Artissima – the Place of Discover Conversation with the Director of the art fair, Ilaria Bonacossa

Since 1994, the international contemporary art fair Artissima is taking place in Turin. Despite the cancellation of many similar events, the fair is now taking place between the 4th and the 7th of November in Turin. We had the pleasure of speaking to the artistic director Ilaria Bonacossa about the challenges of organising Artissima, economic and pandemic crises, and trends in the art market. We also asked how Artissima helps emerging artists. One way is their pioneering project – they will be the first contemporary art fair to create a project focusing on the production of NFT artworks.

Ilaria Bonacossa
Ilaria Bonacossa – director, Artissima Fair, photo: Giorgio Perottino / Artissima

Dobromiła Błaszczyk: What are your strategies, new ideas, and innovations for running the upcoming editions of the fair? Ones which you are planning to incorporate or have already implemented into the art programme?

Ilaria Bonacossa: Well, we cannot reveal any specific project for the future… otherwise someone else could copy it! (laughs)

Speaking of the forthcoming edition, this year the fair will be organised as a sophisticated combination of physical and digital experiences. The Artissima XYZ platform hosting the curated sections of the fair – Present Future, Disegni, and Back to the Future – has been launched yesterday but a selection of works by the 30 featured artists will also be presented in three physical group exhibitions at the Oval pavilion.

DB: What are the most interesting collaborations or collateral event/exhibitions planned for this week?

IB: This year Artissima presents Hub India – Maximum Minimum, a new geographic focus that sets out to offer an overview of the galleries, institutions, and artists active in an area of central importance, also expanding in town in three locations: Palazzo Madama, MAO, and the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti di Torino. Featuring over 65 artists from 10 of India’s leading contemporary galleries and museum, Hub India is poised to be the largest and most significant conversation that contemporary art from India has had with the Western world in recent times.

Other projects include the exhibition Vitality of time. The art collections of Intesa Sanpaolo, an emblematic representation of the quality and variety of Intesa Sanpaolo collections of 20th and 21st century art with works by Carla Accardi, Carol Rama, Alberto Burri, and Jannis Kounellis among others. The exhibition Rimbalzi at Grattacielo Intesa Sanpaolo will feature a selection of images around the theme of “rebound” seen as a movement connected with a ball, an iconic object capable of crossing epochs and representing cultures, associated with the idea of play and sport. The exhibition is a tribute to the Nitto ATP Tennis Finals that will take place for the first time in Torino during the month of November, as well as 6 CHAIRS, the installation by Augustas Serapinas that will transform the sumptuous ballroom Hotel Principi di Piemonte | UNA Esperienze into a metaphorical court, with silent referees during an invisible tournament whose rules are written and imagined by the audience.

Going back to the fair, the Caribbean Nunca encontaramos a Satoshi by the artist Radamés “Juni” Figueroa, winner of the illy Present Future Prize in 2020, will be a vernacular location that functions simultaneously as a dance floor and a gathering point.

Artissima Art Fair 2019

DB: An art fair is a commercial event where the economic aspect is crucial. Many countries feel strong effects of the economic and pandemic crises. How does this situation influence the art market and organisation of the fair?

IB: Artissima has redesigned the overall layout of the pavilion to provide wider corridors in both directions and larger open spaces to prevent close gatherings. Signage is placed in all areas to ensure social distancing and compliance with current regulations. Special protocols have been activated for the refreshment facilities.

The commercial aspect remains of central importance and this is why we engage collectors to be in Torino by inviting them to our exclusive VIP programme. I am also convinced that the high quality of the artworks being shown will also be a drive to sustain museums’ acquisitions.

DB: How does an art fair can help artists in these post-covid times? Could you tell us about art prizes and your collaboration with sponsors?

IB: Artissima awards 10 prizes for artists and galleries, assigned by international juries, in collaboration with sponsors and institutional partners.

Six of them are supported by partners: illy Present Future Prize, FPT for Sustainable Art Award, Tosetti Value Award for photography, Carol Rama Award by Fondazione Sardi per l’Arte, VANNI occhiali #artistroom Prize, and the Xiaomi HyperCharge Prize.

Three by local institutions: OGR Award, Ettore and Ines Fico Prize, and the “ad occhi chiusi…” Prize by Fondazione Merz.

This year we have 25 New Entries (galleries opened less than five years ago), all eligible for the new Marval Collection support.

Furthermore, Artissima will be the first contemporary art fair to create a project focusing on the production of NFT artworks for artists in collaboration with its participating galleries. Thanks to the economic support of Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea CRT, we offer them the possibility of producing a digital work registered with an NFT, uploading it to the blockchain, and visualising it on a dedicated project platform. Our aim is to bridge the gap between the world of art fairs and the NFT world.

Artissima Art Fair 2019
Artissima Art Fair 2019

DB: Do you think that the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed the way the art market operates? If so, in what ways?

IB: I believe a new form of attention to sustainability, which was already in the air, is now a part of the new vision of the art world. The idea of zooming the planet for just two days will not be an option, yet the network of relationships and strong links in the art world will allow the proposals to remain international. Also, the digital platforms are here to stay and while in the early 2000, the galleries had to host glamorous dinners and events, now they have to offer collectors means of viewing art from afar. This does not imply that before finalising acquisitions collectors want to see art live but it does support exchange of information.

I believe the direct, “physical” relationship with a work of art, the dialogue with the artist and the collector, the contact with the audience, they all have an irreplaceable value. At the same time, it is important to experiment with new approaches, to understand how the art fair model can be transformed, making it increasingly responsive to the needs of galleries, the interests of collectors and directors of art institutions.

DB: In this uncertain financial climate, how might COVID-19 influence collectors’ buying choices or the way they collect? Looking ahead, how will it change their participation and acquisition during the art fairs? How will you respond to that?

In all historical moments of crisis there has been a return to traditions. In this moment there is a return to painting, and both established and young galleries are supporting painters. On the other hand, the new digital awareness is behind phenomena like NFTs which, as I mentioned before, we are experimenting with in the special project Surfing NFT.

Artissima Art Fair 2018

DB: What are the most visible trends in the art market at the moment? What type of art is gaining popularity among collectors?

IB: Alongside painting, I see the need for an art that can be “touched”. A return to textile and to ceramics is clearly visible in galleries’ presentations, as well as the desire to discover young artists from faraway places like India and Africa, as bearers of a new mode of inventing traditions.

DB: Currently, there are many important art fairs in the world. What distinguishes Artissima from the others? How do you draw the attention of collectors and try to attract them to Turin to participate in the “physical” fair?

IB: Artissima is a cutting-edge and talent scouting art fair. In 28 years, it has gained a reputation for its focus on experimentation and the pursuit of new artistic visions, for the coexistence of multiple and often contrasting approaches, while also broadening its practice through cross-disciplinary projects capable of informing, amazing and amusing, all at the same time. Our galleries take risks and invest in new talents and our collectors know the fair as a place of discoveries.

DB: In comparison with the past years, what changes can be seen at the Artissima?

IB: Artissima is bolder and braver! It showcases the best talents and it’s full of energy. The museums and the strong links with the institutions of the city make the Turin experience unique.

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About The Author


Founder and director of London-based arts organisation Contemporary Lynx, since 2013. Editor-in-chief and founder of the print magazine Contemporary Lynx with a global reach and international distribution, listed as one of the best art magazines in London by Sotheby’s Institute of Art and recommended by Tate Modern bookshop.

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