Could GRANPALAZZO Be an Antidote to Fast-Paced Art Fairs?

Italy is the home of “slow culture”—the idea that life and its products are there to be savored, rather than scheduled away. It seems that GRANPALAZZO 2015, a new exhibition-event which takes place this weekend in Zagarolo, a town outside Rome, has been curated with this sentiment of steady pleasures in mind. 

  • Margo Wolowiec, Spring Fever, 2015, and It’s Coming and It’s Going, 2015, at GRANPALAZZO 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles.

Just a few weeks after the openings of the EXPO in Milan and the Venice Biennale, GRANPALAZZO reminds the art and design worlds that Italy’s capital should not be forgotten, beckoning them into the Roman countryside. Named for its setting within a grand, 16th-century palace, the program is strung over the course of two days, with all the conviviality and sociability of a languid Italian meal (and indeed, the region’s gastronomy is celebrated).

The real focus, of course, is on an impressive selection of contemporary art, concentrated within a single setting. Encompassing artist installations, performances, and special projects, this first edition is created by a trio of Rome-based female directors: Paola Capata of MONITOR, Federica Schiavo of her eponymous space, and Ilaria Gianni, co-director of the Nomas Foundation.


“We’d like to lay the foundations for a yearly appointment of ‘slow art’ that determines new modes of experience, and which reestablishes value in the ideas of research, production, and perception,” Schiavo told Artsy ahead of the event. “All this should happen in a small yet dynamic dimension.”

  • Hugo Canoilas, Spirit of the Air, 2013, courtesy of the artist and Collicaligreggi Gallery, Catania; Sascha Pohle, Attachments series, 2015, courtesy the artist and Weingrüll, Karlsruhe.

Presented as the antithesis to the “distracting” abundance of a typical art fair, the aim of the event is to encourage close encounters between audience and artwork, and to facilitate new connections between art-world professionals. A well-defined layout will see works by 18 artists installed in the Palazzo Rospigliosi’s rooms, with each of the artists represented by galleries prized for their “high-level curatorship” and their active development of defined tastes aside from passing trends. These include five regional Italian galleries—Zero from Milan, P420 from Bologna, SpazioA from Pistoia, Tuscany, Tiziana Di Caro from Naples, and Collicaligreggi from Catania, Sicily—as well as a host of exhibitors from emergent international art scenes, such as Warsaw’s Galeria Stereo, Karlsruhe, Germany’s Weingrüll, and independent project space Lulu from Mexico City.

  • Vanessa Billy, Mirage, 2014, and Extended Finger, 2014, courtesy of the artist and BolteLang, Zurich; Riccardo Baruzzi

    P.P. dei ricci, 2015, courtesy of the artist and P420, Bologna.

“Each of these galleries’ practices evokes the distinct character of their town and territory, as well as reaching firmly out towards the international art world. Our aim was to reflect on a still existing, true Italian tradition with a rich provincial presence, while at the same time selecting some of the most interesting protagonists of contemporary art scenes,” Schiavo continued.

  • Mohamed Namou, Rite de Passage series, 2015, at GRANPALAZZO 2015. Courtesy of the artist and mor charpentier, Paris/Bogotà.

GRANPALAZZO’s focus on a slower speed of art appreciation does not deny fervent developments on both a local and international level. Within the Palazzo Rospigliosi’s chambers, the show will realize an interplay between diverse contemporary works, while also striking a contrast with the classical frescoes and grotesques of the Renaissance building, which were made by the likes of the Zuccari brothers and Il Domenichino. Highlights of the exhibition include Amalia Pica’s colorful abstractions (from Amsterdam’s Stigter van Doesburg), geometric painting by Maxim Liulca (from SpazioA),  mixed-media pieces by Algeria-born, Paris-based artist Mohamed Namou (from Paris- and Bogotà-based Mor Charpentier), and the poetic works of Croatian Venice Biennale participant Damir Očko (from Tiziana Di Caro). This juxtaposition between the florid painting of the historical setting and the exhibition’s often abstract, forward-looking works reflects paradigms of the Italian art world. 

  • Damir Očko, Study on Shivering series, 2013, GRANPALAZZO 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Galleria Tiziana Di Caro, Naples. 

Schiavo affirms, “Many of the Italian artists have certainly been influenced by the country’s relationship with history, translating through their works gaps and shifts within the official narrative of the past. But today we can also notice a re-reading of the traditions of painting and sculpture, or further, of a new approach towards matter itself. Rome has many hidden artists.” 

The curators also invited local cutting-edge art publications Cura. and Nero to produce elements of the event: Cura. has involved Roman, New York-based artist Paolo Canevari, who will mount a spatial arrangement of monochrome canvases; Nero’s contribution is an “exhibition on paper,” a self-portrait of the recent artistic history of the capital.

  • Installation view of Paolo Canevari, “Monuments of the Memory, 2011 – 2015,”curated by CURA., at GRANPALAZZO 2015. 

Ilaria Gianni also wishes to “challenge the strong heritage and identity of the spaces of the Palazzo” in her selection of site-specific performances. “In different forms and modalities, the performances will let loose the hidden potentials and stories of the building, giving rise to new narratives,” Gianni revealed. 

Engaging the wider context of public space of the town of Zagarolo, GRANPALAZZO seeks to produce a village-like feel, harking back to the vital spirit of the Renaissance, when the Rospigliosi family would stroll through the market and the town. This festive atmosphere of performance will provide, in Schiavo’s words, “the conditions for a real dialogue between the audience and art world professionals, bridging the professional and human gap that often exists in contemporary art events.”

  • Ernesto Burgos, Bic, 2015, and Blush, 2015, at GRANPALAZZO 2015. Courtesy of the artist and The Goma, Madrid.

GRANPALAZZO promises to open up the time and space for deep conversations between art practitioners, curators, critics, gallerists, and the public, to throw an imaginative wrench in the fast-paced workings of the art world.


—Hannah Gregory

Explore GRANPALAZZO 2015 on Artsy.

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