Kader Attia’s "Halam Tawaaf," 2008, made of 2,978 beer cans.
Axel Vervoordt’s "Proportio" installation, Palazzo Fortuny.
Axel Vervoordt’s "Proportio" installation, Palazzo Fortuny with Sandro Botticelli’s "Portrait of a Woman," circa 1480, juxtaposed with a 1970s monochromatic Jef Verheyen canvas.
In the Palazzo Grassi, Martial Raysse’s "America America," 1964.
Vincent Michéa’s "Bintou #2," Or series, 2013.
Meystyle Lattice LED wallpaper, Nordic Waterfall.
Lee Broom Crescent Lights.
Francis Sultana’s Anita stool in patinated bronze with kidassia upholstery.
In the Swiss Pavilion, Pamela Rosenkrantz’s installation: a pool of pinkish-white liquid meant to mimic the standardized northern European skin tone.
Edson Chagas’ "Found Not Taken," Luanda, 2013.
Italian art advisor Filippo Tattoni-Marcozzi, PaperCity’s dashing foreign correspondent, hit the world’s most important art and design fairs and exhibitions this spring. With tours of duty at the Dallas-based Goss-Michael Foundation and prestigious Hamiltons gallery in London, Tattoni-Marcozzi now lives in London and Washington, D.C., and consults with private clients across the globe. He reports back for us on the most buzzed-about art scenes, from Shanghai to Milan and Venice to New York. Edited by Rebecca Sherman.
If Marco Polo and the opium wars taught the West anything, it’s that doing business in China is not easy. Culturally and historically, the Chinese have their mind set on exporting rather then welcoming Western products. However, Design Shanghai (which caters mainly to professionals) attempts to open a new window of opportunity for the increasingly wealthy Chinese market to enter into Western design. In late March, I stayed at the most luxurious urban resort in the JingAn District, The PuLi Hotel and Spa, which was perfectly situated near the event, held at the impressive Russian-built Shanghai Exhibition Centre just down the road. More than 300 exhibitors showcased everything from heavyweight furniture brands B&B Italia, Vitra and Driade to more unique and elegant limited-edition collections by Ingo Maurer and Francis Sultana (who presented his stunningly seductive furry Anita Capsule collection in Kidassia upholstery). I was also impressed by Kvadrat’s exhibit — a contemporary tent that capitalized on the Dutch textile company’s trademark simplicity, color and innovation.
Salone del Mobile
Milan remains the undisputed capital of design. During the Salone del Mobile in April, the city transforms itself into one massive design and furniture exhibit. This year’s Salone was one of the most innovative, if not the most organized. The Milan show — which started out years ago as a trade fair for people in the design industry to showcase their goods to designers, architects and stores — has become a fashionable, trendy furniture fair for everyone. While the actual fiera is traditionally reserved for the professional crowd, the fuorisalone (outside fairs) are held throughout the city, where the fun and glamour take shape in hundreds of launches, presentations and cocktail parties held in grand palazzos, abandoned warehouses and even subway tunnels.
This year, the most impressive was the Depot arranged by Nilufar gallery, a stunning presentation of historical and contemporary design exquisitely showcased in what was once the gallery’s storage facility. By creating several theater-like stage sets, gallery founder Nina Yashar built a huge dollhouse experience that offered multiple views into hundreds of living possibilities, each more alluring than the last. On opening night, Yashar hosted a private dinner at the Depot for 140 guests. The menu, created by Martino Gamper with Corrado Calza, was served on Richard Ginori porcelain from the 1930s and matched with 19th-century napkins. Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2006 was poured into precious Cuttings crystal glasses by J. Hill’s Standard, also designed by Gamper.
A thought-provoking collaboration between Airbnb and artists and designers resulted in works based on the ever-changing notion of what makes one feel at home. Dubbed “Housewarming,” the exhibit was hosted at the magnificent, privately owned 19th-century Palazzo Crespi. T Magazine also hosted a fabulous dinner at Villa Necchi Campiglio (the backdrop for Tilda Swinton’s 2010 film I am Love) by creating a clever homage to the 1980s Milanese collective Memphis group. Louis Vuitton took over Palazzo Bocconi to showcase its new Objets Nomades collection of travel-inspired, foldable furnishings — lamps, stools, hammocks — from nine established and emerging design talents within a sensational jungle-like installation. Young British design star Lee Broom presented his new line of stunning lights and tables in an all-gray 1950s department-store setting, complete with doorman and personalized London cab waiting outside.
