THE ENORMOUS POWER OF CONTEMPORARY ART, AS TOLD BY SARAH COSULICH.

by Fulvio Ravagnani

Sarah Cosulich has directed Artissima since 2012. Under her guide, it has become the most interesting contemporary art fair for an international audience, strengthening its experimental identity, inaugurating new ways of engaging curators and collectors in fair activity and opening an innovative section especially for performance. In the past she has collaborated with Francesco Bonami in the 50th Biennale in Venice, working with artists such as Fischli/Weiss, Matthew Barney and Rudolf Stingel. She was curator of the Villa Manin Contemporary Art Centre, where she was responsible for exhibitions and special projects by artists such as Carsten Hoeller, Pawel Althamer, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Gabriel Orozco, Damian Ortega, Tomas Saraceno, Tobias Rehberger, Paola Pivi and Elmgreen & Dragset. For the Cardi Black Box gallery, she came up with a programme of exhibitions that included Jörg Immendorff, Thomas Bayrle, Letizia Battaglia and Piotr Janas. Among her writings are monographs dedicated to Jeff Koons (2006) and Gabriel Orozco (2008). With her, we tried to unravel some aspects of the contemporary creative system.
 
How much good has becoming an entertainment event done to contemporary art?
It only does it good from a visibility point of view because it lets us talk about art to a wider, bigger audience. But it is also a trap because how it is talked about is often misleading or superficial. It creates the impression that contemporary art is a huge melting pot inside of which anything goes. It looks like a circus of artists who want to amaze, sector operators who create or destroy careers and an art market that lives an incomprehensible life of its own, cut off from the history of art. We forget that also in our era, as in those past, art is created that will remain in the books of our grandchildren. Going beyond superficiality and sensationalism, the enormous power of contemporary art must also be considered. That of images that excite, reflect or transform our world. Even without the universal interpretation that historical distance permits, the subjectivity of judgement about contemporary art must remain responsible.
 
Does creativity still have value in 2016? Does it still serve any purpose?
It is never necessary to justify the importance of creativity. Either as contributors or beneficiaries, it remains an essential value inherent in man’s very being regardless of the era he lives in.
 
At Artisssima you reward both the gallery and the most interesting young artist, but what else might be done to support emerging talents? What is still missing?
At Artissima we sit down every year and imagine more and more incentives and opportunities for young galleries and young artists. From the monographic projects of Present Future to positioning of the New Entries section, both at the entrance to the Pavilion, we are aware that we prioritise emergent talent in a way that few fairs can. But a market appointment like a fair can only reach so far. A system exists that also comprises galleries, alternative spaces, academies, museums and curators who follow these youngsters from the first studio-visits right along their path, which must work at full capacity if these artists are to really emerge. Especially in our country.
 
Can you reveal a secret that may be useful to someone deciding to use and live off their creativity?
The secret belongs to the creative, the artist, because they have at their disposal an inborn resource that is not only a unique opportunity, it is also an urgency. There are no recipes apart from the awareness of this gift.
 
Given the international air breathed at Artissima, is any country growing and standing out more than others right now?  
At Artissima we look at emerging new countries from a point of view of the art market and especially of artistic ferment.  Thanks to research and scouting by the curators who work on our committees, in Turin we recognise and involve interesting artists from Latin America or Asia, but also from countries such as South Africa, Colombia and Iran, the latter present for the first time this year. South America is particularly interesting for us because growth on the artistic scene there coincides with the quality of artists waiting to be discovered and rediscovered, but also with a group of hugely potential collectors, both for their growing commercial enthusiasm and their sophisticated and experimental sensitivity.
 

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