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Interview with Silvia Evangelisti, director of Arte Fiera Art First 2007

Silvia Evangelisti, Morgana Masu

AfN: This is an Artfacts.Net interview with the director of Arte Fiera 2007, Silvia Evangelisti. Good morning Professor Evangelisti.

S. Evangelisti: Good morning.

AfN: First question: How did you come to the art world and to Arte fiera?

S. Evangelisti: I came to the art world through my University studies, in Bologna. D.A.M.S. (university career of art, music, theatre and cinema disciplines) was emerging. I studied arts, and I got into visual arts in particular. I began with the history of 14th century art, then continued with the 18th century, and at the end, I wrote a final thesis about Futurism. I worked as an external consultant of Arte Fiera, and I got interested in Contemporary Art. I have been consultant for 18 years, and at the end, I became director, but I have never thought about it… I would have never thought to do it, but it's happened and I enjoy it a lot.

AfN: When you became the artistic director of Arte Fiera in 2003, which objectives did you set?

S. Evangelisti : To have an international fair in Italy, but an international fair that speaks Italian. I mean, Spain has a great international fair, ARCO, which speaks Spanish; France has a great international fair, FIAC, which speaks French. I wanted the same for Italy, and we were working on it, and this year, there are some results appearing.

AfN: Could you draw a first balance?

S. Evangelisti: We have taken 2 years to establish a name that became a brand in Italy, but was only little known abroad. It was known by important international galleries and by the most significant auction houses. Both galleries and auction houses came to the fair in order to buy art. The main task consisted in attracting collectors, an international audience and art enthusiasts, to Bologna Arte Fiera and in making them see its quality, its inventive offer, its originality; it is definitely not just a copy of thousands of other fairs. So, this is our aim: drawing important international galleries to Bologna. Only by direct comparison with the most significant art works, can Italian art show its own great quality.

AfN: The trend seems to go in the direction of a stronger focus on contemporary and emerging than on 20th century art. Do you think that Modern Art will completely disappear in the future?

S. Evangelisti: No, absolutely not. I think that Modern Art went through a period of rethinking; the big boom of the past years has created a rarefied market, the masterpieces are few because great art works were bought by museums or private buyers. It was hard to find great art works, and I believe that, for a certain period, we have only seen art works from the secondary market. But now, bit by bit, there are some very high quality art works reappearing, important art works. I think that Modern Art is restructuring itself on this basis, on documentation work, drawings, art works defined as "less important", but it has gained in historical importance, so there is a revision of this market taking place. Here at Arte Fiera, amongst a few other international art fairs featuring Modern Art as well, we can see great drawings by Modigliani, by Boccioni; really outstanding art works.

AfN: You have an academic background... You attributed great importance to a cultural program. In fact, a cultural fair program is already within reach. The aim is to transform a market event into an event with an increasing interest in cultural aspects?

S. Evangelisti: Of course. It is a market event, and we cannot absolutely change that. But it is a very special market… there are no agricultural machines… It is a market for art works, and art cannot live or breathe if the protagonists are not present. The protagonists are artists, critics, museum curators... And the cultural program is aimed to create more confidence amongst the audience and the protagonists of this world… it is about how art works are born, and how the life of an art work looks like… and, I would like to add proudly that Arte Fiera is very much loved by those artists who usually do not frequent fairs.

AfN: There are just a few international galleries in comparison with the Italian galleries. Which signal does Arte Fiera want to send?

S. Evangelisti: Arte Fiera wants to clarify and testify a fact: the fair is the world's most important window to Italian art. There is a flower that Arte Fiera holds tight: Italian art. I am Italian, so this initiative seems to be taken for granted. But Italian art is little known because of a series of reasons that everyone knows; the most notorious reason is a system that does not support it sufficiently. This country is famous for its ancient art but it can also offer a great quality of recent art and a fair with Italian masterpieces. It is a fair that wants to match and cooperate with the international market, with great artists, with international galleries. We plan to improve the fair every year, to show more quality, but we don't want international galleries outnumber the Italian ones; the fair has to keep its Italian identity. We are working on the quality of international participants, and we have good results.

AfN: Does Arte Fiera have a collector's program?

S. Evangelisti: It has a program called VIP with several special activities for collectors: dinners, visits, and a special visit not only to the Ferrari Museum, but also to the Ferrari Factory - our president is the Ferrari president, he loves Art as much as Ferrari. It is not something that anyone can visit; the factory is not open to public. One activity offered in the collector's program is a tour through the city and to its historical places, following a route of art installations. This was organised by galleries which had been selected by a committee. There is, for instance, the chance to visit the "Compianto del cristo morto" by Niccolò dell'Arca, following the thread from a contemporary art installation to the great beautiful installations by Mimmo Paladino inside the Egyptian Museum. The Egyptian Collection in Bologna belongs to the top five collections in the world, and it is a way for international collectors to get to know the city through contemporary art, to discover at least a little secret of a beautiful city.

AfN: This year, there is again a space devoted to emerging markets of Eastern countries. To which other countries or regions will Arte Fiera draw the public's attention in future?

S. Evangelisti: The program resulted from an interest in these countries that have recently entered in Europe. The project became wider, and we call it emerging markets now. We would also like to draw more attention to Egypt, Albania, Turkey, African Countries, Asian countries… Bologna Fiere planned the very important fair in Shanghai in September; it is not our son but it certainly is the skill acquired at Arte fiera that allowed to do it. So we give a great attention to emerging and especially to young markets. It's clear that our interest in those countries is the present language.

AfN: So we are soon expecting new and inventive approaches in this spirit. What are the next aims? What kind of specialty would you like to create for the fairs to come?

S. Evangelisti: I would really like to ask young curators and young critics to point out young galleries from their home countries and to organise a program where the choice is not made by Arte Fiera, but by their contemporaries. It's not easy but we have already started to work actively on that.
I really love contemporary art, the last tendencies as well, but I am another generation, and my eye is another eye.

AfN: Professor Evangelisti, thank you very much for the interview.

S. Evangelisti: Thank you very much.

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