A New Guard of Curators Takes Over

Under the mentorship of Milovan Farronato, curators Irene Sofia Comi and Chiara Spagnol have created a ‘fluid and open environment’ for artists.

Artist Andreas Andronikou created portraits of the artists working in the residency on the videogame The Sims. The curators Irene Sofia Comi and Chiara Spagnol were represented by two cats roaming around the studio. Spazio Libero residents have been Simified - an ongoing project by Andreas Andronikou. Andreas Andronikou

Artists can discover new aspects of their work if they are allowed to work without boundaries, unrestrained and constantly encouraged to question themselves, in a free space. “Spazio Libero,” Italian for “Open Space”, is in fact the name of a new residency program activated in June at the Casa degli Artisti in Milan, led by curator Milovan Farronato.

“The title ‘Open Space,’ inspired by the work of Liliana Moro, immediately communicates the mood we wanted to create for this residency. Fluid organization, unconstrained dialogue, and sharing of space, ideas and time, among all the personalities in the residency, are the ways that shape this collaborative experience of exchange and interchange,” Irene Sofia Comi, who along with Chiara Spagnol was selected by Mr. Farronato as co-curator-in-residence for this project after an open call, told me when I met both curators on an October afternoon.

“We did not know each other before this residency, but we are enjoying working together with artists because we also feel close about the way we work. We have a common interest in interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity and crossing between different languages. Our approach shares cultural and creative aspects revolving around visual arts and performing arts by extending them also to sound and music expressions,” Ms. Spagnol added.

After two curators were selected, a scientific committee chose seven artists: Andreas Andronikou, Babau, Irene Fenara, Anna Franceschini, Paolo Gonzato, Elda Miniero and Sanjeshka (Sanja Pupovac).

“A significant dialogue has been created from a human as well as a professional point of view. This sharing experience is not so common in residencies,” said Ms. Spagnol. Both curators shared that there is a continuous exchange: “a need to give, to have and to share the works” that will be exhibited in the final show, set to open in November, and around which there is an exaggerated and unnecessary level of secrecy.

As of today, the residency is halfway through, and the first phase of the restitution took place in September, at Casa degli Artisti where the group presented a glimpse of their work to the public. The presentation was conceived as a performative event made of different contributions. On a display designed by Paolo Gonzato, Sanjeshka played the role of a ‘hostess’ and, with a performative lecture, introduced the themes related to “Open Space” and the artists’ practices. Simultaneously, a sound environment conceived by Babau accompanied Anna Franceschini’s procession of objects and simulacra on a moving platform, part of her well-known “Videogames” series.

Artists Anna Franceschini and Irene Fenara during the residency presentation caught in a performative moment. Photo courtesy Casa degli Artisti.

“Since the presentation, the attitude developed as curators was manifested and it was something we wanted to insist on. It was a performative presentation. Again, the performative interventions were developed through input and dialogues among all the participants. There is an idea of layering the interventions, it all comes from an initial prompt and then things overlap,” Ms. Spagnol said.

We’re told artists are about to finish their works, but the “fluid environment of exchange” could make them change their minds abruptly. “The paths of the individual projects have been moving in parallel one with the other and also of mutual exchange,” Ms. Comi insisted. “They all collaborate, everything has been conducted on a double level: it is a random movement, but at the same time stuffed with suggestions and directed by certain imagery. A discreet but precise hint I feel comfortable sharing on the final exhibition is: ‘crepuscular.’ It has to do with a dimension of both light and dark, known and unknown. It can also be a heartening dimension, considering all the meanings this term can have.”

Mr. Farronato, a curator with long experience and among the most highly regarded in the industry, is the driving force behind the ranks that guides the whole project. “He is a person to observe, absorb and sometimes unlearn from,” said Ms. Comi. “The idea that he is guiding us to the final exhibition is a dimension of synchronism, as in an orchestra where every single musician plays individually but everyone has to compete for the same goal and so they play together. There is this kind of attitude in this residency that is coming out more and more also through Milovan’s vision.” 

Ms. Comi and Ms. Spagnol recounted that they are naturally learning from each other. They said they “learn osmotically by observing the methodology with which the other confronts the artists and their practice, how to ask and what to ask.”

“The time we spend together makes this confrontation inevitable,” they said, “and both Milovan and the artists have created a perfect space to develop our work.”

Jessica Capretti is a frequent contributor to Milano Art Guide since 2021. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and has worked on several projects including “L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, in Paris. She lives and works in Milan.