From the 9th until the 12th of November Milan will host the contemporary art fair: GrandArt for the first time. This was a much-awaited event in this splendid and dynamic city in which I have lived for a few years. A fair that aims to enhance painting and its timeless linguistic code!
Gerhard Richter once said in one of his rare interviews: “I don’t think art has power. But it certainly has value. The people who are interested in art get comfort out of it. He or she gets consolation just by its beauty.”
I had chance many times to meet and talk to Federico Rui, a gallerist as professional who now is the soul of this new and ambitious project.
During my time in the Italian City, I used to go to the Federico Rui contemporary art gallery to see shows of great quality, especially in painting and I’ve met many artists from the gallery to interview them.
It’s a pleasure for me to interview Federico although not leaving in Milan any longer, but in London.
Federico, I have left you as a gallerist and now I find you as the mind behind the new fair in Milan; “GrandArt”. How has this project started?
I am still a gallerist and I don’t like to be called something else. I have just to be more courageous and gave voice to a need I have been feeling for some time. I have been working in painting since 2002, but my experience goes back to 1995, before I opened my first gallery. At that time I was an apprentice in an historical Milanese gallery…But for a long time I missed “another” type of fair mainly because I had attended many fairs and exhibitions abroad. I wanted to create a meeting that could represent the world of contemporary painting. In the various (and long) assignments abroad I could confront myself with other colleagues, Lorenza Salamon firstly, who is the co-creator of the fair project. After two years of preparation we have created GrandArt, thanks to the organisational forward-looking support of Promoberg e Media Consulter.
Objectives and mission of the project?
GrandArt aims to represent the world of contemporary painting, of doing well and combine an idea with a technique. It wants to give voice to those galleries (and slice of the market) that research in the field of figuration, which is part of our Dna. We are very much appreciated aboard, but more than often it is more convenient to import foreign artists to the Italian market than having the courage of export ours.
At the fair we’ll have retrospective dedicated to Gianfranco Ferroni, with works coming from important private collections. He has dedicated his life to painting research.
Are there any criteria to take part to galleries?
The main criteria are the quality expressed by the painting, sculpture and original graphic. The scientific committee has thought it was appropriate to seal a dialogue with galleries in order to represent the distinctive character of the fair; painting, contemporary, primary market.
How many galleries are going to be at the fair and how many artists?
Thanks to the ANGAMC (the national association of modern and contemporary art galleries), there will be fifty galleries for a total of more than 200 artists. Many of them are “affordable”; they are young emerging talents to keep an eye on. We can also count on the precious contribution of Exibart as a media partner, as well as Kooness for the online catalogue and Ciaccio Brokers for insurance services.
I have known you as a gallerist that is open to new things and I saw you investing in young artists, also international. Have you kept this modus operandi in this occasion?
In 1997, when we still had the 56K connection to the Internet, I launched an online art platform and worked on the development of some art software. I love new things and I love studying innovation. But I don’t want to disown my origins and who I am. The Italian painting tradition has always been the most important in art history. We certainly praise the longest tradition. A new technique is not always synonym of innovation. The hardest challenge is to bring personality and character to painting while accepting the comparison with many centuries of history. The fair wants to be an exploration, that is why I insist on the words “painting”, “figuration”, “primary market”.
Do you feel more comfortable in being a gallerist or the creator of a new contemporary art fair?
I was born and still am a gallerist. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
This is the first step for a new challenge. Are you excited? What do you expect and what do you wish for the future?
There is always excitement when you put passion in any kind of jobs. My generation is peculiar…We were kids in the boom of the 80s, we saw Tangentopoli and the passage to the second republic, the adjustment of the 90s and the drama of 2001 and the crisis of 2008.
The moment of crisis always bring something new in art and when there is wellbeing it is rare to witness big artistic ferments. I wish there will be less attachment to a particular fashion and more “investing” in contemporary art. I wish there will be more respect and dignity for all kind of jobs and I also wish that those that think they are smart will soon get their bill to pay.
You’ve attended many fairs in Italy and abroad. Do you have any intention to bring more innovation through?
I would say that presenting figurative painting to the primary market is already a big news…
Installations, experimentation and conceptualism make the headlines. But the real news is that 69% of transactions is below $5,000 (and goes up to 94% if we bring the threshold to $50,000).
Painting makes 67% of the market and millionaires always prefer this technique. In 2016 there have been 173 wins for millions of dollars from paintings against 38 wins from other techniques…
Federico, I will leave you with the last question. Your personal definition of art
Art is something irrational that strikes you. There are some well-painted works that don’t say anything, others are imperfect and tell more than a thousand words. I am not religious but I love a saying from San Francis, that goes: “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
Thanks to Valentina Romeo for the English translation