How Pablo Bronstein could help Turin to become the new Berlin

Stefano Pirovano  -  January 25, 2018

Pablo Bronstein’s current exhibition at Franco Noero’s new gallery space in Turin is a message to the city. Who will get it first?

Only time will tell if, in the realm of contemporary art, Turin really is the new Berlin, hence the European mecca for artists and galleries. But Pablo Bronstein’s solo exhibition currently at Franco Noero‘s new gallery space – that is located in Piazza Carignano, at Carignano’s theater original building (XVIII cent.) -, may indicate to the city the way forward; which apparently is still that of integrating contemporary creative energies into Turin’s terrific cultural heritage, charming historical buildings, and prestigious public art collections.

Many other cities in the European Union offer affordable real estate at the moment, starting from Lisbon, Madrid and Berlin itself ( …and Turin is not a capital). Nevertheless only a few cities are as rich as Turin with art collectors, galleries, high quality public institutions, artisans, knowledge. And very few of them can offer the same quality of life, especially during the weekend. Moreover, a very few of them are so well located on map. Turin has its own international airport, a new underground train connecting the city, and it’s only 45 minutes by train from Milan; 3 hours by train from Venice; less than 6 hours from Paris (station to station).

Pablo Bronstein is a sophisticated Argentinian artist with a fervid imagination and a passion for XVIII and XIX century architecture. He draws on white paper evocative structures or objects addressing both existing and idealistic buildings, handcrafted items, decoration motifs. Apparently their main function is to arouse the viewer’s imaginative mind in order to take it to mysterious cities, or interiors, placed in a parallel reality which geography is known only to the artist himself. He does also effective performances, with dancers and actors animating his half invented and half real visual narrative.

In occasion of his second exhibition at Noero gallery Bronstein responded to the outstanding patrician XVIII century apartment which is hosting the show by questioning the same concept of ‘chinoiserie’ that have inspired the original decoration of the interior. The exhibition titles ‘The largess of China seen from a great distance‘ and presents a body of works apparently inquiring western’s people idea of China. Similarly to those artists who have painted on the walls of this apartment ‘their’ own idea of China and Chinese painting, Bronstein is apparently representing China from a precise, and somehow lyrical point of view. Which is that of a South American artist based in London at the beginning of the XXI century.

The main piece in the show’s first room is a wide horizontal drawing that has a baroque theatre on one side and a Chinese patrician architecture on the other. A ‘great distance‘ separate them, but apparently it’s the same wide mental space the viewer needs to cross to be able to spot the reference of the small drawing hanging on the opposite wall, which is titled ‘Roof in the style of Regency political caricature‘. Bronstein drew it with ink and watercolours in the style of British caricaturist and printmaker James Gillray (1756-1815), who satirized prime ministers, generals and the King George III himself, particularly regarding his imperialistic foreign policy. The third work in the room is titled ‘Chinese clock mounted or French bronze, marble and porcelain base‘. The clock has Chinese characters instead of numbers, two yellow dragons supporting it. It leans on a French imperial style plinth…

The other rooms contain a ‘Large crane‘, ‘The moon reflected in central pond of the main examination hall to the imperial Bureaucracy and Administration in Beijing‘, ‘a lime green champlevé enamel model of a guillotine‘, a ‘Zeppelin hangar‘ (all these works are from 2017). Hypnotic wallpapers suggest there’s an entire city surrounding the gallery space. Its citizens, which never appears in the drawings, are performing in three different videos.

Hence, why is this exhibitions is so important for Turin? Because Bronstein is not just presenting a set of important works (by the way, they’re all sold). He is also extending the message of the apartment’s original decoration, bringing its message back to the present time. He is reading the rooms and responding to the same social environment they were conceived for in order to prove that there is a future beyond the white cube where memory and history are cultural values not only to be jealously preserved, but also to be carefully nourished. They are the fundamentals of innovation. Turin, as some other Italian cities, just need to better melt each of the many historical layers it has into the present time.