At This Art Basel, competition makes room for collaboration
This year at Art Basel Hong Kong, in an unconventional arrangement, eight Italian galleries share the space for a joint exhibition. And they’re not the only ones teaming up. Two German galleries have joined forces and an already local gallery in Hong Kong is teaming up with an international counterpart to ensure the success of a fair which, when held live, remains burdened with travel restrictions.
The collective stand, aptly named Italians, is supported in part by the Italian Cultural Institute of Hong Kong and features works by 20th century Italian artists, including Giorgio Morandi and Michelangelo Pistoletto, as well as more contemporary works by Paola Pivi and Francesco Vezzoli.
“It’s not a historic development,” said Fabio Cavallucci, the art historian who organized the stand, which occupies approximately 860 square feet. “It’s a way to create an atmosphere of connections and contrasts, and to study a specific Italian style that you can see in art, design and fashion.”
Collaborative stands at art fairs aren’t orthodox, as galleries usually vie for attention and sales. This year, however, some of those competitors have chosen to collaborate instead, in an unusual experience driven by restrictions and conditions related to the pandemic.
“Being together is a political statement, in a way,” Cavallucci said. “The pandemic has made us discover that we are all on the same boat, that we cannot be independent, that we cannot reach people alone.”
It is also, notably, a practical need: Quarantine requirements for international travelers have prevented those who operate galleries outside Hong Kong from attending the fair, and many choose to participate remotely, with members of the Art Basel staff working on their stands.
Sharing the burden and organizational costs, rather than trying to set up separate booths remotely, just made sense to many.
In one case, Rossi & Rossi, a field gallery in Hong Kong, is partnering with Philippines-based Silverlens, an international counterpart.
“I really respect the way they support artists, so when a few months ago Art Basel suggested that this year it would be possible to share a booth, which usually doesn’t happen, these are the first ones I ‘ve thought,’ said Fabio Rossi, director of Rossi & Rossi.
Because Mr. Rossi’s gallery is already there, the on-site employees look after the stand, which features works by artists such as Siah Armajani and Naiza Khan, from Rossi & Rossi, and Nicole Coson and Gary-Ross Pastrana. , by Silverlens.
These two galleries are experimenting with a stand presentation that plays with their collaboration: From an angle of the aisle, the work selected by Silverlens is more visible; on the other hand, the work of Rossi & Rossi is more important. Mr. Rossi, whose gallery also participates in the Italians stand, was enthusiastic about the atmosphere of sharing.
“I think especially for small and medium galleries, the more we can collaborate, the better for everyone’s survival,” he said. “I hope this will lead to more in the future.”
The German galleries Sies + Höke and Meyer Riegger have a joint booth presenting works by painters Miriam Cahn and Peppi Bottrop. Such cooperation can create the potential for greater complexity in the selection of artists and works – a deepening of the element of conservation in the stand process, said Constanze Murfitt, director of Meyer Riegger.
“It’s interesting – their works aren’t very similar, but really how they’re painted, in a very expressive way, and how they paint, almost like a performance, that’s where they really have a similar approach. Ms. Murfitt said. “When you collaborate, you can make interesting presentations beyond a sales booth,” she said, adding, “You can share everything, all the costs, but it’s also a lot more interesting. “
The Italians’ stand is the culmination of a long-imagined project led by Stefano Fossati, director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Hong Kong, an official body of the Italian government that promotes the country’s language and culture to the foreign. The fair collaboration is intended to launch a broader initiative dedicated to taking into account the Italian style.
“I don’t remember a time when an Italian public institution, an official cultural institution, intervened in the art market system,” said Cavallucci. “Of course, this is due to the pandemic situation, but it is an important step, the start of a new trend in which galleries are working in collaboration with public institutions.
Such collaboration is likely to continue, especially as the international art world reopens in an environment of travel restrictions and uncertainty.
Sies + Höke and Meyer Riegger are already planning another collaborative booth, for the Armory Show in New York in September. “We’re generally all rivals, but the whole community has come together,” said Daniel Müller, Director of Sies + Höke. “This year had an impact on the entire ecosystem.”