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Arte Fiera - Interview with Andrea and Anna Chiara Perugi

Anna Chiara Perugi and Morgana Masu

Interview of Artfacts.Net with Andrea and Anna Chiara Perugi (Galleria Perugi, Padova).

AfN: Good morning Mr and Mrs Perugi.

How long have you been taking part in Arte Fiera?

Perugi: For 8 years.

AfN: What is you impression of this edition?

Perugi: It went quite well.

AfN: Compared to previous editions, what kind of differences have you noticed?

Perugi: This edition has definitely a higher quality standard. I think that the extreme downturn that is noticeable at every fair [these days], is contained. You cannot find one gallery that is not up to its task. The standard is quite good.

AfN: Would it be correct to say that the selection has been more strict this time?

Perugi: The fair presents a high quality selection and a high quality level.

AfN: With your gallery, you take part in many international fairs; some of these are in America. What is the difference between a fair in Italy and a fair abroad?

Perugi: At the American fairs, if you do a good job, everything can happen. Unknown artists can then be bought by the world's best collectors, and create connections with foreign galleries. In the US, there is a less closed and a less conventional outlook.

AfN: The Italian galleries are often blamed for not being able to establish relations with the international network. What is your opinion on that matter?

Perugi: That is nothing new. We do not have an extremely strong market. We do have excellent "solos", and with "solos" I mean artists, excellent galleries, excellent collectors, sometimes excellent museum curators too, but what is missing, is the network. Perhaps we do not enjoy a good press, or we are not as attractive as the other markets, but I noticed that something is changing. A lot of galleries including ours try to step out, to open up. That is very important as it will probably help us to establish those relationships we talked about. [All this might depend] rather on particular skills and on the initiative of a certain number of gallery managers than on the growth of the market itself.

AfN: What do you think of the Italian art network?

Perugi: We could dare a little bit more. I mean, we should have the boldness to go beyond the hype- that is essential, and it is happening. Considering our young Italian artists, our quality level is not really inferior. We just have to dare to step out and to bring them forward. We achieved the best results, when we dared to bring our planning skills forward. Let's just think of the Transavantgarde. I do not believe that there has ever been a more important period than the Transavantgarde, and I think everyone should dare to show what he can do. If you do a good job in the US, it is noticed and recognized.

AfN: Market observers affirm that the art market is booming these days. Do you agree with them?

Perugi: Well, my point of view is very personal because I work in a niche; I work with young people. There are intermittent slumps in the market. We are now experiencing a strange period of time. This year in London, Paris and Miami was not as good as the last year. On the one hand, that could just represent a healthy pause for reflection, on the other hand, it could be the last stop before the abyss - we do not know. But when things are going bad, they usually start going bad at once, and that did not happen. There is definitely a slowdown, but that can be wholesome. Miami in 2006 was unique, not just for me but for everybody. Last year, we all were satisfied in Miami but there was a light braking.

AfN: What do you think of the use of new tools such as the internet in the art world and art market?

Perugi: I was one of the last galleries creating its own website, maybe because of my ignorance or inability, but I have to say that there are considerable developments. In terms of online market and online selling, I made sure that, through the website, I could be contacted by China, Argentina, the USA, etc. ... It surely is a very important communication tool. I have to admit that I was thinking about organizing online fairs too, but I don't know ...

AfN: The time is perhaps not ripe yet, and it would be better to wait ...

Perugi: That is true. [...] You know, people contact me when they already know the artists, but it never happened that anyone contacted me for an unknown artist. I do not know if the internet is a market opportunity, but I know that it is an opportunity to find out. It is a chance to find artists, interesting situations and interesting fairs. In terms of research, internet is essential. [...] [I use the internet in order to look for interesting galleries, such as the wonderful New Image in Los Angeles, and to understand certain steps they make, certain changes etc.] But there is a big difference when I say "This artist is very interesting, I'd like to know more about him" on the one hand, and when I say "This artist is very interesting, I'll buy his work" on the other. Yes, I sold via internet, but 100% of the artists I sold were already known [by the buyer]...

AfN: So if I understood correctly, the internet is quite useful in order to do a precise and systematic research ...

