Bonacossa attributes the current enthusiasm for drawings in part to the ubiquity of electronic screens and digital devices. “I think, at least a little bit, all of the digital platforms we live with make the idea of pencil on paper is kind of nostalgic, the gesture really brings you back,” she said. “On the other hand, I also think the art world is in continuous cycles, so things go out of fashion and disappear, and when no one is thinking about them they come back, and all the artists deal with them again.” She cited a period during the 1970s when drawing were particularly popular among collectors in the Western art world.
She was motivated to launch the Disegni section through her own passion for collecting drawings, as well as the important role that drawings play for artists—“the idea that it’s really the way in which artists think”—as well as the appeal of the medium to collectors. With Disegni, Artissima also introduces the Refresh Irinox Prize, a €5,000 juried award sponsored by the Treviso-based company Irinox, which will be given to one artist employing the medium in innovative ways.
Silva and Mourão, who have also curated for ZsONA MACO in the past, sought to convey drawings as an important artistic vehicle—as a specific and ideal means through which artists can communicate. But they also kept the commercial remit of the art fair in mind. “We know it is a big commitment for a gallery to buy a booth, ship works, pay for trips, and hotels,” Silva acknowledged. “They need to at least break even and we thought about that while we were choosing artists and galleries to include.”
“We always understood the creation of this sector as an effort by Artissima to create new collectors, and drawing tends to be a very easy way into the world of collecting,” Silva continued. “Potential collectors could feel overwhelmed by large-scale installations or performative works or videos; drawing may seem safer, as a non-threatening medium.”