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Cross-cultural connections at Flashback 2018

1 November 2018

With big fairs in London, Paris and New York dominating the autumn calendar, events in Turin in early November bring a welcome change of pace and focus. For the contemporary crowd, that means Artissima, which this year returns to the airy indoor arena of the Oval Lingotto for its 25th edition (2–4 November). Appropriately, the fair has decided to make a noise to mark its quarter century: a new section dedicated to sound art, hosted offsite in the cavernous industrial spaces of the Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR), will present 15 projects by artists including Susan Philipsz, James Richards and Anri Sala.

For those with quieter (and more historical) tastes, there will be plenty of delights in store at Flashback (1–4 November), a fair that has been winning over locals and visitors alike under its mantra that ‘All Art is Contemporary’. Last year, bolstered by a more coherent layout and the increasingly refined stand designs of many exhibitors, this event welcomed more than 15,000 people.

Mary Magdelene (n.d.), Orazio Gentileschi.

Mary Magdelene (n.d.), Orazio Gentileschi. Maison d’Art

For all its strengths in traditional and modern fields, Flashback has always had a quirky edge: its vivid branding and offbeat themes declare that while this may be a fine art and antiques fair, it is not like any other. For its sixth edition, the guiding premise is taken from The Shores of Another Sea, Chad Oliver’s anthropologically minded sci-fi novel of 1971, in which a baboon keeper in Kenya succumbs to extraterrestrial forces that capsize the settled order of hunter and prey. In practice, this means that the fair is keen to stress the need for greater mutual understanding when different cultures come into contact – historically and imaginatively, as well as geographically. The argument will be taken up in a specially commissioned artwork by the marchigiano street artist Francesco Valeri (‘LU FRA’).

The nautical emphasis of Oliver’s title finds echoes at the fair in works that explore the theme of the sea voyage. The Rome-based Galleria Russo brings Uragano (Hurricane; 1938), a terracotta by Arturo Martini in which a lone oarsman battles against stormy waters in a delicately moulded skiff – a vessel that seems destined to break down again into the more roughly rendered clay that engulfs it (an earlier work by Martini is shown by Galleria dello Scudo). Mazzoleni brings an untitled canvas of 1930 by Alberto Savinio – the younger brother of Giorgio de Chirico – that features a fantastical galley and a pair of the artist’s characteristic monumental cog-like structures (or apparitions), evoking the surreal experience of what it is to arrive on a foreign shore.

As ever, Old Master paintings are strongly represented among the 50 or so exhibitors, and not least the baroque period. Local dealership Galleria Giamblanco brings an unpublished picture of St James the Great by Mattia Preti, executed in around the 1630s, when the artist immersed himself in the work of Caravaggio and his followers in Rome. On display at Maison d’Art, a new exhibitor from Monaco, is a three-quarter-length Mary Magdalene by Orazio Gentileschi, said to depict his daughter Artemisia as the saint. Certainly, the model’s features, expression and pose bear a striking resemblance to a figure used elsewhere by Orazio, not least in the Young Woman with a Violin (Saint Cecilia) in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Visitors with a more medieval bent should not miss a terracotta relief with polychromy, showing the Madonna Lactans with angels, at the stand of Flavio Pozzallo; dating from the early to mid 15th century, this is one of the earliest known works to introduce this material to the Lombard sculpture tradition. o

Flashback runs from 1–4 November at the Pala Alpitour, Turin.

From the October 2018 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here

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