From MAN in Nuoro to Artissima: an interview with Luigi Fassi

CFA (from Turin)

Luigi Fassi is the new director of Artissima, the contemporary art fair that promises to bring art’s future to Turin

Last February, the Board of Directors of the Torino Musei Foundation appointed Luigi Fassi as the new director of Artissima, which opens its twenty-ninth edition to the public this week. Born in Turin in 1977, Fassi was the coordinator of the Present Future section of the fair from 2010 to 2017 before directing the MAN, the Art Museum of the Province of Nuoro from 2018. We reached out to him a few hours before Artissima’s preview, seeking to understand his vision on the present and the future of a fair with many souls and a traditional propensity for discovery.

Luigi Fassi, Artissima 2022 Director © Giorgio Perottino / Artissima

What was Artissima like when you were appointed director and how have you shaped it for the future?

Luigi Fassi: My goal was to strengthen the international network of the fair without neglecting the Italian scene. With traveling available again, this year I have been able to consolidate existing relationships, but also to create new ones. Facts show how this work paid off: of the 174 galleries participating this year, 42 are those that come to Artissima for the first time, 21 of which from Germany.

What is their expectation?

Luigi Fassi: For foreign galleries, Artissima is an entry point into the institutional system and the Italian market. For Italian galleries, it is an outlook on the international scene. My task was to take up again the story interrupted by the pandemic, presenting it to the public in the right way. Collectors expect to see something different in Turin than what they see in mainstream fairs.

In this regard, how does Artissima position itself in the global fair scene?

Luigi Fassi: In recent years, Artissima has been termed a ‘first time fair’. In other words, galleries, both Italian and foreign, have often begun their fair career in Turin. Some grew exponentially afterwards.

Can we speak of Artissima as a fair focused on emerging galleries?

Luigi Fassi: I would say so. But Artissima also knows how to be effective for those galleries that instead aim to strengthen their established identity.

How so?

Luigi Fassi: Artissima traditionally offers exposure to very heterogeneous collectors. This year, we also made sure we offered a welcoming situation not only to visitors, but to exhibitors too.

Does it help being in Turin?

Luigi Fassi: Of course. In this regard we have strengthened the synergy with the city, and with the museums that, like Artissima, are part of the Torino Musei Foundation, namely the Museum of Eastern Art, The Turin Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Palazzo Madama – Museum of Ancient Art. From a purely cultural point of view, it helps that Artissima has no compelling commercial reasons.

What do you mean?

Luigi Fassi: The fair’s identity is undoubtedly commercial, but its nature also allows the event to be exquisitely cultural, like a museum.

Who are Artissima’s direct competitors in the world of art fairs?

Luigi Fassi: The art fair landscape is getting more and more complex: There is a growing offer and one might ask why. For our part, we look at realities such as Arco Madrid, with which Artissima shares some interesting trends. You also have the emerging art fairs, which we also look at with great attention. I am thinking of Paris Internationale, ART-O-RAMA, and Liste. Despite all similarities, Artissima has its own specific identity, which we want to defend.

Like the Torino Musei Foundation, Artissima is the expression of a public structure, which includes the City of Turin and the Piedmont Region. Is this an opportunity or disadvantage?

Luigi Fassi: Precisely because of this specific nature, Artissima provides economic and cultural development, as well as a great opportunity to enlarge the city’s network. In this sense, the institutional presence that Artissima is able to attract should not be overlooked. Curators and museum directors from all over the world come here to discover.

New art as well as the city itself.

Luigi Fassi: Exactly. This is the networking opportunity I was referring to. Artissima feeds on the city, and vice versa, bringing a very high profile audience to town.

What do you think is the key to balance the interests of all these stakeholders?

Luigi Fassi: Also because of my personal path, I believe that the point lies in taking a museum approach, at least in terms of cultural ambition.

How long does it take to see Artissima?

Luigi Fassi: At least two days, precisely because there is a lot to discover in the city that hosts it.

In a historical moment like the one we are experiencing, how do you think an art fair should be presented?

Luigi Fassi: Ultimately, a fair is a firm that must create value and therefore deal with unfavorable contexts. With regard to the economic impact of the current world’s situation, we’ll have to take stock at the end of the event. Right now I can only say that it is precisely in these moments of uncertainty that culture is most needed.

Are you hinting at the “transformative experience”, an expression you used to frame this year’s Artissima?

Luigi Fassi: Exactly. I see the fair as a synthesis of intelligence, creativity, and future prospects. Experiencing it should help us.

But galleries have to sell, right?

Luigi Fassi: The fair has existed for 29 years and galleries are happy to return. I believe this is the clearest indicator of the fair’s health and that promises are kept.

Homepage cover image: detail of the frescos with stories of Saint Eldrado, Novalesa Abbey, Piedmont, IX century.

November 2, 2022