Gio Fazzolari is an average Londoner battling his way through life. He is amidst the contemporary social climate of anti-male and anti-white sentiment. He has worked as an art technician for commercial art galleries, auction houses, and art shippers. Today, he is a freelancer in the current Corona – Metropolis. He is a cat proponent, conservative liberal, and firm believer that Italian food is the best in the world.
No matter where you live, finding a job after a humanities degree is not easy; harder still, to say what makes a perfect job. In this series of interviews, we ask art professionals about their careers after graduation.
Position: Art Handler/ Technician
Kola Śliwińska: Can you tell us what made you become an art handler/technician?
Gio Fazzolari: For me it was pure convenience. I did my BA in Fine Arts at a nondescript university and felt compelled to do something remotely related to it for work. I remember my first job was to move a very heavy, large stone sculpture teetering on a narrow plinth. I was reluctant to even breathe near it, but the two guys I was with made it look like a graceful dance. I had my fair share of calamities initially, but touch wood (stone) phase has totally passed!
KŚ: How is it like to be an art handler/technician? How would you describe people in the art world?
GF: It is a good job! There is always something new to do and see, which I really enjoy. The people vary greatly also. From the exceedingly pretentious to the surprisingly gracious. Like with any echelon of society you get good ones and not so good ones.
KŚ: As an art handler, you have to deal not only with installing artworks but with stressful situations. Did you have any absurdist or crazy moments when working with people?
GF: I actually had a client’s dog eat my shoes whilst installing an artwork once. I came down the stairs and found tiny pieces of my shoe, like breadcrumbs leading to the carcasses of what was once a nice pair of Klein blue Nikes. It is an occupational hazard though.
KŚ: Art handlers, to me, are like “invisible hands” of the art world. Nobody really notices your presence, especially when installing exhibitions in the institutional context. But your work is fundamental. It is not only about the installing pieces on the walls but the way you do it. Precision, attention to details, and other things like understanding the perspective of two and three-dimensional objects in the space, not to mention other factors like composition. It is a real skill, a talent. What is your background? Does your education have anything to do with your current profession?
GF: I started as a picture framer. It is helpful to be accustomed to manual tool use and intricate tactile work. There is also a level of diligence that is essential, but it is mostly like with any trade where you learn by doing. I have a preference for installations because I enjoy the finality of affixing something where it feels right. And although it is totally subjective, certain pieces seem made for certain spaces. The art that is not installed is like a car without fuel. It is fine, but it does not fulfil the purpose it was created for. So, from that point of view, art technician is an important cog in the wheel. With clients and collectors that might have spent a small fortune on an artwork, our input and experience can ensure they get the maximum viewing pleasure from their purchase. With galleries and institutions, it is more likely to follow a standard “exhibition protocol” that ensures a homogenous aesthetic.
KŚ: Some technicians are extremely creative people. Apart from their profession, they have their own interesting practices. What do you do? What is your real practice that defines who you really are?
GF: I am perhaps the only technician on Earth who is not an artist on the side! It really does not interest me. However, I do envy their situation to be able to see such range of work in spaces all over the city, then go into the studio and see how it influences their own practice. Must be quite motivating and/or extremely frustrating. In my free time, I enjoy writing music, anything from classical to neo soul. Music is definitely my creative passion, one that I hope to be able to make a living off one day.
KŚ: I think the art world is some kind of a strange void, and it works a bit like an elite cult. You know, leftist ideas, sometimes very utopian, praying to the veganism, with the major focus on ecology, nature, etc. This looks pretty good and ambitious in theory. Personally, I am struggling with these non-existing ideas because, at the end of the day, nobody really talks to normal people, not to mention having genuine relationships. For me, it is like a lonely island in its own bubble, completely detached from the reality. What is the art world to you? Do we need art in society?
GF: The art world is full of snobbery and pretension. To me it feels like there is a sinister undercurrent supporting the whole industry. For example, who decides that something is good or good enough to exhibit at this gallery or that museum? There is surely a very small cohort of people who are in control of what art we see and which art we buy. I think this is my issue with it, particularly the money involved. Before it was any kind of commodity, it had been purely a type of human expression. Resembling a language, it enabled me to understand you better and that beautiful ethos has become bastardised immensely. The more recent exploitation of art, for money laundering and embezzling, continue to defame the art market. Perhaps that is why it feels detached from the reality. There is a marked line between what you can sketch in an evening class and the high value of a painting at the Sotheby’s impressionist day sale; but in principle, there should not be. That being said, I think it is extremely important to encourage creativity in everybody. Art is a very powerful therapy and everyone could use just a bit of it. Those who become a big success ought to remember the fleeting nature of what they do and why they do it in the first place.
KŚ: What was the most challenging project?
GF: A difficult installation was by Robert Indiana for Frieze Sculpture Park, a couple of years ago. These 10-foot high COR-TEN steel monoliths were spread in a huge circle. Luckily, we had Mtech place them in situ, but their patina was horribly mismatched because they were in storage for too long. I spent several days in the baking July heat sanding the rust and spraying them with water to achieve a cohesive look. By the end of it, they became my babies, I would sometimes pass by the park just to tell people off for sitting on them!
interviewed by Kola Śliwińska
Kola Śliwińska is an independent curator, collection manager, and writer. Since 2012, she has been researching Władysław Hasior’s practice, and she is currently working on his monograph. She has collaborated with a number of institutions, inter alia: Polish Cultural Institute, Fiorucci Art, Tate Modern. Currently, she works for Valeria Napoleone’s collection in London. She is interested in social and community situations, as well as looking for non-institutional forms of “being together” in the face of social and ecological crises. She believes to be one of many witches. If she could, she would spend the whole year in nature, and she would like not to have to fight for women’s fundamental rights in the future. She asks for a wine menu in an anarchist squat bar and eats with hands at elegant banquets. She is ill all her life, usually, for reflection. Her favourite magazine is All About Diseases by Luxus Group. She believes that luxury is very soft to touch. If she could, she would eat caviar and oysters all her life.