contemporary art / history of art

SetUp Contemporary Art Fair 2019: Going to Ithaca

For the 7th edition the SetUp Contemporary Art Fair, around Simona Gavioli had chosen the theme “Ithaca”. 25 galleries, thereof four non-Italian, presented artworks with a focus on the mystical island, home of Odysseus, before and after his 20 years enduring absence, described by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey. By his journeys, the Greek king became the first migrant in literary history. Accordingly, Ithaca stands not only for the island, but also for the legend with its described adventures and the present relevance.

The SetUp makers posed some questions, which could be seen as guideline for the galleries choice of artworks and artists. “What does it mean to sail without a port to reach? What is the purpose of escaping, without having a homeland to return back to? Is it worth living without being curious about what is beyond the sea? What’s the point of returning back home after having sailed for years? Will we always be the same, or will we find ourselves changed by the journey? Will we still find someone waiting for us?”

Along these questions, several artists invited to travel with them, into their world. These excursions might give an approach to answers. Following the Greek legend Sara Bolzani created “Barca Greca” and “Odissea” at the Galleria d’Arte del Caminetto. The “Monogenetics” by Jonathan Guaitamacchi at the Galleria 13 carried to ice landscapes. With “Fragile” Giovanni de Gara illustrated terroristic attacks in touristic context. Additionally, the US-American Flag on a thermal blanket referred to his project “Eldorato”, where he covers church portals with the same golden foil to encourage the debate about welcoming, which is another aspect of travelling.



Also at the Zeit Gallery, Alessandra Baldoni invited more into an inner reflexion. For the installation “I need protection”, the artist questioned people about their greatest wishes, which they actually told no one. The declarations are written at the outside of picture frames. Inside they are accompanied by black and white photos. In contrast to that, Angelo Raffaele Marturano travelled at As’Opera with his “Internauta” into space.



Leonardo Balbi creates three-dimensional works, partly out of two-dimensional materials. Resulting are floral compositions, which let the observer plunge into a fantastic world. The presentation of the Galleria Balbi Modern Art and the curatorial text about the booth “Il viaggio come esplorazione” (The Journey as Exploration) by Federica Franchini was honoured with the Premio SetUp 2019 as the best curator under 35.



For the OFF Project “Visible – Invisible, Paesaggio e Confine.” Francesco Bartoli and Massimiliano Moro wandered into the nature to find structures for frottages and documented the process in a video. Roberto Ghezzi goes even further. For his “Naturografie” he abandons canvasses in free nature, for example in rivers, so that the traces on the image could tell the story about the excursions.



Beside the aspect of travelling, also Penelope, Odysseus’ wife as left behind woman was thematised. Traditionally, she is associated with martial fidelity. Nevertheless, she could also be seen as a self-reliant woman, who developed various strategies to delay marrying one of her numerous suitors. This aspect of a modern woman was resonated by Luca Maria Castelli in “Esegesi della libertà”, one of the OFF Projects inside the art fair. Some of the exhibitors pointed to the feminine facet of the theme, too.



Another OFF Project, “Islanders”, curated by Manuela Valentini, focused the geographical dimension of islands. It was a selection of videos, made by four artists coming from islands, questioning about the significance of being an islander, the conditions of living on an island and the relations of islanders to others and the nature. Marta Pujades, Ricardo Miguel Hernándes, Moneiba Lemes/Alby Átamo and César Schonfield are coming from Palma de Mallorca, Cuba, Gran Canaria and Cape Verde.



Additionally to the voyages in the contemporary artistic world, the visit in the Palazzo Pallavicini, which is housing the SetUp for the second time, is an excursion into the world of 18th century. The Count Marshal Gian Luca Pallavicini resided here since 1765 and had illustrious visitors like the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Maria Carolina of Austria, daughter of the empress Maria Theresa and later wife of Ferdinand of Bourbon. This year’s SetUp was perhaps less crowed than the banquets of the count, but also remarkable. Due to the reduction of exhibitors and a limitation of the number of artists per booth, it was a comfortable atmosphere.