About This Festival
Art. But For Everyone.
It's midday. You walk through the imposing white doors of the Torino Esposizioni – the large exhibition center that has been a focal point of Paratissima since 2014. The room is loud. The hubbub from artists and galleries mixes in with kids' workshops and talks. The white marbled ceiling stretches ahead in waves and ripples, zig-zagging back on itself. Light streams in from the hundreds of overhead windows and a majestic round dome sits at the end of the walkway. This could easily be the meeting point for the next Jedi council. In front of you, an artist is adding visitor fingerprints to his canvas; it's a participatory piece on social control. To your right, playful wire figures dangle from the ceiling and a young curator animatedly explains why she selected these beautiful works. You watch a photo docu-series from a Brazilian journalist, set up in a quiet garden passageway. Later, you pass by a fashion show in a sun-drenched courtyard. Bunting flutters against the grey cobbles. A clay couple are embracing next to the water fountain behind you. Everywhere, Turin seems to be intermingled with art. Friendly and excitable, the atmosphere here is more about community than industry. This is an inclusive event, opening up the art world to all. It's as much about making and learning through doing as it is about consuming or watching.
Focusing On the Wider Ecosystem
Paratissima is a five-day contemporary art fair that aims to reconnect the wider public with art and shine a spotlight on up and coming artists. With specialist sections on fashion, design, video and photography, young artists have a platform to experiment and build. After all, how are emerging artists meant to emerge, without a space to do so? This ethos is visible in other aspects, too. Young curators also have a chance to hone their skills – graduates from a course earlier in the year lead the curation of several of the exhibition areas. And for the early stage art collectors among us, the small galleries project gives ample opportunity to make a first purchase, if that's your thing. (The galleries sell works priced $5,000 and below).
Getting Art Back Into the Everyday
It all started back in 2005. As the glitterati of the contemporary art world descended upon Turin for the annual Artissima art fair, on the other side of town, seven artists exhibited their work in an empty apartment. Their attitude was, if they hadn't yet made the lineup at the trendy art fair, then they would start their own. And so, Paratissima was born. The next year the founding artists took over an abandoned building and attracted 3,500 visitors. For four years, they went where there was space and interest to host them, moving between vacant offices, open shops, an old butcher's front and so on. They attracted international interest and had sister events and partnerships in Portugal, Sardinia and Macedonia. In a few short years, Paratissima established itself as one of the leading events in the national art landscape with over 400 artists and 50,000 visitors in 2016. (Incidentally, that's as many as the original Artissima fair has these days, too).
Considering this success, it would be easy for Paratissima to merge into the other established art fairs, bringing in bigger galleries and bigger names. They do now exhibit more established artists, if those artists are interested in engaging dynamically with a wider public audience. However, the central ethos remains the same: showcasing emerging artists for the wider public. Their understanding is that the beauty and appreciation of art should be present in the everyday. Art and the experience of it is visible and interactive, not inaccessible or exclusive to a particular class or economic demographic. This was the logic behind the 2016 "360 Degrees Project," which turned everyday destinations in Turin (shops, cafes) into spaces with exhibits, all year round.
You see, this too is the learning-by-doing focus of the festival which explores design and new technology, as well as creativity. Attend workshops and art sessions for little kids and big kids of all ages, where you can make jewelry out of LEDs with the FabLabs group, learn about tattoo techniques, or how to use waste material creatively. Take a guided tour with an art historian and be surprised halfway through with a participatory theater intervention. The theme each year guides the exploratory sessions, to an extent.
New Forum For Street Art
For many, the term "street art" used to conjure up little more than an image of some late-night illegal tagging. A public nuisance. However, support for the legitimacy of the genre is growing, with even the Italian Supreme Court recently accepted its first piece of street art – to be hung on the walls, not used as an exhibit in a crime case. Street art is now understood to be wider than traditional graffiti art work; the genre now also sticker art, video projection, street installations, stencil graffiti, wheatpasting and flashmobbing – basically any art that is developed in public spaces.
The Galleries@Paritissima area opened up an "urban" section in 2014, giving a forum for street art in Italy, which had been previously somewhat ignored. Now, it's a place for galleries, street artists and the public to all meet and chat. A strong presence at this urban art forum has been the cultural association Il Cerchio e Le Gocce (The Circle and the Drops), which acts as an information stand on street art and describing their latest interventions and regeneration projects in urban communities.
So, ask yourself: How much art is there in your daily life? Do you see beauty, color and creation all around, or is it a walled-off concept, kept safely wrapped up in the occasional gallery visit? To discover Turin through art, and vice-versa, head to Paratissima for a friendly, interactive few days with Italy's emerging artists.