The youngest generation of Italian art spreads thousands of posters around Milan, from the center to the suburbs. More than an exhibition you could call it an invasion of images that are speaking a different language than the bombardment of ads that surround us all. They are images that aren't inviting us to buy something, they're more an invitation to meditate, moments of silence within the urban chaos.
At an ordinary corner or between shop windows, off an outskirt's highway or near a building site, the city becomes an exhibition ground, a huge open space with images stalking everywhere, or simply try to gain space to speak with us.
I thought it might be interesting to ask a few questions to the curator of 'I NUOVI MOSTRI / Life is Beautiful' Massimiliano Gioni.
Suburban reality has a centerplace in contemporary culture and has influenced the use of many different media. How did you first think of curating an event 'en plein aire' in an urban context?
Contemporary culture is very much city-based: artists often live in metropolis; we move quite fast, we run around, posters and commercials are all around us. The city and its public spaces have been used already in the past by many artists and by many curators so maybe it's nothing particularly new: but what we're trying to do this time is to play around with art and communication. In the end I NUOVI MOSTRI is an advertising campaign, but we have taken away the product or better the product is the art itself.
I NUOVI MOSTRI is the title of a classic italian comedy, while 'Life is Beautiful' is one of the best known among the recent italian comedies. They are two very different films, with Risi's and Monicelli's cynicism on one side and Benigni's apparently more light hearted approach on the other. Is young contemporary art moving in two similar directions? Or is it simply in the middle?
I don't know in which direction contemporary art is moving: what is challenging and fascinating is that art is somehow unpredictable and schizophrenic. It has more than one personality: it's a cynic and generous, humorous and tragic. The artists we invited to join this project maybe inadvertently depict our country by both frustrating and confirming stereotypes. Probably they are not even so worried about being Italian, but in the end, if you look at their work closer, they do say something about their surroundings: the family portraits by Adrian Paci and the lost-in-time-and-space donkey by Paola Pivi, the western exoticism by Giuseppe Gabellone and the images of the Afghan- war by Massimo Grimaldi; the anxious female teenagers by Margherita Manzelli and the surreal, rural fascination by Diego Perrone - among others - may portray a country in continuous flux between its global ambitions and its permanent cultural roots.
Art, today, is relating to many other creative disciplines. Murakami has designed for Louis Vuitton, Mike Kelley has his own record label and here we're about to see a city covered with images by a group of young artists. Do you think this is determining an evolution inside art and the way it reaches people?
I think good art, sooner or later, speaks to everyone. Think of Picasso, Warhol or even Koons. At the Trussardi Foundation we are committed specifically on these issues. For our first event in the city, last year, Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset created an installation that popped up over night in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the true centre of Milan: it was a real car dragging a trailer out of the ground. It represented a comment on globalisation and nomadism, but I'm sure that each passer-by read it in a different way. Maybe contemporary art is about these stories, and their endless interpretations.
Artists occupying spaces that are usually filled with ads; and artists that work with posters, that conceive and design. Today how thin or thick is the line between contemporary art and other media traditionally more commercial like graphic design?
Art keeps absorbing other languages while media and advertising keeps stealing from art. I don't even know if it's so interesting to try and understand who came first. In the end I NUOVI MOSTRI is just a small project which tests both the attention of the public and the artists' ability to communicate. In the music industry there is this great expression: "street credibility". Maybe I NUOVI MOSTRI is about contemporary art's street cred.
What fascinates me is the idea of making art public domain. Is that one of the ideas behind I NUOVI MOSTRI / Life is Beautiful?
It's more about distribution, I think. It's about realizing that you don't always need museums or galleries. We carry art around in our heads and in our memories or visions. So we might as well find it In the middle of the road.
A critic, the artistic director of the Nicola Trussardi Foundation in Milan and curator of 'The Zone' at the 50th Venice Biennale. He also co-curates Manifesta 2004 and is a member of the curatorial team for the presentation of the latest acquisitions of the Dakis Joannou collection in Athens 2004.