Letizia Ragaglia: As you may know, Artissima, the main art fair of Turin, turns twenty- five this year. Since you know this fair so well, let’s begin our conversation there. You have twice been a member of the jury of the Premio Illy, charged with selecting a project in the frame of Present Future, and you were also twice on the selecting committee of Back to the Future. Could you tell us something about your experience, and any particular projects that you still remember?
Beatrix Ruf: Having been involved with projects at Artissima so many times has been a great “autumn tradition” for me—every year looking forward to my time in Turin. I found the intense process of discussing artists with the great groups of colleagues and the Artissima team very inspiring and horizon widening. For my second edition of Back to the Future we discussed the time frame we wanted to look at, and I remember we wanted to look at work produced in the early 1980s as transitioning to new production, as most of the earlier editions had looked at the 1960s and 1970s. It was great how the director of the fair and the team entertained any proposal and enthusiastically moved with the group of curators involved. So many underexposed artists came to surface, and so many surprising works from this particular period were brought by the galleries in all editions of Back to the Future. Another great memory is the “change of rules” for the Premio Illy 2012, as we wanted to give the prize, and more importantly a show, to three artists rather than just one. All the partners—the Castello di Rivoli, Artissima, and Illy—were incredible in making this happen, so a major show was realized in 2013 at the Castello di Rivoli titled One Torino. Illy Present Future Award Exhibition: Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa—Vanessa Safavi—Santo Tolone. I still remember the intense performance of Naufus and the impressive installations of Vanessa and Santo.
LR: Beatrix Ruf visits a fair: I have always noticed how much time you take at art fairs, when you find a booth that interests you. You dig deep, you ask for information, you engage. Is there a particular section of Artissima that you look forward to visiting when you happen to be at the fair? Is there something you wouldn’t miss or you would recommend to keep, even if the format of the fair should slightly change?
BR: What I always like about visiting Artissima is that international galleries are parallel to galleries from Italy, which usually do not participate in fairs globally. It is fascinating to be able to look into the programs of legendary galleries from Turin and elsewhere in Italy, as it gives insight into a specific cultural context, production, and history—I think also of the smaller galleries bringing the big tradition of bookmaking and editions to this fair. Also specific and exceptional is the high attendance of curators, and their deep involvement in the many curated sections—a practice being adopted by many other fairs now as well.
LR: Italo Calvino once said that Turin is a city that invites to rigor, to linearity and to style, and that, through logic, opens up to folly. Do you agree with his statement?
BR: Absolutely. Turin, and Turin in November especially.
LR: During Artissima the city is particularly lively. Is there one museum and one restaurant that you never miss and would absolutely recommend?
BR: Certainly, the city is fully involved in the Artissima experience, the collection of the GAM, the Castello di Rivoli, the Museo Egizio, the film museum, the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, the Fondazione Merz, the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, the many collections one gets to see, for example La Gaia. But also the city’s great architecture, the Mole, Mollino Architecture and the Casa Mollino, and the home of Carol Rama. And the really, really good food and November’s white truffles. A friend taught me how to preserve the truffles in a glass with rice, and I extend the Turin trip every year by carrying their scent back to my home.
LR: Both Present Future and Back to the Future focus on monographic presentations. Leaving the fair aside for a moment and talking about your curatorial work: you have often privileged solo presentations in your career. What are their advantages? Or, rather, what makes a curator opt for solo shows rather than group shows?
BR: Particularly today with the many fairs, and many online representations, solo shows allow to get beyond like-unlike behaviors. To see works of one artist in depth allows for a deeper experience of an oeuvre.