De Bellis, one cannot be a contemporary artist if one lives in the past of art

A few months ago we interviewed Vincenzo de Bellis for the report
“How much is contemporary Italian art (re) known abroad?” created by Silvia Anna Barrilà, Franco Broccardi (BBS-Lombard Art + Culture), Maria Adelaide Marchesoni, the author and Irene Sanesi (BBS-Lombard Art + Culture), with support from Arte Generali. Curator and Associate Director of Programs, Visual Arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, USA, de Bellis helped us analyze and understand how the support system for modern art production in our country works. What is the use of health without saving on sometimes unpleasant assessments. Thanks to his international role – now the new task that ArtBasel has assigned from next August, Director Fair and Exhibition Platforms for the four fairs in Basel, Paris, Hong Kong and Miami Beach, as well as leading new events and initiatives – we started from visibility that our country’s artists have internationally.

In your experience, who are the contemporary Italian artists (living) who have achieved greater visibility abroad and thanks to what factors (eg galleries, biennials, exhibitions, curators, etc.)?
Currently living are Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Maurizio Cattelan, Francesco Vezzoli, Rudolf Stingel. The reasons are many. Essentially, it is the workforce that matters because galleries or curators cannot change (contrary to what people commonly think) an artist’s career if he is not supported by a very powerful work. powerful who have not had the same visibility, so the power of work is not enough. The seriousness and support of the galleries is the most important aspect among those you mention.

In your opinion, what are the contemporary Italian artists who have not yet achieved sufficient visibility for their artistic value, and what are the reasons for this lack of valuation?
Among the now historicized living I would say Pier Paolo Calzolari, Giulio Paolini and Luigi Ontani, while among the mid-career I would say Roberto Cuoghi, Lara Favaretto, Rosa Barba, Francesco Arena and Pietro Roccasalva. Here, too, there are many reasons, but in general I would say that a common characteristic – apart from Rosa Barba – is a certain and excessive Italian character. I mean an attitude and if we want a belief to represent a kind of pedigree given by our history, art and culture. But how can one think of being present if one thinks of living in the past? We should think about what we represent now in the world, we are not central to many things, yes, therefore our contemporary art, which represents today’s society, cannot see us excelling. Then there are endemic problems in the contemporary national system, which certainly have a huge impact.

In your experience, what are the stages and elements that favor the international career of a modern Italian artist? And where is the Italian system lacking to support contemporary Italian art on the international art scene?
I think Italian artists need to move more, become world citizens and stop believing that they know more than others. That’s how it will be, it actually is! But what good is it if the present world is concentrated on some topics that we Italians (all) pay very little attention to, focused on defending our supposed cultural superiority that is still given by our ancient history and Renaissance history! The work must be current and speak to everyone, without taking anything from its Italian character. So to talk about Italian artists or Italianness already seems to me very wrong, but then it must be. Then we must radically change the system of academies. Being an artist is a profession, a job, just like the curator is. It’s not a mission. The way of teaching art in Italy is old and does not prepare for the current art world. We need international professors, we need commercial connections, we need entrepreneurial teaching. Artists learn from artists, but if the artists who teach at academies are not successful artists, then how can they teach others? We have lost decades and we have not trained contemporary artists. If we start now, in 20 years we will have real contemporary artists. Galleries and museums follow closely, but the real shortage in Italy today lies in the total lack of level training. There is a shortage of artists and it affects all the others: galleries, museums, collectors, etc.

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