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Between Times and Spaces

On miart 2024

  • Apr 17 2024
  • Dalia Maini
    is a writer, editor and urban mermaid.

A golden cylinder lies on a pale blue floor. From both of its extremities spills a sprinkled cascade of shiny sugar pearls which roll over the floor and surround a golden moon and stars, creating a starry sky to the visitors' views from above. What I am seeing is Vorrei perdermi e non trovarmi più (2023) an installation by Francesco Gennari, exhibited in the joint booth of Gallery Zero (Milan) and Ciaccia Levi (Paris-Milan). Gennari’s long-standing body of work visualizes states of mind through the creation of sculptures and drawings conceived as mental landscapes. In them, the visitor may reflect their psychological horizons. The installation absorbed my attention, projecting me into a metaphysical sphere, where materials collaborate to form images of grace and violence. Part of the Portal section of the art fair miart 2024, nested within established galleries, the works capably introduce the annual concept of the fair no time no space, given by the director Nicola Ricciardi. This represents an invitation to explore the untimeliness of the work of art, which by interacting with different temporal and geographical axes, offers a variety of layers of meaning and interpretation.


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The Portal section, curated by the Iranian-American curator Abaseh Mirvali, is notable for featuring eight exhibitions that broaden the horizons of the canonical art fair, offering in-depth views of the artists presented. The artists for the most demonstrate the capacity to cross historical timelines with their works. In Portal, Mirvali has pointed out the importance of platform galleries, whose relationship with artists stretches beyond the commercial, and of mutual exchange and enduring support to counterbalance the fast pace of today’s art market. The material reality of the art market for emergent galleries with rosters of socially and politically engaged artists was highlighted by Mirvali who admitted that, for her, it is necessary to offer to participating galleries, especially those coming from non-European geographies, a possibility of profit and not economic loss. In doing so, Mirvali reveals the responsibility of art fairs to be more than markets, but to commit to artists and galleries as partners. In an art system that is slowly starting to be impacted structurally by the political conflicts of our times, economic thinking needs to be engined to the capillary redistribution of capital in less commercial and homogeneous cultural spheres.

An exemplary case is that of First Floor Gallery (Harare - Victoria Falls), which introduced to the audience of the fair the Zimbabwean artists Troy Makaza and Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude. Since its opening in 2009 the gallery functions as an experimental artist-run initiative and social enterprise for artists who don’t have access to structures that support their artistic development, accompanying socially engaged cultural initiatives alongside gallery practice. The gallery offers workshops and residencies for the community of young artists in the area to facilitate their artistic development and education. First Floor also offers a practice-based economic model whereby the artwork is one of the elements in the exchange between gallerist artists, and audiences, not the sine qua non of their relationships. Troy Makaza’s artistic research was influenced by Nyaude, who mentored him during his studies. The large wall sculpture presented in the booth provides an example of Makaza's ongoing research into gender relationships in Zimbabwe merging traditional aesthetics with forms of queerness.


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Another highlight of the Portal section is the work of the 20th-century Italian artist Franco Mazzucchelli (ChertLüdde, Berlin). Renowned for his groundbreaking explorations of synthetic materials during the 1960s, and his creation of large-scale public installations that challenged the interaction of art and the public, Mazzucchelli has cultivated a prolific body of work spanning decades. One of his most notable series, “A. to A. (Art to Abandon)”, features inflatable sculptures crafted from PVC. Initially, these sculptures were located in lakes and deserts before finding their place in various public spaces across Italy, including squares, schools, and factories. On show also are pictures of an artistic action: A. to A. Alfa Romeo, Milan, (1971) wherein the inflatable sculpture was installed in front of the Alfa Romeo factory in Milan, inviting workers to interact with it. Photos are framed and mounted on pieces of the sculpture to symbolize the constant regeneration of the materials in Mazzucchelli’s work, a form of ecologically engaged precursor for current discourses on the carbon footprint of contemporary art. 

Presented by KOW (Berlin), a gallery that features an outstanding program that captures the complexity of geopolitical relationships through artistic practices is CATPC (Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise), working in collaboration with Renzo Martens, who will represent the Dutch Pavillion in the 60th Venice Biennale. CATPC aims to find solutions to the exploitative conditions found in plantation work by employing its agricultural and artistic projects organized along with Congolese local communities. The artworks on show try to answer the dilemma of the restitution of artworks stolen from Congo and brought into European ethnographic museums. Among the works is White Cube (2023) by CATPC members Ced'art Tamasala and Jean Kawata. The sculpture represents the white cube of Lusanga with the head of the Pende de Balot sculpture on top, intermingled with other sacred sculptures looted during the colonial era and imprisoned in a white cube in the north. On the four facades of the space, the different stages of the history of Lusanga from the Leverville era to the present are recounted. The lines connecting plantations and museums are drawn on the booth, and imaginings are offered as to how to reappropriate the cultural and material wealth extracted during colonial looting. 


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Also featured in Portal is the Egyptian-Armenian artist  Anna Boghiguian, the winner of this year’s Fondazione Henraux Sculpture Commission and showcased by Galleria Franco Noero (Turin). The prize will offer the artist the capacity to develop a new sculptural work during a residency organized by the Fodazione. The showcasing of her work at the fair facilitates the forging of new relationships between important international institutions and emerging artists. 

This year miart 2024 has proven to be a multilayered event, offering journeys into the intimate histories of the participating artists, and making the larger assertion that the artwork consists of more than its presentation, its prestige, and its price, but can represent the contextual observations of the spirit of a time, not linear, but emergent from shared experiences. The fair stands as a testament to the power of art to foster connections across time and space and enlarge the art market's ambit while offering a platform for reflection on the world at large and its urgent concerns.


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    Cover: Franco Mazzucchelli, Abbandono (Santa Margherita Ligure), 1970, Public intervention. Courtesy of The Artist and ChertLüdde, Berlin.

    fig. 1: Francesco Gennari, Vorrei perdermi e non trovarmi più, 2023. nautical bronze, metalized sugar spheres. Courtesy of the artist, Ciaccia Levi, Paris and ZERO..., Milan.

    fig. 2: Franco Mazzucchelli, Abbandono (Santa Margherita Ligure), 1970, Public intervention. Courtesy of The Artist and ChertLüdde, Berlin.

    fig. 3: Installation view KOW booth miart 2024. Ced'art Tamasala and Jean Kawata, White Cube, 2023. Edition of 5 + 2 AP. All Courtesy is the artist and KOW. Photo by Nicola Morittu.

    fig. 4: CATPC, Plantations and Museums, 2021. 6-channel video installation. Edition 5/5 + 2 AP.



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