DAMA | Turin’s youngest art fair
Following a successful first edition, the Turin-based art fair DAMA, founded by gallerist Giorgio Galotti, returns to the 18th-century Palazzo Saluzzo Paesana until November 5, for a markedly international edition.
Running parallel to Artissima, Italy’s foremost art fair, DAMA is decidedly different in tone. Much less commercial, the fair virtually represents the totality of Europe’s most important art cities, providing a platform for some of the most promising art galleries of the old continent, and beyond. Exhibitors include Arcade (London), LETO Gallery (Warsaw), Weiss (Berlin), Neumeister Bar-Am (Berlin, but also Tel Aviv), as well as BWSMX (Mexico City), the gallery founded by the director of Material Art Fair, another international art event very much in the spirit of DAMA.
Sinae Yoo, Untitled, installation view. Courtesy Neumeister Bar-Am.
Unlike other satellite fairs, only two Turin-based galleries — including Galotti, of course, and Neochrome — feature among the 14 exhibitors. Although the relatively small amount of exhibitors is partly due to the nature of the exhibition space — a stunning 18th-century palazzo providing a prestigious setting for this young fair — there seems to be, on the part of DAMA’s organizers, a real wish to go beyond the stale norms of the art fair, and create an event that is independent and autonomous from A to Z.
“DAMA was born out of a desire, on the part of a group of international galleries, to get together and create an exhibition in the rooms of Palazzo Saluzzo Paesana, with its Renaissance frescoes and baroque tapestries. For us, it is both an opportunity and a challenge”, Greta Galotti, the fair’s project manager, tells us.
In a way, DAMA is at the crossroads of fairs such as POPPOSITIONS and Condo - although galleries do not host each other, there is a sense that with this Turin art fair, as much as in Vanessa Carlos’ project, gallerists want to take things back into their own hands: “DAMA is based on collaboration, on exchange and on dialogue between dealers from very diverse countries”.
When selecting its participants, the fair’s organizers had in mind “the difficulties that galleries of our generation are faced with” — namely, the difficulty to present a solo project by one of their artists to an international audience of collectors in a prestigious location. “Often, galleries close because they cannot afford the economy and frantic rhythms of art fairs. With DAMA, we were thinking about a gallery’s needs, and this is why the fair’s costs remain relatively small. Thus, galleries can work freely and invest more in the production of artworks. [...] We have also launched the Guest initiative with the Museo Ettore Fico, which helps galleries reduce costs and thus reduce risk”. Two non-profit spaces (Meyohas, New York and Pina, Wien) are also featured, further indicating DAMA’s commitment to supporting emerging artists and alternative models of art making.
Although the fair is not “curated”, there is a sense of coherence throughout, as projects presented here were created in response to the fair’s setting. “Artists are invited to work freely in one of the Palazzo’s rooms”, and they are asked to create a project, rather than single works destined to a booth. “This is the most limiting aspect of art fairs. Often, artists and galleries produce ad hoc artworks, which do not contribute to the development of an artist’s research, and are sometimes difficult to sell. [Fairs] are almost like putting up a building and tearing it down five days later if the apartments go unsold. [...] This is how a market becomes over-saturated”.
As Galotti points out, DAMA certainly is a challenge. In a country very much tied to its tradition and where contemporary art has known its struggles, DAMA, with its innovative, somewhat atypical format, stands out as a bold and brave initiative.