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ReA! Art Fair, Milan. Switching from galleries to artists under the guidance of twelve women in art

Investing in artists and not galleries. A guide through the exhibition to reveal the initiative organized by a group of women who aim to reshape the art market 

ReA! (Recent Emerging Artists) translates from Greek ‘to flow’; the names that better reflect the project are Maryna Rybakova, Antonella Spanu, Laura Pieri, Pelin Zeytinci, Paola Shiamtani, Maria Myasnikova, Tugana Perk, Bianca Munari, Elisabetta Roncati, Beatrice Dezani, Gohar Avetisyan, Maria Ryseva – women standing behind the ReA!. The fair suggests a six-section division, including humanity, figurative, neutral palette, transitioning to nature, technology, and varied as their main focuses. The curatorial team of five young women divided the exhibition into two parts, giving the first floor a technological touch with computers, displays, and a Catfish interactive ‘photo booth’ that merges the pop culture and sex industry concepts to lure people. The second floor includes a multidimensional approach to tackling the sections mentioned above, starting with 3D sculptures accessed through social media and ending with a plant-made canvas that gradually changes its colors. Paola Shiamtani, one of the curators of the ReA! Fair team says, «At the time of applying, 100 artists do not know each other, and they come from different places and non-same-system art education backgrounds, so that gives us a start of the story…It is (the fair) a hybrid of a fair and exhibition because we want to give artists not only the platform but the ‘boost’». Commercial galleries that are for-profit are not the case. Instead, the ReA! Fair promotes art as an intermediary between collectors and artists while staying a non-profit association—merging the case studies of the curated Biennale event and Degree Shows designed to showcase graduate-students’ works.

From October 30 to November 1, Fabbrica del Vapore invited visitors to the – ReA! Art Fair – organized by a group of art professionals. The exhibition aimed to present an alternative vision to galleries and give rising artists a platform to showcase their works. In collaboration with public institutions and art academies, ReA! Art Fair adds value to 150 pieces of 100 artists who passed the curatorial team’s selection process. Held two days before another lockdown in Milan, the event was a response to most museums that embraced the online galleries to follow the pandemic restriction measurements. The fair is the first edition of the ReA! Arte association launched a fundraising campaign on gofundme.com platform to realize the project and move forward with upcoming exhibitions. With a head Maryna Rybakova, the organizing and curatorial team is a group of young women (by chance) who come from various backgrounds, including arts, management, curating, communication, and finances. ReA! Fair is not the first project for Maryna Rybakova. She is also the CEO of Artisfact – an online platform that tackles challenges within the art industry regarding transparency, price-fixing, and forgery. Contemporary art brings hidden meaning, symbolism, and narrative to the abstract or non-obvious visuals; the exhibition has tackled numerous social, political, and technological topics. On the Fabbrica Del Vapore venue’s entrance, there lies one Corinthian column on the ground and the other hanging between the ground and first floors. The installation is called In Between done by Shuai Peng, who translated a quote from The Fortress of Solitude book by Jonathan Lethem into 102 languages. «Like a match struck in a darkened room: Two white girls in flannel nightgowns and red vinyl roller skates with white laces…». The book speaks of the friendship of two races suggesting the topic of identity; finding oneself in the middle of Western and Eastern cultures and moving between countries to solve the identity conflict and reach the sense of belonging. Peng left space between columns to show the third/middle geography that gives space to mixed identities, in the meantime reflecting his personal experience.

Quila
Ana Drucker QUALIA. Courtesy ReA! Art Fair

There is no separate section called sustainability, but transitioning to nature is an alternative approach to presenting the concept. Bellini Gaia is an Italian artist who creates canvases from natural materials. «I have been to South America, and they use plant colors a lot. Permanent matters are almost frightening; what is permanent is everything that makes the universe alive and livable for us, and at the same time what makes us immortal», says Gaia. Studying plant dye and natural printing, she created Sindoni Vegetali (plant shrouds), one of the first to be sold, using her printing technique and seeds with berries. The canvas has changed its color with time after soaking in natural pigments. The piece is created to reflect the biological processes since she wraps plant materials around the shroud-like fabric suggesting the ‘skin of nature’ narrative. From natural dye to recycled paper, Freya Moffat, a London-based painter, sculptor, and draftsperson, presented an untitled work done with papier-mâché technique made of recycled cardboard boxes and newspapers that are later framed into photographs. While Moffat created paper characters and photographed them in rooms to perhaps reference the lockdown, Brand New Breath is a work of Alisa Chunchue; she has created a sculpture from fiberglass, plastic, and stainless steel that represents a mask in the form of a nose. Its relevance to the pandemic is accidental. The story behind the sculpture lies in the author’s vision of the human body, health anxieties, and the infections that were of her interest before COVID-19.

Cecilia Di Bonaventura studies people’s collective movement and activity that become one when united under one principle. Bringing the sea and its rhythm, she puts sailcloth in the exhibition with fishermen’s sounds collectively breathing in the background. Paola Shiamtani: «This sailcloth people from the port have given her (Di Bonaventura). She went close to fishers, shared her research on breathing and collectivity on the sea, and was given this 11-meter tall sailcloth. People started to breathe simultaneously, even though she has not asked them to do so. They began breathing louder and later shared the screening by participating in the fair. The sailcloth is not new; it has traveled in the sea a lot. It is a way to show her place. Gaia takes the color from what is natural, and Cecilia brings it from her home place». The COVID pandemic transferred the organizing team’s work into the online realm making the realization of the fair mostly virtual. Same as some choose between books and Kindle, online exhibitions are a reality since the lockdown. Online exhibits are trying to replace the physical experience; however, it is possible to mix both, as did the Rea Fair. After fourteen days from the fair, the organizing team created an online platform on their official website to showcase and sell all the fair artworks. To make the event inclusive for artists, the social media team has published each artists’ biographies and their works to promote them before the event. The ReaTalks was also moved into social media that connected professionals in the art sphere through online discussion touching upon the women’s art projects, the emerging art market, and arts as an investment.

Alessandro Costanzo Ora dopo ora
Alessandro Costanzo – Ora dopo ora

At the end of the fair, the Fondazione Pini has awarded art prizes to two winning artists. Meanwhile, the first ten artists received the REA! Art Prize with an opportunity to be part of a group exhibition organized in a collaboration with the ReA! Art partners. The preparation for the Fabbrica del Vapore event took almost a year to accomplish. First, there was a call to artists and a selection process, which left 100 artists out of more than 500 applicants. There are well-established art fairs in Italy, including The Others who already presented its 10th edition in Turin, Art Verona, which will occur at the beginning of December. In March 2020, the Italian government approved a 25 billion decree to allocate to different spheres, including culture, as COVID outbreak. Museums, libraries, and cinemas closed from November 5 until December 3 in response to pandemic measures following the DPCM. These ups and downs in operations negatively influence both the associations and the individual artists but bring food for thought to reimagine and find new value and opportunities while facing limitations. The contemporary art that brings the current issues into the display and reveals the topics that occupy society in a certain period makes it relevant and wanted.

IMAGE GALLERY

ReA! Arte
Via Ruggero Boscovich, 14
Milan, Italy 

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