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Artissima - Interview with Andrea Bellini

Andrea Bellini is the new Artissima director. He lives and works in New York as editor for Flash Art International.

AfN: Good evening Mr Bellini. What was your first approach to Art?

Andrea Bellini: Well, I was keen on modern and contemporary art since high school. Later on, I studied Philosophy, especially Aesthetics, and took several exams on art history. Then I specialised in contemporary art at the Faculty of Archaeology and Art History at the University of Siena. But probably my first interest was born with Frigidaire, a magazine published in the early eighties, a particular avant-garde magazine.

AfN: Yes, I remember. My uncle collected its issues… I think it was really cool…

Andrea Bellini: Yes, I think so, too. My elder brother used to leave Frigidaire at home, and my passion started probably at that moment; I began to love Andrea Pazienza drawings.

AfN: You said that you meant to continue the job of the former director, but in that case, what difference can we expect?

Andrea Bellini: Well, it's not really that. I want to maintain the attention to young artists and galleries. This year is a year of change; I think the differences are pretty clear. At first, I reduced the number of galleries from 172 to 131. The quality of the fairs has improved. We have two sections: present, future and constellations that are curated at exhibitions.. Furthermore, I tried to factor the fair walls into the creative exhibition process.
However, the main idea was to invent a big platform for contemporary art, a fair that is able to present itself every year as a different and new event; the next edition will be different again. It's really important to change. Every art fair needs to renew itself again and again in order to evolve. Otherwise, the public gets bored…….

AfN: Is this aspect of constant change also a necessity in the competition with other fairs?

Andrea Bellini: No, I don't think so. When a new fair arises, a new group of collectors arises, too. It's a very good moment for the art market right now. I don't believe in real competition between fairs. It's an idea that journalists love, but fairs need to develop all the time because the art public, the collectors are really hyper-stimulated by art fairs, the shows, the biennials…..

AfN: Yes, but it's also undeniable that art fairs need to create a particular identity, a special profile…

Andrea Bellini: Yes, that's true. We want to create a particular identity, we want to present a fair on a national and international level - as a place of research, a platform for the contemporary art world.

AfN: Every fair director is underlining the quality of his fair. Do you have a personal idea of what quality in art is?

Andrea Bellini: Fortunately, a personal idea of quality doesn't exist. It's the art system that decides with objectivity and thus sets the values. Of course, every director wishes quality for his fair, but it's a matter of fact that some galleries are good, and some are bad. It's the system of art that establishes and defines the values. This year, it really is a high-quality fair: the galleries are selling a lot, the collectors have understood the message and they have supported it. For the first time at Artissima, galleries are actually selling a lot, and I'm so happy because - in all probability - they will come back next year. But next year, there will be a new change: we are going to reduce, once again, the number of participating galleries from 130 to 110. Twenty galleries will be excluded; only 110 galleries will take part in the next edition, very high-quality galleries - according to the art system and not to my personal idea of quality.

AfN: You live and work as critic in New York, and you brought along several galleries from the United States. Did you bring along some American collectors as well?

Andrea Bellini: It was too early. We cannot bring along American collectors just because the director is good, pretty and fine. Only on condition that we offer a high level product, we will be able to convince important collectors to come here.

AfN: What is your opinion on Italian galleries? Is it true that they are less known and less interested in getting known beyond national boundaries? Some even speak of ostracism….

Andrea Bellini: Oh no, this is absolutely not true. This theory of plots against Italian galleries is completely absurd. We are even doing too much, compared to what our country is investing in contemporary art. There are important Italian art professionals, international curators, important artists who are well-known abroad; we have excellent galleries that play an important role in the international context. Of course, all in all, it's a small percentage, but that's the same situation everywhere…

AfN: Is it true that Italian collectors don't take a chance with young art?

Andrea Bellini: That's somehow true. We have a strong group of excellent Italian collectors, really keen on contemporary art. They love their artists, and they support them. It was, for instance, a group of collectors who supported Arte Povera and other artists. But today, it's also important to have a new generation of collectors.

For me, this fair was a leap in the dark. I arrived in March so I started to work late. It was my first experience as a director. I'm a critic and curator, I worked as editor for Flash Art International, and I had no experience as a manager But I knew that I had to plan an interesting project, that I had to work on quality, and that different aspects had to find the right position - it was a complicated job. However, I love the leap in the dark. It is always an occasion to learn a lot in a short time. It was the same when I arrived in New York, a really fighting context. Anyway, everything seems to go well.

AfN: I know that Sam Keller supported your candidacy. Should we expect some kind of relation with Art Basel?

Andrea Bellini: (laughs..) Yesterday, I was talking to one of the three Art Basel directors, and I made a proposal: I go to Basel, and they come to Turin… it was just a joke… But I can already tell you that important people who work for Art Basel, will work for me next year.

AfN: You have a four-year contract…

Andrea Bellini: Three-year…

AfN: What can we expect from the future? What are your projects?

Andrea Bellini: It's Artissima! It will have a nice future: its quality is improving, at least during my direction. I am not saying that I will be in charge of it forever, but I will be for three years. I can't say exactly how the future will be. I want to create a new fair every year; I have a lot of ideas; we are planning the next edition, and my colleagues and I, we are already discussing new projects, some interesting ideas... Next year, Artissima will again be a high-quality fair, smaller than this one, but really high-profile. We try to renew the conferences that, I think, are out-dated… we are creating something new for the different sections… I think it will be really interesting…

AfN: In previous interviews, you said that you wanted to stress the cultural aspect of the fair, even if a fair actually is a market event?

Andrea Bellini: Fairs are market events and thus, cultural events on a high-level. Art market is culture.

AfN: Thank you very much for the interview.

Andrea Bellini: Thank you, too!

Interview: Morgana Masu

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