Perugi: If you already know the artist's name, you can surf the web and search for the galleries he is working for, and you can thus already evaluate his work without having seen it directly. [...] But I work with a very young generation of artists who use the comic-strip language, not as a quotation but as a language itself, which is typical of the new generations. That does not mean that the material and the real feelings that you have, if you suddenly find the work of your life in the corner of a fair or a gallery, cannot be replaced by the new generations who are used to the web. The point is that the new generations do not have the money yet to be great collectors. It is possible that the way of collecting in 5 or 10 years will have changed if today's young people sitting in front of the computer and already thinking differently, set up new standards.

AfN: So in this respect, do you think that we will observe a replacement of today's collectors' generation?

Perugi: I will tell you something very lovely. I work with the artist Laurina Paperina. She is very popular with teenagers, and I think, I am among the few galleries that are visited by 16- and 17-year-old people. Once, a young boy at the age of 15 years, his 12-year-old brother and another little 10-year-old friend compelled their mum to buy a Paperina-drawing. Another time, a 20-year-old guy who lives in London, made a "big" investment of about 1000 euro in 4 instalments and bought a very important Paperina-work. That is just wonderful. I try to be the spokesman of those new trends, and new trends are always set and followed - first of all - by young people. I remember that, during the first edition of Bologna, I presented a young artist born in the 70s, and I did not really sell that much. But when I was watching all the young guys aged between 15 and 20 years, staring attentively at the works at the wall, I understood what I would have to do. Those guys would probably be the buyers in 10 years. We want to keep on searching, and that is the price to pay. If you detect something appealing to young people, you will not sell that much, and your audience will mantain a precise standard. The network will certainly absorb you ...

AfN: Is it true that the Italian collectors are not really willing to take risks, and that for this reason, they do not buy so many works by young artists?

Perugi: That's what we were talking about before. In Miami, I sold my entire booth to the world's best collectors, and I am nobody in the great art scene, and so are or were my artists. But if you do a good job, it will be recognized abroad. Americans are not as conformist as Italians, and that does not apply only to art. In Italy, there is a big standardization of taste prevailing so that people rather buy with their ears than with their hearts.. I did not fall in love particularly with the USA but I have to admit that they are more open-minded. At the moment there is less intellectual conformism, and that is fun because we are able to create and work out great things.

AfN: You do not agree with those who think that there are too many art fairs taking place these days. Is that correct?

Perugi: We think that there are just a few art fairs, and the results prove that we are right. The number of fairs should not increase but the range they offer should be more variegated. We think that for example the new version of Volta in New York is a great event, practically a group show curated by the Volta's manager. In the last edition of Artissima, the new manager left a considerable imprint, too. In short, everyone, except the 4 big, organizes his own fair and leads his own market. It is possible that Berlin is not offering what you are looking for, but that for example Paris has what you need, and vice versa. However, you do not have to visit all the art fairs; there is no obligation to do so. And the collectors do not visit all the fairs either, but the more is offered, the higher are the chances [to find the right place]. It is important for young galleries not just to launch new artists and new trends, but also to explore new markets. I was one of the first who took part in NADA in Miami, and who went to Mexico City. I am already thinking about participating in new fairs. I'd like to go to Puerto Rico for example; there might be some interesting developments to observe. I guess the urge to always search [for new things and new impressions] must be in our DNA.

AfN: So apart from new artists, you search for new markets, too?

Perugi: Well, you have to be willing to take some risks. You have to be curious in order to understand new markets and new situations. I think that a lot of big efforts are made for new layouts of fairs [...]. We are going to lose the traditional fair layout more and more. The variety of proposals will depend on that, too; less manager and more critics will call the shots. Next week, I will be at ARCO, and I know that the booths will be set in motion.

AfN: So it is not so much about the number of fairs but about their ability to reinvent themselves.

Perugi: ...and there is no limit for this reinvention. It is a positive aspect that the important critic Andrea Bellini, a person I always held in high esteem, is organizing a fair. If you cannot find what you need, you will organize another fair; in short, I don't think that there are too many fairs. The market will select. At the end, the number of art fairs will shrink from 400 to 300, and those remaining 300 fairs will be very good. So if I do not find what I need in Berlin, I can always go to Finland.

AfN: Mr and Mrs Perugi, thank you very much for the interview.

Perugi: Thank you, too.

Interview: R. Morgana Masu

Translation: Daniela Bernardo

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