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Arte Fiera in Bologna leads visitors to explore the relationship between modern and contemporary

by Pia Cappelli

Arte Fiera inaugurates its 41st edition tomorrow in Bologna. Organizers have set themselves an objective: remaining faithful to the event's status as Italy’s oldest art fair and premier showcase for modern and contemporary art, albeit renovating curatorship. Under the guidance of new director Angela Vettese, the fair is cutting back the number of galleries, adding new sections and getting Italian and international curators involved.

The new project is based on quality and the relationship between modern and contemporary: “It's nice, it's right and interesting they should mix, as, after all, has been proven over the past few years' Documenta and Biennials,” says Vettese.

The “supremacy of an abstract-kinetic art deriving from Fontana,” on the other hand, has been scaled down: this, “in some cases, gave us undoubted geniuses like Castellani and Manzoni, but in others, mere epigones,” whose presence in recent fairs rode on the wave of auction results.

Overall, Bologna will feature 153 galleries, divided into sections quite distinct from those of past editions: the chief ones are now the Main Section and the Solo Shows.

In the Main Section, we are told by Alessandra Bonomo, one of the members of the new scientific committee, space has been given to art galleries with a consistent track record, taking variety into account: “We can't have the same artists everywhere: we need to find economically interesting names, yet new artists as well.”

Her gallery in Rome is showcasing work by Joan Jonas, Francisco Tropa from Portugal and Alessandro Twombly.

Massimo Di Carlo of Galleria dello Scudo (Verona) remarks the selection criteria are stricter: “Those who invested in collections and in a discourse that goes beyond the purely economic aspects, are rewarded.” His gallery presents recent work by Marco Gastini, Giuseppe Gallo, Nunzio, Giovanni Frangi, plus a homage to Giuseppe Spagnulo, a series of terracottas.

Matteo Lampertico's (Milan) is one of the galleries dealing with the big names of Italian 20th-century art; his stand in Bologna is devoted to Italian art of the 1960s: Fontana, Manzoni, Burri – and a 1961 Castellani that had never before left the small perimeter of a private collection (valued at around €600,000). Also on display the works of the artists from the Azimut gallery, the ‘kinetic' artists so closely connected to it, the T Group and the N Group, Yves Klein.

The Mazzolenis (Turin and London) are exploring the 20th century in depth, with some of the fair's most important items: a De Chirico from the 1930s, originally realized for the cover of a Fratelli Fabbri publication (€2.5 million), a Savinio of 1929, Le Voyage au Bout du Monde (€1.2 million), a Cellotex Combustion by Burri (€2 million), a 1967 Melotti with a €750,000 price tag, and Hoppy Hoppy by Dorazio, dated 1973 (€700,000). Robilant + Voena of Milan will be paying homage to Emilio Scanavino, with major work like Obituary for Fontana of 1968 (€140,000).

Among contemporary masters, Benedetta Spalletti of the Vistamare gallery (Pescara) exhibits Ettore Spalletti's diptych, “If not now, when” (2013), previously presented at the MADRE Museum in Naples on the occasion of his solo exhibition, as well as an alabaster Lectern: “The artist's heartfelt dialogue between painting and sculpture – an artist I am obviously very close to,” says the gallery owner, [who is Ettore Spalletti's niece].

The prices are €225,000 for the diptych and €65,000 for the sculpture. Also at the Vistamare stand are shots from the Attese [Waits] series by Mimmo Jodice (about €15,000) and work by Joseph Kosuth: Definition from the 1960s (€100,000) and recent neons (€45,000). Boxart of Verona is showcasing work by Hermann Nitsch (around €70,000) and Emilio Isgrò, whose prices have almost doubled over the past few years, thanks to a number of institutional exhibitions. One of his ‘erasures' currently costs €50,000.

Poggiali of Florence is presenting, inter alia, some recent marble work by Fabio Viale: a new version of his linked tires in Infinito (€65,000), a Nike that looks as if it were made of styrofoam (€70,000) and a tattooed Venus, two meters tall (€190,000). The Main Section also features most foreign exhibitors, including ‘Italians abroad,' Allegra Ravizza, Cortesi, Silvano Lodi (Lugano), Contini Art UK, Jerome Zodo, Repetto Gallery (all in London), and galleries like Public House of Art (Amsterdam), Piero Atchugarry (Uruguay), Artpark (Germania).

A new section, strongly endorsed by Angela Vettese, is that of the Solo Shows, which focuses on solo exhibitions of prominent artists and names worth rediscovering: “These are mostly living artists, but art is made of influences, so all those artists whose influence is still alive and well, can be considered contemporary,” says the director, citing Mario Schifano, Paolo Icaro, and those women artists “who were very active but were discovered late, and deserve more attention than they've had so far – from Giosetta Fioroni to more recent authors.”

In this section, Luca Tommasi of Milan presents Joseph Marioni, an exponent of American radical painting: his acrylics on canvas, Liquid Light, part of the Whitney's Collection and the Mumok Collection, cost from €35,000 to €70,000. Milan's M77 Gallery is featuring a solo exhibition by Odili Donald Odita, Nigeria-born American abstract artist whose work goes for €35,000 to €70,000.

The most experimental section, Nueva Vista – which explores the balance between market and research – counts three galleries, A+B of Brescia, MLZ Art Dep of Trieste, and Berlin's Galerie Mazzoli.

(Arte Fiera, Bologna, Jan. 27 to 30)