To coincide with Salone del Mobile, this year’s opening of the 56th Venice Biennale was pushed forward one month to the beginning of May, which made for a perfect spring week on the Laguna. The Biennale’s curator, Okwui Enwezor, charged participants to reflect on “All The World’s Futures” as a theme. The Biennale has become an incredibly important showcase for contemporary art, with thousands of collectors attending. The Biennale’s exhibitions take place mainly at the Giardini and at the Arsenale in pavilions hosted this year by 11 countries. A sense of peaceful instability and romantic suspension between past and future pervaded most of the national pavilions.
Japanese Pavilion artist Chiharu Shiota created a room full of red yarn unraveling from two traditional Japanese fishing boats, each strand ending with a suspended key. The sense of familiar warmth emanating from the yarn and keys, combined with the displacement of the boats, pushes the viewer to consider memories both collective and personal, transcending linguistic and cultural contexts. Camille Norment’s Rapture created a similar sense of peaceful discomfort inside the Nordic Pavilion, where the tension between harmony and dissonance was exemplified by a sound installation amongst dislodged and broken-up architectural fixtures that extended beyond the pavilion. Artist Pamela Rosenkranz’s extraordinary installation drenched the Swiss Pavilion in a pool of pinkish-white liquid meant to mimic the standardized northern European skin tone. The liquid was filled with elements and name brands best known for their promises of beauty, well-being and happiness — biotin, Evian, silicone and Viagra, among them — while the entire pavilion reverberated with the synthetic sounds of water, generated by a real-time algorithm, and a fresh scent recalling a baby’s skin permeated the air.
I was also transfixed by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s kinetic sculptures made of real trees inside the French Pavilion — an experimental ecosystem that illustrated the constantly evolving state of nature through sound, light and motion. The Russian Pavilion, painted green to emphasize the post-Soviet generation of invited artists, presented a pensive oversized cosmonaut, his helmet overcrowding the confined space. Genius Axel Vervoordt amazed with yet another sensational installation inside the Palazzo Fortuny titled Proportio. Exploring the concepts of sacred geometry and proportions in art, science, music and architecture, the dark and sumptuous rooms of the palazzo hosted elegant and impressive pairings, such as Sandro Botticelli’s Portrait of a Woman, circa 1480, juxtaposed with a 1970s monochromatic Jef Verheyen canvas and Ellsworth Kelly’s Red, Yellow, Blue III, 1963.
Frieze Art Fair
By mid-May, the art world’s focus was on New York City. While the most expensive painting ever sold — Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger (Version “0”), 1955 — went under the hammer at Christie’s to a Qatari sheikh for $179.3 million, Frieze Art Fair was being set up on Randall’s Island, making it clear that buying contemporary art is neither as comfortable nor as easy as it used to be. Although mostly predictable, there were some beautiful new works by Richard Tuttle at Pace Gallery. The best booth was Lehmann Maupin gallery, where a massive spiral installation by Kader Attia, Halam Tawaaf, was created from almost 3,000 beer cans, each bent in the middle as if in submission. The work is a commentary on Islamic culture, mimicking the movement of the Kaaba, while the cans represent the idea of alcohol — a sin in Islam.
1:54 New York
Art fairs fail to impress me these days, with new ones opening almost every week and tending to showcase the same galleries and artists from Basel to New York, London to Hong Kong, but one must be mentioned for its freshness and quality. 1:54 New York was the first NY edition of the London-based Contemporary African Art Fair, a truly amazing presentation of poignant, important and extremely well-selected voices from a continent gaining recognition at a fast pace. Galerie Cécile Fakhoury from The Ivory Coast brought Vincent Michéa, while Axis Gallery showcased stunning photography-based work by Sammy Baloji, and A Palazzo Gallery highlighted Edson Chagas, winner of the Golden Lion at the previous Venice Biennale edition for the Angola Pavilion.