An art in itself

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-9-5 17:50:03

This Friday sees the opening of an annual carnival of contemporary art in the city - SH Contemporary 2012. Now in its sixth year, the fair is taking place at the Shanghai Exhibition Center from September 7 to 9. The event is now generally recognized as the most important contemporary art fair in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Global Times interviewed Massimo Torrigiani, director of SH Contemporary 2012 who has been active in contemporary art and culture circles for 20 years. He is also a partner in Boiler Corporation, a creative agency and publishing house based in Milan, as well as being the publisher and co-editor of Fantom-Photographic Quarterly, an international art magazine. He has also contributed to publications such as L'Uomo Vogue, Purple Fashion and Rolling Stone.

SH Contemporary 2012 is taking place at  the Shanghai Exhibition Center from September 7 to 9. Photos: Courtesy of SH Contemporary
SH Contemporary 2012 is taking place at the Shanghai Exhibition Center from September 7 to 9. Photos: Courtesy of SH Contemporary

GT: As the fair director of SH Contemporary for the last two years, how do you rate last year's SH Contemporary?

Torrigiani: Shanghai triggers everybody's imagination. Last year we reached another stage of the project, with a new vision, a new strategy, new allies and new goals. Sales were good, and so was the feedback. Our main objective was to reconquer the most important Chinese galleries, and we did. This year we have added to the fair some of the best galleries in the world: Massimo De Carlo from Milan and London, Mitzuma and ShugoArts from Tokyo, and Urs Meile from Beijing and Lucerne, to name just a few.

The number of collectors coming to Shanghai for SH Contemporary 2012 is impressive. Our Now Ink exhibition and Hot Spots projects are of museum quality. We are turning SH Contemporary into an institution without becoming corporate; we are building an efficient commercial platform without being prone to commerce.

Some artworks on show at the art fair
Some artworks on show at the art fair

GT: What is new or eye-catching at SH Contemporary 2012, compared to last year's event?

Torrigiani: The quality of the galleries and their programs. I personally can't wait to see the fair mounted and to walk into the center when the preview opens at 5 pm on September 6 as if I were a guest. I am proud of the projects we have organized for the second consecutive year with Arthub Asia - the curatorial team led by Davide Quadrio with Defne Ayas, who is also the director of Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, and Qiu Zhijie, one of China's most admired artists and chief curator of the Shanghai Biennale 2012. Most of the works on show at SH Contemporary 2012 are either new commissions, or they have never been seen in China before.

I am proud of our new Focus section, which, every year, will explore the output of a different country or region. This year it's India, with works by Shilpa Gupta and Aaditi Joshi, among others. This is the result of a project we developed with the support of the Creative India Foundation. I am also proud of Ye Shanghai, the audio-visual work Roberto Paci Dalò developed here in Shanghai with students from the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts at Fudan University, and which will be premiered with a live performance during the opening. We will also have a series of giant projections - 15 by 10 meters - that we commissioned Zhang Enli, Yto Barrada, Raqs Media Collective and Maurizio Anzeri to create. These are all world premieres.

The Video Room this year is curated by New York-based Independent Curators International: 35 single-channel videos selected by 35 international curators who each chose one work from an artist. It is the first time that most of the artists featured are being shown in China.

Some artworks on show at the art fair
Some artworks on show at the art fair

GT:  What's your actual job at the fair? And what is the most challenging part?

Torrigiani: Translator, misinterpreter, creative, strategist, consultant, manager, spokesperson, salesman, facilitator, catalyst, laowai, galvanizer, confidant, leader, partner and man of service. And all of this is achieved with my team at Bologna Fiere China. The only return we are interested in is the satisfaction of gallerists, artists, collectors and visitors. We listen and work as closely as possible with dealers, collectors, curators, museum founders and directors, artists and professionals from the creative industries, academics, the media, our partners and sponsors.

GT: What is your criteria for selecting galleries and artworks?

Torrigiani: We go and see their exhibitions, visit them at other art fairs, analyze their programs, follow the developments of their artists, listen to collectors, look at catalogues and read reviews.

We want those that invest in their space, who support and promote their artists in a sensitive, non-speculative way and who are constantly improving the quality of the presentations.

GT: What, in your eyes, defines good contemporary art?

Torrigiani: I am tempted to quote John Cage saying that this is such a good question I wouldn't want to ruin it with an answer. Highbrow and lowbrow, the academic and the experimental, new and old, the absolutely for profit and the totally not-for-profit, the personal and the political, the global and the local, the conscious and the unconscious, ignorance and knowledge, naiveness and experience, the material and the spiritual, mind and body, the visible and the invisible, artists and curators, dealers and collectors, critics and the general public, art fairs and biennales. Contemporary art is where dichotomies and hierarchies clash and implode.

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Some artworks on show at the art fair
Some artworks on show at the art fair


Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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