Let’s be honest, there isn’t much going on in Southern Italy’s contemporary art scene, and whatever does happen usually takes the form of academic, underground exhibitions and conversations. Here art professionals essentially talk about art to other art professionals. “Nothing will ever either get in or out of the universe,” Israeli journalist Amos Oz would say. Well, nothing will ever get either in or out of Italy – especially Southern Italy. Between classism, academism and the remains of old traditions and conventions that appear to be truly hard to die, Italy is neither producing any particular talents – save for a handful – nor welcoming cultural interchange in any way. Here in the South of Italy, much activity seems to be about cultivating competition versus collaboration. And guarding the “universe.”
To that end, artists, galleries and museums that could be classified as historically relevant are more interested in maintaining a certain elitist status; they jump at the idea of a hypothetical “foreign threat.” All this to say that a good deal of cultural energy is expended in proving Southern Italian culture is not mired in the Middles Ages, and the great artistic and scientific discoveries of the past are not mere echoes of mnemonic retroactive trophies. Yet there is an ironic tease: Some gallery owners and collectors are encouraged to promote the potential of “outside art,” a behavior which unfortunately marginalizes Italian artists. Something is amiss here!
World renowned shoe designer and collector Ernesto Esposito is, apparently, well aware of these dynamics, and he is conscious of these antithetical co-existing tendencies. Yet, he has figured out a way to combine art both old and new, local and international, in a multifaceted private collection that includes nearly a thousand works of art, some from emerging artists, others mid-career, and others certifiably famous. Not entirely allergic to the word, “cool” or “mediocre” or “bourgeoise,” Esposito keeps an eye (obsessively it appears) on the art world, constantly attends exhibitions, and is clearly open to meeting the curious as well as contemporary art experts. Yet the designer never lets “what is trendy” get in the way of his personal taste.
While worldly knowledgeable, Ernesto is keenly focused on the aesthetic and conceptual aspects of art, rather than art objects’ obvious surfaces; and although he has followers and even detractors, many in and out of the Italian art world look at him as an example-setting patron. He has an endearing simplicity, an inner elegance that translates into the comic: Ernesto, indeed, often attends openings ”dressed down” – shorts and sneakers! This Italian is not only drawing the attention of the media but also making a point.
“Face to Face” is Esposito’s current curatorial project and his answer to the strange cultural schizophrenia in Southern Italy. Now on view at Palazzo Fruscione, Salerno until May 1, 2016, his exhibition defines the designer’s deep and serious passion for contemporary art – everything he feels attracted to and intellectually challenged by – regardless of a cultured, frightened audience he’s trying to entertain and educate. “Face to Face” is not exactly an event conceived for the privileged, but does, in fact, represent an opportunity for confrontation with the ever-shifting international contemporary art scene, if the public is indeed open to it. And yes, Prada bags, paper ties and flip-flops are welcome.
Featured artists: Luca Albero, Roberto Amoroso, Uri Aran, Francesco Arena, Zachary Armstrong, Dylan Bailey, Davide Balliano, Aniello Barone, Martin Basher, Luca Bertolo, George A. Bidmead, Michal Bohdankiewicz, Peppi Bottrop, Straus Bourque-LaFrance, Ry David Bradley, Henry Chapman, Julian Charrière, Ajit Chauhan, Henry Codax, Nyah Isabel Cornish, Steven Cox, Luke Diiorio, Christian Duncan, Amy Feldman, Stephen Felton, Katharina Fengler, Alessandra Franco, Al Freeman, Max Frintrop, Luc Fuller, Anna Fusco, Aaron Garber-Maikovska, Hella Gerlach, Leah Glenn, Ethan Greenbaum, Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, Calla Henkel & Max Pitegoff, Uwe Henneken, Benjamin Hirte, Donna Huanca, JPW3, Melike Kara, Sonia Kacem, Lauren Keeley, Simon Keenleyside, Esther Klas, Daniel Knorr, John Knuth, Brian Kokoska, Andrei Koschmieder, Paul Kremer, Gabriel Kuri, Shawn Kuruneru, Piotr Lakomy, Asger Dybdav Larsen, Austin Lee, Mariangela Levita, Sam Lipp, Roman Liska, Lauren Luloff, Nunzio de Martino, Ryan McNamara, Haley Mellin, Peter Mohall, Matt Mignanelli, Jakub Milcak, Jacopo Miliani, Daniele Milvio, Eric Mistretta, Noemi Montanaro, Alessandro Moroder, Marlie Mul, Mohamed Namou, Moataz Nasr, Dustin Pevey, Benoit Platéus, Seth Price, Alex Rathbone, Joe Reihsen, Zack Reini, Michael Rey, Leif Ritchey, Rosy Rox, Erik Saglia, Prem Sahib, Matteo Sanna, Cole Sayer, Jamie Shovlin Jack Siegel, Diego Singh, Jamie Sneider, Federico Solmi, Kasper Sonne, Michael Staniak, Henning Strassburger, Claire Tabouret, Amarinhos Teixeira, Santo Tolone, Brad Troemel, Jonathan VanDyke, Nico Vascellari, Angelo Volpe, Graham Wilson, Letha Wilson.
Writing by Deianira Tolema