WoMA: Renata, you graduated in Law. What happened that you decided to switch from Law to Arts?
I graduated in Law in 90s and then I commenced working for Marketing and Communication departments in different American multinational corporations. At some instant moment, I felt disgust towards multinationals and decided to quit. I realized that it was time in which a being a soldier in a multinational was not worthwhile any more. From that moment collecting art works became my hobby. My farther was passionate about arts and made a collection.
I always travelled a lot, visited museums and galleries, and I always had passion for it. During my travels I got acquainted with a multitude of artists with whom I had an opportunity to talk to and discuss a lot, which was a very inspirational experience for me. There is one particular artist named Sergio Fermarello, who does not collaborate even with me, to whom I still say: “It is your fault that I opened a gallery”, and he was always saying to me: “you have this feeling, you know how the things should be done”. In 2009, in a very naïve way I opened my gallery, which that time I named Fabbri Contemporary Art. The gallery was aimed at research of minimalism and meetings with established artists. I started collaborating with a minimalist artist Christine Ebere, a very talented German sculptor. Together we arranged a totally white exhibition with white synthetic ceramic sculptures. And visitors coming to see the exhibit always asked: “Where are the art works?”
I say in a “naïve way” because the gallery is a company, there is a very specific market with very specific players and very well defined stakeholders. And at the very beginning I was pretty ignorant about all of this. The truth is that we learn by doing. I made several good shows with Augustine Bonalumi, with Paolo Radi, I also met Enrico Castellani and created a successful association with Grazia Varisco. All of them are very important artists who have marked contemporary art history. Last year I decided to re-open the gallery, changing the name and changing artists and my approach to research. However, reopening the gallery under a new name I did not throw away the experience of previous five years. It was a reopening of contemporary art on behalf of Renata Fabbri. A new way of how to expose a piece of Italian art history.
WoMA: In Italy collectors and the general public are very difficult to influence. It is difficult to open a new space to expose new works that this very moment are not in trend but nevertheless bear important artistic value. Does your experience as the gallerist fall into this phenomenon?
What I have learnt those years is that Italy is not an easy place to open a gallery. Italy is a country of fashion where collecting is very conservative and very speculative in terms of investment. This bond with fashion that exists in Italian market invalidates the process of collecting. Especially, this concerns young artists. whom becomes hard to represent and promote as far as collectors are more interested in the returns of their investments and opt for artists with a experience of exhibitions. There are artists who are out of favor because they merely do not fall into the trend of these days. My motto is: “people buy works they like, and the works are beautiful if every day they can tell you a story”. To make the thing worse, it is to say that some major galleries in Milan that have coalesced together are pretty snobbish, making up a kind of trust in which it is difficult to get in. Nevertheless, I am convinced of my proposal, and it takes me a lot of courage and patience to do what I do. I did not have this knowledge in 2009 when I opened, but today I’m much more careful and attentive.
WoMA: What risks do personal exhibitions imply?
If an artist is young, it is much more difficult to build a relationship between him and the space. I like when the artist is in love with the space, he has a full freedom to distort it and do whatever he wants with it.
Still, it is a good test for the exhibition and a gallery owner: you put everything in play for a month and a half representing an artist even with the risk of selling nothing. But they are always new beginnings and there never will be the only and unique exhibits. If the first does not succeed, another one will go well, if you are a gifted artist, of course. For instance, Mark Paganini, whose works are now displayed in the gallery. I recognize a great talent in him for his mind, coherence and his rigor. I could arrange the show in a more “procurer” way, revealing everything at once. But no, we decided to take another path and manage the space differently.
WoMA: What does it mean for a gallerist to grow together with an artist?
It is to some extent a mission of a gallery owner to nurture an artist because being a gallerist also means to leave a mark of the relationship you have with the artist as well as create reliability and credibility. The relationship with the artist is a strong bond that sometimes can be confrontational, because it’s almost like a love affair. The gallery owner has a great responsibility for the artist whether he is young or already established. It is also about ensuring a strong feeling of collaboration that gives sense to the artist and his work. The gallerist becomes a “mommy”, especially for young artists, guiding them toward certain choices, trying to find certain critics who are capable of writing about these artists, suggesting their works to be shown on other exhibits, and, above all, promoting their works to be part of collections. The word of mouth plays its crucial role, too. Then there are serious and less serious artists, and it is where you can make a mistake. (I’m know sure whether this sentence should be included)
WoMA: The artistic world is known to be pretty close. What are the difficulties considering the work in this field for a woman?
The women have to make a threefold effort and tend to make less money then the men. And usually they are much more courageous. There are several very prominent women gallery owners, notwithstanding that the biggest and the most influential art market players are men. But this is part of the history and a legacy of years of machismo. And it is true to say that large financial transactions are in the hands of men. But I think Peggy Gugghenaim, Palma Lucarelli should be considered as great models. My heroine is definitely Ileana Sonnabend. There are important galleries run by women, and I do not see the big barriers. What I feel more is a closure on the part of colleagues, but without any discrimination. I think there have been some great openings, and there are so many capable women that some day will come out with something.
WoMA: Which, in your view, are the gaps that the art market may have, knowing that a first market gallery spends a lot of time on research for a new artists while those of the second market take already known and established works? What are the intricacies of the market?
It is to be noted that there are too many people, there are too many players and there is much confusion, and unfortunately there are these merchants who greatly affect the system and distort it. Especially in Italy, the system of art is sick. In galleries of Berlin and London there is a lot more research, there is much more testing, the collecting is more lively and wider. Yet, this does not happen here, because of the fault of these influencers. However, I do not think everyone wants the same thing, neither I believe that all people buy without really knowing the value of the work, or buying just for the name or for that it is in fashion at the time.
WoMA: The world of art fairs has been developing and evolving constantly. What do you think of it?
There are too many of them. There is one art fair taking place every day but the only most important in Italy are Miart and Artissima. However, even these fairs have become very punctilious and difficult to enter in. Yet, they are crucial as they facilitate networking and relationships. Not to mention that a gallery been chosen for ArtBasel, the most important European art fair, gets a high level of acknowledgement.
Anni Wu, Giorgia Papaleo, Natalia Barinova