*Featured photo: Isobel Blank ‘Torpedo’ and ‘Two of a kind’ , needle felted wool, foam, glass 2013. Photo credits Kristina Bychkova
Translation by Marina Dlacic
We met with Cristina Artese who in 2017 opened the Gilda Contemporary Art in the heart of Milan. Much more than a contemporary art gallery, it is a place where culture is cultivated with care and passion between events, exhibitions, performances, meetings, presentations and conferences.
Cristina Gilda Artese. Photo credits Kristina Bychkova
Cristina how did you come up with the idea of opening a contemporary art gallery in Milan?
Since 2004 I have embarked on a path in support of contemporary art which first saw me sponsor some initiatives in small galleries. In 2007 at the very dawn of the macroeconomic crisis, I founded Arsprima association for the promotion of contemporary arts, and finally, after 10 years, I thought that in order to be really effective in my goals I would also have to become the promoter of a business activity. In fact, without the market, contemporary art cannot take flight. Making art is also a profession and cannot be limited to a “vocation” and to live, or rather survive, artists must be able to sell their works and do so with a professional sales channel. Hence the decision to open a gallery in Milan because it is my city, but also because I believe that right now it is the true Italian square for contemporary art.
Florencia Martinez ‘Honey-la pietà’ 2017 fabric sculpture 120x70x80cm. Photo credits Kristina Bychkova
The exhibition line of Gilda Contemporary includes artists who experiment with very different materials and techniques. What is the philosophy behind the programming of the gallery?
There are keywords in my selection. First of all, the characteristics of the artists: professional, cultured, and suitably ambitious. Then the topics covered: identity, spirituality, relationship between man and the external environment, understood as a set of different ecosystems but also social systems.In terms of technique, I am also very attentive to experimentation with different media (even within the research of the same artist) and with materials, but with professionalism and without improvisations that become dangerous for both the artist and for collectors.
I am also convinced that there is a common thread that makes my artists distinguishable, it is the “Gilda style” that now even the critics and the public are able to grasp and this is the great result of the intense and tight research work done in recent years.
The Gilda style is based on a formula of elegance, where I believe that elegance is not only attributable to aesthetic factors, but is based on a balance of content and form, with a destabilizing touch of retro melancholy, a bit like the base note of a perfume.
Diptych ‘Untitled’ Cristina Fiorenza, 2021, embroidery and gouache acrylic color, charcoal and markers on linen, 180x130cm. Photo credits Kristina Bychkova
How do you choose the artists to propose and what kind of relationship is established between the gallery and the artists exhibiting there?
As I said I am looking for professional artists; it seems tautological but many in the industry know that this is not the case. Making art for passion is in many ways fun and rewarding but doing it as a profession involves constant research and continuous sacrifices, but above all right now an artist must know the sector and its dynamics and demonstrate that he knows them. A constructive confrontation relationship is established with the artists and projects are developed together. I don’t feel like a mere merchant, I don’t have a shop that sells objects, but together we build paths, through which as the artistic director of the gallery I take care of enhancing the work of individual artists but also of building the history of my gallery and our collecting and retaining an audience.
Speaking of Fiber Art, you have repeatedly proposed artists who create through this language. What is the feedback from the public attending the gallery? Has interest in Fiber Art grown in your experience?
I have noticed that the public is much more aware of the fact that artists who practice fiber art are not craftsmen of threads and fabrics and that the works are not that much more fragile and difficult to manage. Aside from the joke, let’s say that the approach is changing and paradoxically I see the public as less snobbish than a part of the critics, at least a certain part.My audience got used to seeing everything in the gallery, from synthetic to organic materials and now the taboos have been broken. The point is to distinguish between works that are interesting and capable of arousing emotions and stimulating reflections and those that are not. The material or the type of technique does not matter.
Janan Nozari Detail ‘Portrait of a woman #8’embroidery on white sock, 20cm. Photo credits Kristina Bychkova
Who is the audience that attends the gallery? And who is the collector?
The audience is very diverse. We have an audience passing through the city center, those who come to Milan for business, for culture, for shopping and those who live there. Within all these people there are obviously experts and connoisseurs of contemporary art, but also simply, and not least, lovers of beauty and uniqueness. My ambition is to create new audiences and new collecting or simply promote the cult of having something unique and at the same time support culture and art with their purchases.
In addition to the gallery you have also founded a publishing house. Can you tell us more about this experience?
Arsprima, the association I founded in 2007, is also the publisher of a monographic magazine dedicated to contemporary artists entitled Or not. The idea for the magazine was born to give Arsprima a strong identity and I sincerely believe that we have succeeded.We will soon be in its twentieth issue and in addition to the magazine we have published 4 other monographs in the ISBN catalog. In addition to about thirty exhibition catalogs and 3 artist’s books. Were it not for the printed editorial products, the association would have many confused memories and some faded photos. Being also a publisher has allowed us to build a historical archive of the actions taken for the promotion of contemporary art
Janan Nozari Dettaglio ‘Portrait of a woman #8’ embroidery on white sock, 20cm. Photo credits Kristina Bychkova
Many young talents find it difficult to emerge and find exhibition opportunities. What advice would you give to a young artist looking for a gallery to submit their work to?
It may seem trivial, but the first thing is to build your portfolio well, which does not mean inserting too many things but selecting 5 to10 well-photographed works, with good technical notes and your own statement, which should be short but with keywords.Then, another piece of advice is to study the gallery where you are presented: first you need to understand if your work is suitable and your research is consistent with the line of the gallery, then you step forward, otherwise you only risk many doors in your face and horrible disappointments. Look at the site first, go visit the gallery and then step forward!