The Genteel
December 20, 2014
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Rero, Wunderkammern. Supervised Independence, 2013. Photo courtesy of Wunderkammern.

The main reason for visiting Rome probably is not the capital's contemporary art scene. However, in the last few years The Eternal City is showing potential and interest in becoming an important centre for all kinds of art; in part thanks to bold and forward looking galleries like Wunderkammern. Having become a significant space for urban art, causing pilgrimages to the outskirts of Rome for every opening exhibition, The Genteel was keen to catch up with one of the gallery's key team members. For this week's 5x5, Giuseppe Pizzuto is answering our questions.

1. What is the current situation for contemporary art in Rome?

I believe that Marshall McLuhan’s quote is the key to the correct interpretation [of Street Art]: “the medium is the message”

I would describe it as a transitional phase. This translates to having a mixed scenario with encouraging and undesirable elements. An external observer would certainly appreciate emerging and established galleries presenting vigorous art projects with the presence of the national academies of art and their rich programme of residencies. But concurrently the observer would miss a comprehensive structured system that would act as a solid platform for such galleries to boldly emerge at an international level.

2. The much talked-about economic crisis has hit Italy pretty hard. How are you feeling this in running an art gallery?

The economic crisis in Italy is deep and very serious, and the art market has of course also been hit by it. On the other hand, the crisis of the financial market has led some investors to take out money from the stock and bonds in order to invest them in art (as well as in gold and other similar goods). We actually decided to expand the Wunderkammern gallery in October 2008 exactly when the crisis hit the financial markets. The crisis has acted as a sort of filter allowing quality and professionalism to emerge and get stronger.

3. You show a lot of street art in your gallery, an art form originally born out of illegal 
graffiti and as a rebellion against the art world and the artist-gallery-buyer loop. Some  
people see this as quite a paradox. Do you see any problems in moving street art into the 
commercial gallery?

Dan Witz in action. Photo courtesy of Wunderkammern.
Do notice the face behind the grill. 

Indeed the link between graffiti and street art is very strong. At the beginning of the Eighties, writing, no longer a phenomenon unique to New York, was at the height of its popularity and was already morphing into new forms of urban art: the Billboard Liberation Front in San Francisco, and the Guerilla Girls and John Fekner in New York, transformed urban art into a form on contestation, of militant communication, of self-promotion. 

The Wunderkammern gallery became involved in street art during its quest for public and relational art, which began in 1998. One recent project organized in collaboration with the MACRO Museum in Rome, titled Living Layers, included the participation of Mark Jenkins, renown street artist from Washington DC, and other artists like Valentina Vannicola and Alex Hamilton Auriema who don't actually call themselves street artists. Indeed, I don't think street art should be marginalized or isolated as a contained phenomenon, one detached from the cultural context in which we live. I believe that Marshall McLuhan's quote is the key to the correct interpretation: "the medium is the message." Works that by simply being on the street, whether legal or illegal, ephemeral and freely accessible, possess a common and connotative message that wishes to reduce the distance, the separation, between art and daily life. 

So there is no contradiction in bringing street art into a gallery as for any other art movement. In the enclosed space of the gallery, the artist has the possibility to confront him/herself in the totality of his/her research, bringing together the aesthetic, the technique and the content.

4. Wunderkammern has become very popular since its opening in Rome in 2008, regardless of its position outside of the accessible city centre. Was the location a strategic choice?  
And do you have any plans on changing location?

Inside the Wunderkammern art gallery. Photo courtesy of Wunderkammern.

"Location, location, location!" the business development gurus lively shout! But we made a strategic choice. The choice of innovation. The choice of surprise. The choice of distinguishing ourselves from the rest. At least with regards to what Rome is offering. Indeed, in any other capital cities worldwide, there is not just one centre, but there are many. And this is the trend we wanted to bring to Rome. At the moment we are not planning to move. The Torpignattara neighbourhood loves us and we love this gentrifying neighbourhood. In addition the artists find the gallery space very fascinating with its 300 square meter and its diverse capacities. 

5. You are three co-founders of Wunderkammern with diverse careers outside the art domain. Could you tell us more about that and what your individual backgrounds bring to the table?

Indeed there are currently three directors. One aerospace engineer, one interior designer, and myself, a business lawyer. We all have a link to art, whether from our families or from our personal interests, that fuels our passion for art research and culture development. The beauty of such collaboration is that we mutually enrich each other and we constantly bring innovative views and ideas to the gallery. In addition we bring our professionalism and management experience. So it's really a win-win scenario, on the one side for the gallery development, and on the other to stimulate our continuous interest in art.

Related: It's a Wall - Get Over It!

Related: A Violation

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