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Sant’Andrea de Scaphis

text Cecilia Canziani
photo Valentina Stefanelli

October 17, 2018

Contemporary art in Rome. Places to mark in agenda

La scena artistica contemporanea di Roma non è mai stata così vivace

The contemporary art scene in Rome is not just museums, institutes and foreign academies, but also private galleries and non-profit foundations opened by collectors and patrons, which often work in parallel with museums or are similar to the Kunsthalles. A research environment characterizes all of these equally, thus contributing to building a system that thrives on relationships and dialog among spaces, artists and languages.

Let’s take an afternoon walk through the famous streets of the city center to discover some contemporary places. We can start from Trastevere, in the part of the neighborhood near Santa Cecilia, and pass through the doors of T293, in Via Ripense 6 where, until October 28, you can see an exhibition by Claire Fontaine, the award-winning collective of artists based in Paris. Born in Naples in 2002 as an artist-run space, it has been a gallery since 2006 maintaining its curated style and continuing to support emerging artists whose research has a strong procedural and conceptual component.

The wide open spaces of Via Ripense with their industrial connotation suggest interest in the work aspect as a characteristic of art making, and arise each time as a challenge presented by the Gallery to the artists, including Tris Vonna-Mitchell, Martin Soto Climent, James Bekett and Lorenzo Scotto di Luzio.

Nearby, in Via de’ Vascellari, the small ninth-century deconsecrated church of Sant’Andrea de Scaphis has been the Roman headquarters of the New York art dealer Gavin Brown since 2015. Many years ago, together with the Franco Noero Gallery of Turin and the Modern Institute of Glasgow, he had animated a space in the capital. This new project almost always hosts site-specific works and has a preference for performance, from its opening with a performance by Rirkrit Tiravanija to the exhibitions of Karl Homqvist, Urs Fisher, Uri Aran and Jannis Kounellis.

From here, after crossing the Tiber Island, passing through the ghetto you arrive at the Lorcan O’Neill Gallery in Vicolo dei Catinari 3. This large space that is accessed from a courtyard adorned with a fountain dedicated to the birth of Venus, once housed the stables of the palace built by the Santacroce family between 1598 and 1668. About 15 years ago Lorcan O’Neill moved to Rome from London, with the idea of opening a small space away from the main centers of contemporary art and making it a sort of incubator of ideas. The gallery has been in its present location since 2014 and represents international artists, including Jeff Wall, Rachel Whiteread, Tracey Emin and Betty Woodman, but from the beginning it has looked to collaborate with Italian artists, both well-established ones such as Luigi Ontani or Giorgio Griffa, and younger ones such as Pietro Ruffo, Emiliano Maggi and Gianni Politi in an interesting transgenerational comparison on languages and techniques.

Pass by Campo de’ Fiori and continue towards Banchi Vecchi to reach another former stable this time of a 16th century palace that is home to the Monitor gallery. Opened in 2003 it has stood out from the very beginning thanks to its experimentation and an interest for new languages with a focus on videos and installations. In recent years Monitor has opened an attentive research project on painting and has started collaborating with abstract interpreters such as Claudio Verna and Duane Zadoulek, while also looking to the work of young and emerging artists like Thomas Braida, Nicola Samorì and Ian Tweedy. Between 2014 and 2015 the Gallery opened a pop-up space in Manhattan, a project halfway between a gallery and a residence, which continued with the opening of a second location in Lisbon, with the goal of intertwining trajectories and creating networks between cities and artist communities.

Since 2000, not far from Piazza di Pietra, at number 17 of Via dei Prefetti 9, there is Magazzino, whose spaces separated by a courtyard into two distinct architectural bodies have been temporarily transformed by Los Angeles-based Chinese artist Yan Xing – on display from September 28 – in a monumental scale environment, an uncanny place that evokes the architecture of the Fascist period. Also in this case the space itself is often the starting point for the interventions of the artists represented by the Gallery, including the Italians Massimo Bartolini, Alberto Garutti, Elisabetta Benassi and Alessandro Piangiamore, and foreigners such as Jan Fabre and Mircea Cantor.

You can find these galleries when visiting the largest international fairs such as Frieze, Art Basel or MiArt and in the biggest museums in the world, for example Tate, Kunsthalle Basel, Palais de Tokyo, there are the works of some artists we found in these spaces. The professional careers of many artists started in this city, thanks to the support of its galleries and collectors. Patronage is indeed a distinctive and ancient trait of Rome. It is of little wonder then that, in recent times, this inclination has led to the creation of many different foundations that, although supported by private individuals, act as if they were public institutions, supporting the exhibitions with conferences, meetings and educational programs. 

The Fondazione Memmo - Arte Contemporanea, which occupies the ground floor of Palazzo Ruspoli, is particularly interested in deepening the dialog with the city through the eyes of the ‘other’ alternating solo shows with group exhibitions and always involving foreign and Italian artists who are not based in Rome.

Every year an international artist is invited to spend a period of residence in Rome in order to develop a project specifically designed by the foundation and that has, in many cases, also involved collaborations with local artisans, in an interesting return of ancient techniques in a modern contemporary as in the case of Kerstin Bratsch, who used marble stucco for her work, or Camille Henrot, who used frescoes. 

The Conversation Piece exhibition, now in its fourth cycle, is instead a sort of ongoing mapping of artists who are temporarily based in Rome and contribute to its cultural landscape in the form of a collective exhibition.

Inaugurated last year, Musia is a project that is complex, starting from its spaces. In fact, the building stands out thanks to a courtyard by Baldassarre Peruzzi, a 16th-century architect, crossed by a glass gallery that connects the various environments, including the underground halls of the Theatre of Pompey. In Via dei Chiavari there is the Jacorossi collection, an important corporate collection spanning the 20th and 21st centuries, re-established by the critic and art historian Enrico Crispolti, and an installation by Studio Azzurro.


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