contemporary art / history of art

miart 2019: Where generations and different cultural backgrounds met

Fieramilanocity, Viale Scarampo, gate 5 pad 3, Milano, Italy

During four days (4 – 7 April), 185 international art galleries from 18 countries plus Italy met in Milan. It was a broad spectrum of artworks from the beginning last century up to our contemporary present creations. Traditionally subdivided in the sections Established Masters, Established Contemporary and Emergent, art lovers could easily choose their tour according to their preferred period. Additionally the segments Decades and Generations gave insights to art history. Decades presented single artists or artistic movements of the 20th century. The second section offered an intergenerational dialogue. Inter-divisionally located was On Demand, where 14 galleries commissioned context-based, site-specific or interactive works. A special area was once again dedicated to Objects of experimental design, limited editions and collectible design.

– Decades: A time travel into the 20th century
– Generations: from silent dialogue to permeating installation
– Gender matters
– Meeting Artists of different cultural backgrounds


Decades: A time travel into the 20th century

Starting from 1910 -1920 with the exhibition “Avant-garde and bon ton” by the Italian Società di Belle Arti up to the 1990s with the English artist Jon Thompson by the London based Anthony Reynolds Gallery, one could travel through the last century. For the 1950s, Dellupi Arte from Milan, showed Iaroslav Serpan as an representative of the informal movement of this decade. His paintings are based on psychic improvisation and remind magnetic force fields.

Maria Lai was chosen by the Milan based M77 to exemplify the 1960s. This is particularly interesting, because it was a period of withdrawal for the artist. After a first time with successful exhibitions and recognition, Maria Lai refused after 1961 to expose and cut her contacts to other visual artists. Instead, she frequented poets and writers. Nevertheless, she observed from the far the new emergent art movements like Arte Povera and Informel. Only in 1971, she renewed her contacts and started her second national and international carrier. To that extent, the 1960s were a very special phase of creativity in the life of Maria Lai.

The following decade, the 1970s were represented by Katalin Ladik and the Hungarian Neo-avant-garde. Nevertheless, the acb gallery from Budapest was not limited to illustrate the period by ancient artworks. They offered a performance by Katalin Ladik for the section On Demand and two of her works from 1975 and 1978 had an audio adding from 2015.

Generations: from silent dialogue to permeating installation

Herald St from London and the Milanese Tega gallery juxtaposed the Italian abstract painter Piero Dorazio to the young American artist Matt Connors. The chosen pictures were formally close. Nevertheless, the approach is different. While Dorazio had a theoretic base to abstraction, Conners method and conception is more emotional and intuitive.

At the booth of T293 and Paci Contemporary, both from Italy, the photographic oeuvre of Horst P. Horst and the paintings by Patrizio di Massimo were partly hanged side by side, others on the top of each other. Therefore it was not only a dialogue, but also an infiltration. The poetic star portraits of Horst got a new interpretation by the cheeky works of di Massimo.

Totally differently functioned the interaction between Kate Newby (The Sunday Painter, London) and Michael Berryhill (Lulu, Mexico City). Born in 1979 and 1972 they are from close generations. However, Berryhill’s paintings are in bright colours, sometimes with zoomorphic elements. In contrast, Newby’s installations have muted colours or are even transparent. But especially the diaphanous organic glass forms allowed the paintings to shine brighter, whereas her coloured roof tiles picked up the structure of the painting beside.

The Galerie Hubert Winter united two artists from its hometown Vienna. Even though more than 30
years separate the photographers Birgit Jürgenssen and Tina Lechner, Hubert Winter succeeded to find formal affinities. In doing so, the artists complemented each other.

Gender matters

Two galleries questioned about gender and its development. The Bolognese Gallleriapiù attracted attention by its minimalistic layout: presented was the figure of a little boy on a soft pink carpet. Only three photos at the walls accompanied him. The sculpture remind classical marble statues, but its history of creation is very different. It is a self-portrait of Yves Scherer, mould in plaster after a childhood video of the artist and part of his questioning about gender and especially the male. The butterfly at the nose of the boy might symbolises infantile playfulness. As insect with a development of metamorphosis, it represents at the same time transition, similar to the period of childhood, when the boy slumber in his cocoon before becoming an adult man. Besides, the butterfly also underlines delicate tenderness, by its vulnerable wings and in the case of Scherer’s sculpture by its position. This fragility and ephemerality could be as well assigned to the whole sculpture, which has scratches in the face and at the body. The pink carpet underlines this delicateness and would have its traces of the visitors at the end of the art fair.

Gender was also on focus at Richard Saltoun. Inspired by Jean-Christophe Ammann’s exhibition “Transformer: Aspects of Travesty” in Luzern in 1974, the London based gallery conceived for its booth “Transformer”, a group exhibition featuring inter alia Mariella Bettineschi, Jürgen Klauke, Pierre Molinier, Victoria Sin and Ulay. The artworks were presented stylishly on the underground of a red carpet, which contrasted well with the black and white photos by Ulay at the outside of the stand. They focussed on transvestites also as Klauke’s images of a reddish dressed man. These reflected the colour of the carpet on the walls. Bettineschi approached the subject poetically by her Hermaphrodite. Sin completed the show with three short videos of her performances as drag queen and makeup portraits on face wipe.

Meeting Artists of different cultural backgrounds

Several other galleries presented solo or double solo exhibitions. Others put various artists together, often in a harmonic way. A good example was Gaep, the former Eastwards Prospectus gallery from Bucharest with Vlatka Horvat (Croatia) and Ignacio Uriarte (Spain/Germany). Also Edel Assanti from London invited two artists for a silent dialogue: Marcin Dudek (Poland) and Jodie Carey (England). More colourful was the joint booth by Diehl (Berlin) and Allegra Ravizza (Lugano, Honolulu). They untited Imre Bak (Hungaria), Antonio Calderara (Italy) and KP Brehmer (Germany), framed by light sculptures from Nanda Vigo (Italy).

The French-American object artist Arman was presented in a solo show by the maabgallery (Milan, Padova). A suitable work of Arman was brought by the Bolognese Galleria d’Arte Maggiore. Another solo exhibition featuring the Swiss Urs Lüthi was on view at the Otto Gallery, also from Bologna. From Paris came Galerie Lelong & Co. with a huge selection of David Hockney’s digital paintings. Paola Verrengia from Salerno invited to the 5th documenta in Kassel 1972, which was curated by H. Szeemann in the gaze of Elisabetta Catalano. Impressive was the solo show presented by the Italian Galleria Poggiali. They brought steel sculptures by Eliseo Mattiacci.

The Milanese Galleria Fumagalli proposed a visual and perceptive reflection on the theme of surface. Eleven artists born between 1941 and 1982 contributed to it. Very harmonious was the interaction between Mario Airò, Tony Cragg, Giuseppe Penone, Giulio Paolini and Thomas Schütte at Trucci Russo from Torre Pellice. Interesting single works were presented by much more galleries. For example the Cortesi Gallery from Milan brought older and newer oeuvres by Heinz Mack. The Berlin based Gallery Gregor Podnar had Irwin (Dušan Mandič) and Marzena Nowak in its baggage. Enrico Astuni from Bologna showed inter alia the impressing Beirut photos by Gabriele Basilico. Annamaria Gelmi was at the Milan based Loom Gallery on view and Massimo Minini from Brescia commissioned “At arm’s length II” by Ariel Schlesinger.

There were many other remarkable booth and artists at the MIART 2019. Since it is impossible to list all in detail, here some more impressions.