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Artissima Stories: Fatima Maleki in conversation with Karen Levy

3 October 2019 Artissima Stories

What is your relationship with performance art?

FATIMA MALEKI: Performance art is a vital art form which is of great interest to us. We recently hosted an evening in our home with young performance artists: we were immersed in the experience, and it was extraordinary to see our guests interacting with the art and the performers. Performance allows the audience to engage with art beyond the physicality of the object and this is why it is so important in opening up new dialogues and modes of participation.

KAREN LEVY: Performance art, by nature, is ephemeral. It is not just about the actions performed by the artist, but also about the experience delivered by those actions in that particular moment. Consequently, collecting performance art proves difficult. In China, performance art is one of the most dynamic and controversial areas of experimental art practice because of the role of the body as a medium for expressing creativity and political aspirations. We have collected photos and videos documenting these performances, especially by Zhang Huan.

Do you prefer to acquire or to commission a new work by young artists? By commissioning an artwork, do you feel somehow part of the creative process?

FM: We have always been close to artists, and have commissioned site-specific works many times. Whether from younger artists like Bea Bonafini or established ones like Antony Gormley. This connection to the creative process is something wonderful and rewarding, as well as challenging. There is a lot of trust involved on both sides—the creator’s and the collector’s alike. We continue to buy the work of young artists and support them wherever we can.

KL: We do like to commission works. It allows us to collect the whole process of the creation of the artwork through photos, videos and sketches. It humanizes the work when it is showed alongside all that research material.

Is collecting contagious? How did it happen for you? Can you tell us if there was some collector in particular who got you into it?

KL: I will say that, more than contagious, collecting is addictive. Collecting is first of all a personal journey that helps an ordinary person to have an extraordinary life.

FM: Our story starts with the Iranian Revolution, and it has been a very complicated and long journey, that I hope I will be able to talk about one day. Both our parents were collectors, and I think that DNA is imprinted within us. Collecting is a big part of our lives, with many openings and dinners to attend, and all the keeping up with new developments in the arts. We travel internationally for art events and exhibitions. For us, collecting began in the 1980s, quite tentatively, and it has grown from there on, very organically.

How do you approach a visit to an art fair? Do you plan in advance and make a battle plan?

KL: I never have a battle plan before visiting a fair. A fair for me is a great place to make encounters with artworks and people.

FM: The best way to encounter an art fair is to enjoy the experience! After all, it is a trip to see visual art first and foremost. We do plan ahead, with almost military precision: we do a list of priorities and booths that we definitely intend to visit; then, after these have been attended to, we always have a chance to just stroll.

How do you rate a fair? What do you factor in?

FM: The key with any art fair is the quality of work on view—that is always the most important factor. We are looking for excellence and to see fresh and new things. I also truly enjoy smaller, local fairs where I can discover the art of the region. The events organized by the fairs are also something to look forward to.

KL: What makes the difference for me is firstly the quality and diversity of the artworks that I can find in an art fair. Secondly, the encounters that can be made. Thirdly, all the events organized around the art itself.

What’s most special about Artissima for you?

FM: The opportunity to see art by emerging and established Italian artists.

KL: Artissima is a very professional fair, with great established galleries showing their work. I like all the collateral events organized in the context of the fair and around Turin. There’s a sweet, specific comfort to be found in some rituals of the art world.

How do you like Turin? Do you have any favorite spots, and have you developed any traditions there?

FM: Turin is a wonderful city. The foundation of Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is our very first stop. We also never miss the Castello di Rivoli, nor eating at the wonderful restaurant surrounded by magnificent Castellani works. The Egyptian museum is the best I have seen. And of course, Artissima happens to take place during truffle season—the truffles are not to be missed either.

KL: Turin is a mixture of a Mediterranean city and an Alpine one. I like the atmosphere of the street cafés and the arcades. Naturally Palazzo Reale is a must-see. Among my favorite food places are Pastificio Defilippis, where “La pasta è fatta a mano dal 1872,” (pasta is homemade since 1982) and La Sciamadda, for the seafood.

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