Reading Room, Milan. In conversation with Francesca Spiller
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Reading Room, Milan. In conversation with Francesca Spiller

The selection at Reading Room Milan rewards the quality of the contents and the completeness of each editorial project rather than the originality at all costs

Not a simple shop

«My husband often tells me that, if I could, I would give away magazines. Pierluigi helps me so much in my activity» says Francesca Spiller, the Founder of Reading Room Milan on Via Mincio, which is dedicated to the research and selling of independent magazines.

Her degree in Cultural Economics at Bocconi University led her to work for Fondazione Forma per la Fotografia, the project of the Contasto Agency that from 2005 to 2014 was the reference point for the Milan photographic culture — and then for CAMERA, Italian Centre for photography in Turin, together with Lorenza Bravetta, the former manager of the photo agency MAGNUM, and the curator Francesco Zanot.

Gradually it was clear that that space represented her; she had managed to create a space where her love for photography and contemporary visual culture could be shown to the public. «I think that the meaning of such a place is to browse, touch and discover new magazines thanks to the huge selection available in a unique space».

She confesses that Reading Room Milan was born during her train journeys from Milan to Turin, taking notes in notebooks. Her vision has now become a fluid space, which is like a bookshop and stores products available, which until some years ago were only available at district newsagents. It’s a forty-square-meter gallery, a white cube, situated in the popular district of Corvetto — now in redevelopment and called SouPRA (South of Prada) by young creatives, with reference to a foundation located in the close districts.

A consolidated editorial phenomenon

The magazines are placed on big shelf modules and on a wooden supports in the center. «I opened in May 2018 after a year of preparation, the right time to design a project, prepare the space and choose the first selection of two hundred (now three hundred) magazines». It is an indication of a consolidated editorial phenomenon.

«A Milanese space devoted to the spread, understanding and appreciation of magazines». A mission rather than a business. «I wanted a rational and cosy space, where the contents and the magazines, with their covers, could emerge. Each publication has the same dignity and visibility. The Reading Room Milan, however small, is flexible and easily adaptable to different needs, from selling to meetings, from small exhibitions to installations».

Reading Room Milan is not a simple shop, but a cultural activity, where the most appropriate keyword is fluidity. Francesca’s events, inside the space and out, are different: presentations and launches of new magazines, debates on visual arts, radio talks (as with Radio Rahemm), the bookshop curatorships in institutional events — such as the Turin contemporary art fair by Artissima — or independent ones — such as the Symposium by Club to Club — whereas pop-up stores can be also found in the Riviera creative space and in the fashion shop SUNNEI in the city centre. A totally dynamic activity finalized to the promotion  of culture and contemporary creativity.

Being interrupted again by a friend who gives her some new copies of a self-produced magazine, I had the chance to have a look at the magazines displayed on the walls. There is a huge selection of themes: architecture, cinema, design, erotic, fashion, travels, photography, art, kitchen, graphics, drawing, literature, music, society and sports. They all share the same accurate research of contents and visual language. 

«The selection rewards the quality of the contents and the completeness of each editorial project rather than the originality at all costs. The selection is important for the equilibrium of the offer, both for reasons of consuming, since a too wide selection can be disorienting, and for economical ones, avoiding to have uninteresting magazines for the public».

The immortal fetish of the physical object

The last ten years have been characterized by a global crisis of the periodic publishing. The web and the social networks give access to a wide selection of news, thus leading to a drastic fall of the sales. This sector seemed to disappear but recently has found new methods of fruition: «Running a bookshop today means creating a relationship with the producers of magazines, then welcoming and suggesting what can stimulate the customers’ attention by a range of activities and deepening. The Reading Room public loves quality content, deepening and reading. The several themes we offer- travels, architecture, design, music, literature, fashion, photography, art- give more possibilities to find something interesting also for non-experts, thus expanding the public».

Reading Room Milan is not the sole reality in Italy which spreads independent magazines, but there are realities like Edicola Romana Non Ordinaria in Rome and Edicola 518 in Perugia, reference points for the interests of the public and which have seen recently the development of independent fairies like the annual SPRINT Independent Publishers and Art Books Salon in Milan.

According to Francesca Spiller, one of the reasons for this trend can be found in the necessity to re-establish the importance of the paper on the web: «with such a powerful digital domain, the paper publication of a photograph has its own strength because the image is worth publishing. I think of our timelines of Instagram, full of images, rich but ephemeral for the nature of the network. The paper is the fruit of a selection and responsibility of those who chose that content».

On the future of the industry, she says: «I think we are living in a phase of transition, where we need to find a new balance and the desire to read quality content, potentialities, which are the limits of the web and the immortal fetish of the physical object but, in particular, the valorization of the works of the producers».


Via Mincio, 10

Milan, Italy

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