely provocative – is a fine one: how do you distinguish from the two?
I don’t think that these options exists in such a way, The best work of art – the real ones – offer and embody a different version of the world. Therefore, they don’t care at all about being smart or being liked (style).
What is the place you call “home”?
When I had my first mobile phone, every time I turned it on, it said “home”. It is something that always struck me.
In your opinion, which kind of relationship exists for a human being between art and his home?
Just yesterday I heard that Roberta Smith, the renowned art critic of the New York Times, says she writes art shows reviews to get people to leave their homes, pushing them to go see art shows. So maybe between home and art there is an antithetical relationship, also because art forces you to leave the certainty for the uncertain, as Alighiero Boetti said.
Giardini, Biennale Art Venice
In which way does art makes life better?
Art makes life more complicated and complete, richer but lighter.
What was been the first artwork that impressed you?
I don’t think I have a precise memory, but I remember having watched Le Chien Andalou by Buñuel when a kid, and it was a shock.
The people that helped you becoming the person you are today – personally and professionally – are…
They are too many to list. A friend of mine always said: without the others we are no one.
You have seen the contemporary art changing and growing in the last 10 years, you have followed closely its exponents, Pawel Althamer, John Bock, Maurizio Cattelan, Martin Creed, Elmgreen & Dragset, Tacita Dean, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Urs Fischer, Paul McCarthy, Paola Pivi, Pipilotti Rist, Anri Sala, Tino Segal… How would you describe to an alien the evolution of contemporary art in the last years?
Simply telling him that art has taught us to be closer to aliens: art teaches us to be alien on the Earth.
Who should we watch among the contemporary artists of today? Do you want to name someone?
I never liked names and ranks. Even if it’s moralist on my part, it’s important to remember how much work, how much energy and sacrifices and anxiety every artist has to pour into his work, and it’s so horrible to limit all this to a list, to a mere advertisement.
Among the aims of Fondazione Trussardi in Milan, of which you are the Artistic Director, there is the requalification of neglected public spaces: in which way a location is able to give value to a work of art or to diminish it?
The works of art – said a renowned German philosopher – “make a world”, which means that by appearing, by existing, they create a space around them. And they are able to do so whether they are surrounded by ancient places full of history or cold galleries and Museums. Actually, I think that when works of art are displayed in locations with a strong identity – that hold scars through which you read stories and collective and personal memories – an interesting short circuit happens between spaces and contents. Works of art have many lives, as many as their possible interpretations. When they are displayed in places rich in history, their lives multiply, just as the stories and the memories encapsulated in those places multiply. To say it in a simple way: are we sure we really need new architectures signed by archistars? Why not thinking about reactivating unused spaces and give them new strengths and energies through the art displayed in them?
Biennale Venice, Arsenale
Why do you think that luxury brands have a penchant for contemporary art?
I don’t think it’s a matter of having a penchant, I think it’s about a symbiosis, a short circuit, a mutual exchange. Art – from the Nineties on, mostly – started to study and learn the communicational strength of the fashion world. At the same time fashion has understood that the pro pension towards the future of art could change the perception of both and have a great impact on the public and on our lives. I think that leaving aside the usual skepticism towards contemporary art and its alleged connivance with the market, the reason for which art and fashion understood each other and got closer is because both are – in different ways – fields where to get trained to come to terms with time.
This sort of branded patronage, generally, gives space to the artist’s ideas or it limits him?
It depends. There are institutions that think they can treat art as an advertising tool or to treat the artist as an entertainer. But it’s a risk that is connected, not only to fashion, but to museums and institutions in general. In my personal experience I can say that it’s right in fashion that I found a great partner in Beatrice Trussardi, that has always believed that the role of a gallery, of whoever orders a commission, is the one to create the necessary situations so that the artist can create their impossible dreams.
55. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Biennale di Venezia
Il Palazzo Enciclopedico
June 1 – November 24
Giardini – Arsenale and different locations
Tagged with: #CURATORS #EXHIBITION #INTERVIEW
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