This Summer, I spent time in the Mediterranean regions of Puglia, Hydra and Menorca.
Summer is a privileged time to reflect and embark on new experiences. And experiences, especially Art experiences, are what I thrive for…new encounters with artworks and artists, besides just the white walls of galleries, the buzz of auctions, the frenziness of Art fairs and the ceremony of Museums. A chance to meet, talk, start new friendships and …to party under the stars. This summer, in the midst of the heat of the burning sun and the intense blue sky, I embarked on a discovery journey through my beloved Mediterranean.
I made plenty of nice discoveries in Puglia.
In the historical centre of Ostuni, “La Citta Bianca”, I attended the opening of the photography gallery « The House of Lucie », one of the physical homes of the Lucie Foundation dedicated to photography and featuring, amongst others, the dramatic black and white landscape photographs of Mitch Dobrowner.
A few days later, on the outskirts of Ostuni, I visited the exquisite Trullo Ulia Art project, a contemporary Art Farmhouse. Simone and Michele, the owners, together with Galeria Fuori Campi from Sienna, curated an intimate and delicate exhibition with ten artists dwelling on the concept of time and its non-linearity. In the maze of the trullo and lamia, I discovered the works of Giuli Delve, Joao Freitas, Mirthe Kluck, Giovanni Oberti and Jamie Schneider.
Next to Ostuni’s city centre, in the former oil mill from the 1930s, the exhibition Cantiere presented works from Angelo Filomeno, a New York-based artist, Aldo Flore & Rosanna Venezia, both architects and Giampaolo Sgura. The latter, a renowned fashion photographer who worked with Richard Avedon, presented monumental portraits in black and white. Simply hung in the rooms, I was taken by Sgura’s lens, which captured emotions on faces with simplicity and humanity.
On a very hot August afternoon, together with two collector friends visiting Puglia, I ventured to Lecce, « the Florence of the south » known for its stunning baroque architecture. We first visited the Palai exhibition organised by the Parisian gallery Balice Herling (“Palai” means ‘palace’ in the Apulian dialect of Griko) at the Palazzo Tamborino Cezzi and gathering seventy works from a selection of 10 international galleries and 36 artists.
Wandering through the shabby-chic Leccese palazzo rooms, I fell in love with Zhi Wei’s work on a large canvas over the fireplace in one of the salons. “A Tiny Lie”, 2022
Acrylic on wood, canvas and lace; tulle 200 × 160 cm, represents Pinocchio. The young Beijing-based artist plays with material, textile, paint, iconic imageries and blurs the boundaries between genders, low and high culture, paint and textile. I was taken by her playfulness, sense of poetry and, at the same time, the tension and subtle uncanniness of her work.
A few streets away, Projetto presented an exhibition by its artist-in-residence, Aria Dean, “Wolves”. Having spent time on a farm in southern Italy, Dean investigates the relationship between animals: sheep, dogs, and wolves and, on a broader spectrum, forces us to envision another perspective other than our human condition.
In Ceglie Messapica’s countryside, the Milanese Gallerist Antonio Addamiano has renovated a traditional Pugliese trullo – conic stone structures which can be found in Puglia’s Vallee d’Itria – to stage exhibitions by international artists: Dep Art OUT. I attended Giuseppe Uncini’s opening; the Italian master, who passed away in the early 2000s, is known for his constructivist sculptures and his investigation of architecture, space and volume. To my surprise, Uncini’s sculptures embraced the trullo’s modest space, creating a daring dialogue between the Pugliese vernacular architecture and the modernist work.
After Puglia, I went to Hydra, the majestic Greek island in the Saronic Gulf known by Art lovers – Thaddeus Ropac, amongst others, has a holiday home there. Arriving by boat in Hydra is spectacular. It is one of the most beautiful ports in Greece, together with Simi, its Dodecanese sister. I loved the walk – it is a car-free island – along the coast at the far end of the port towards the Desde Foundation. I was greeted by Jeff Koons’ impressive 9.1 metre Apollo Wind Spinner on arrival.
Since 2009, Hydra has been the home of Dakis Joannou’s Desde Foundation’s summer Project Space. This summer, Massimiliano Gioni and Daniel Birnbaum curated an exhibition, Dream Machines, exploring the impact of technology on human imagination: an ongoing subject of investigation for artists, especially with generative AI currently in the zeitgeist. I went twice to visit the exhibition located in a former Slaughterhouse. I truly enjoyed the connections and conversations created by the curators between the various artists, between the living contemporary celebrities and historical figures such as Duchamp. I enjoyed the simplicity and daunting atmosphere of the space, from Pipilotti Rist screaming from an iPhone video displayed on the ground to Judith Hopf’s sculpture facing the sea.
I ended my Mediterranean tour in the Balearic islands. In Majorca, I visited Caterina Roppo’s studio. The Italian artist explained to me how she investigates the idea of trauma using textile as a medium, developing her own language and technique.
In Menorca, I visited the Hauser and Wirth Foundation exhibition on the Isla del Rey: an island within an island. Christina Quarles’ exhibition is the outcome of her new exploration of the body, coming out of motherhood and the pandemic. I was mesmerised by her gestures: the shapes, the colours, the forms, and the movement in her paintings left me with a sense of fluidity, possibilities and freedom. I discovered her paintings on paper, a new medium for Quarles, and loved her superb drawings, which resonated with Philip Guston’s drawings, which I saw earlier this year in Washington, DC.
I left the Mediterranean full of new thoughts, enriched with discoveries and new friendships, ready for London and Paris.
Words and photos by Virginie Puertolas-Syn ©Artlyst
DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art