Lorenzo Giusti: A bridge between Turin, the Campania Region and… the world! This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Amalfi ’68, and we are also celebrating the anniversary of the exhibition Arte Povera + Azioni povere which is considered to have been among the one hundred most important shows of the twentieth century! (catalogue by Phaidon Press)
Lia Rumma: However, you need to know that this event was not the only one to be staged in the Antichi Arsenali by Marcello Rumma: it was preceded by two major shows curated by Renato Barilli (Aspetti del “Ritorno alle cose stesse”, 1966) and Alberto Boatto with Filiberto Menna (L’Impatto Percettivo, 1967). They marked the start of an extraordinary partnership between Marcello and Giuseppe Liuccio, president of the of the Amalfi Tourism Council, who made the Arsenali of Amalfi entirely available to Rumma.
Marcello, being the enlightened character that he was, wanted there to be culture in the South of Italy. In 1969 he founded the publishing house known as Rumma Editore, publishing texts on art, aesthetics and philosophy.
As the budding collectors we were, grasped by curiosity and the desire to understand what was happening in art both throughout the world and in front of our eyes, we began to travel, to make contact with some of the best-known critics and curators of the day, such as Germano Celant, Alberto Boatto, Filiberto Menna, Renato Barilli, Achille Bonito Oliva, etcetera, as well as visiting the finest galleries of the time: Gian Enzo Sperone in Turin, de’ Foscherari in Bologna, Sargentini in Rome and Ileana Sonnabend in Paris. We came into contact with a group of emerging artists between Turin and Rome (Michelangelo Pistoletto, Giovanni Anselmo, Gilberto Zorio, Piero Gilardi, Giulio Paolini, Giovanni Piacentino, Jannis Kounellis, Pino Pascali, Alighiero Boetti, Mario Ceroli, Mario Merz and others) with whom we immediately established close working relationships as well as friendships. Marcello had understood that something new was happening in Italy, and he opened up a dialogue with Germano Celant, asking him to curate the show in Amalfi in 1968, an exhibition which would compact the movement, go beyond national borders and gain recognition on an international level. And from that moment, the doors of the most prestigious museums of the world opened to the artists of the Arte Povera movement. Today, my archive is under study, and on the occasion of the homage made to Amalfi ’68, I donated a series of documents and photographs to the Castello di Rivoli, many of which previously unseen. Also the Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with Rivoli is preparing an exhibition on the event in Amalfi to commemorate Marcello Rumma, and in October 2019, the Museo Madre will stage a project on Marcello Rumma curated by Gabriele Guercio and Andrea Viliani. Germano Celant will edit a monograph on Marcello Rumma.
LG: Do you recall any particular moment from that season?
LR: Amalfi ’68 is believed to be particularly important and unforgettable not only for having rapidly focused on one of the most important artistic movements over the last fifty years, but also for that atmosphere of freedom and joy with which the artists created their own works, and that special partnership between them which was never to be repeated. In June 1968, the Venice Biennale was contested by the artists, being considered too stuffy. In October of the same year, in Amalfi, the artists involved in the event were invited to design and produce their works in full and total freedom. Pistoletto dragged L’uomo ammaestrato around the alleys of Amalfi with all his entourage; Anne Marie Boetti abandoned a polystyrene raft amid the sea waves; in the middle of the night Pietro Lista hid a neon light in the sand, and Anne Marie Boetti and Ableo improvised a little flute concert, barefoot on the beach of Amalfi. Extraordinary things took place, everyone took part in this special event, the artists helped one another, children played hide-and-seek beneath Pascali’s Vedova Blu, and artists invaded the Giardino all’italiana by Gino Marotta. Lastly, this moment of joy and creativity exploded in a famous football match: a football pitch was drawn in the Arsenale, and Paolo Icaro, Richard Long, Emilio Prini, Ger van Elk and others contended against one another for control of the ball, with all the drive of great footballers.
LG: You started out in Naples in the early 1970s. What was the city like then?
LR: In the 1970s, Naples was still very much tied up in the inheritance of its seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth-century history. When I opened the gallery, I felt like a spaceship landing in a desert, although there were already signs something was changing. Marcello Rumma’s activity was starting to bear fruit, and had breached history; thus, our galleries (Il Centro, those of Lucio Amelio and Giuseppe Morra, mine and more besides…) helped one another to give concrete support to that modernisation process that would soon lead Naples to measure up to some of the great international capitals.
LG: Was Turin different?
LR: Turin, thanks to galleries such as those of Gian Enzo Sperone or Christian Stein, had already established an interesting dialogue with the avant-garde for some time. Marcello and I often frequented it with a view to creating a bridge between the North and South of the country. Piero Gilardi travelled the world and sent us vital information on what was happening at the time in Europe and America. The partnership between Germano Celant and Marcello was becoming ever more solid, and the relationships with the artists were becoming more and more intense and frequent. We were ready for Amalfi ’68. Turin was an important stage for what Marcello and I wanted to achieve. A lively city, mindful of what was going on, as well as home to major artists and key collectors.
LG: How important is an event like Artissima for a city like Turin and for Italy?
LR: The idea of creating an art fair in Turin was a very important one. Turin has always been a receptive city, and Artissima certainly broadened its horizons. If well organised, art fairs are useful for stimulating international exchanges, for showcasing our artists to foreign collectors and for building relationships with other galleries. Artissima has certainly done its task very well in these terms. We have been taking part for years and we have always been very satisfied.
LG: You have always driven artists to work on cities. Is art rooted in places?
LR: Just where art is ‘rooted’ remains a mystery! We as gallerists are often lucky enough to work with great artists, and I have always thought that a trace of their passing should remain in the city to which I had invited them. Certainly a city like Naples, with its ‘irritating’ beauty and its great history, was a stimulus for many artists, including William Kentridge, who decided to leave a permanent mark of his art in the beautiful metro station of Toledo (said to be the most beautiful in Europe). However, the same may be said of Milan (a city which today lays claim to possessing one of the most extraordinary works by Anselm Kiefer – The Seven Heavenly Palaces – which gave rise to a new museum, Hangar Bicocca, today visited by a vast international public) or Rome, of which Kentridge himself narrated its great history, amid triumphs and defeats, entrusting it to the walls that run along the banks of the Tiber.
LG: Is a gallerist a collector first and foremost?
LR: I certainly am! I believe in what I do, and by acquiring part of the works that I recommend to my own collectors, I am sure that I will find myself with a number of real treasures over time, as has already happened in my life, more than once.
LG: This year Artissima turns twenty-five. What is your own experience of the fair, and how do you see its future?
LR: The destiny of Artissima, which I believe to be a wonderful fair, does not just depend on itself: our entire entrepreneurial class is dealing with and coming to terms with the current situation in Italy, with regard to politics, the economy and culture most of all. We are going through highly uncertain, confused times, not to mention culturally depressed ones: and these are certainly not ideal conditions to make us look on the bright side. Where there is no culture, evolution and training, it’s hard to foresee investments on behalf of major companies offering work and wellbeing. All of us make superhuman efforts in order to carry out our work. Undoubtedly, Artissima is among those best equipped today in Italy to attract a good international audience. Let us all hope that it lives long and in good health. We need it.
LG: Do you have any recollection in particular linked to Artissima?
LR: I always set up the display until late at night, and I remember with great pleasure the figure of an architect, Laura Vincenti, who in Artissima supported my plea to be allowed to work for as long as possible. It was always a struggle with the night watchmen!
A little more elasticity for us gallerists, who always get there at the last minute (at least I do!): greater understanding would mean helping us to prepare our stands properly, which would also be an advantage for the whole fair.