2014.09.19 Fri, by
Art in the City Launches in Shanghai

Art in the City, a project launched by Massimo Torrigiani, Davide Quadrio and Donna Chai, debuted last week in Shanghai. The project, purportedly a year-long affair, kicked off with an art festival that is not an art fair (but looked a bit like one).

One of the founders, Massimo Torrigiani, who was also the previous director of SHContemporary and publisher of Fantom magazine, explained that this first event is more like a “curated selling exhibition…. Of course, with this first edition, we had to be more open and looser about the curatorial theme—because this is just a starting event and we wanted the galleries to show more or less their best stuff. It’s a curated selling exhibition developed with the galleries—not like a fair. So the idea is not to go for corridors. Everything is smoother and more organic.”

Davide Quadrio, one of the founders of Art in the City and previously co-founder of BizArt, added, “We also gave a platform to some galleries that normally do not have [access], but who do a good job. When you have 15 galleries, you really have the time to talk to them, to see what is good. So it really becomes familiar, a ‘family’ sort of thing.”

In total, 15 local galleries participated: Aike-Dell’arco, Arario (Seoul & Shanghai), ArtCN, BANK, Don Gallery, FQ Projects, Gallery 55, Hakgojae (Seoul & Shanghai), M Art Center, Mao Space, Pearl Lam Galleries, Shanghai Gallery of Art, ShanghART, The Gallery and Vanguard. The exhibition was held in the concept art-and-design mall K11 on Huaihai Lu in Shanghai.

Torrigiani explained that the germ of this idea came while he was working at SHContemporary: “The perception I had when I came here was that there was a collaborative spirit in Shanghai, in the art world. At the beginning, I had to put that feeling to the test, because I was very new when I came to SH [SHContemporary Art Fair]—whether that was an illusion or not…. And Donna [Chai]—along the way, we became friends. She started to work at SH from 2006 and went from a junior position to fair manager. We began to talk and we had so many ideas that we couldn’t develop within SH.”

“Especially in Shanghai, where art professionals are hard to find, it’s a real waste to work for four days [at an annual fair] and then disappear, and then come up for four days again. It would serve the art world much better if there was an ongoing project. They still need people to bring collectors, provide education, create a buzz and give information inside and outside. It’s amazing that I meet people who come quite often to Shanghai and are interested in art, but who still didn’t know some of the art galleries—smaller galleries, but important, relevant, key galleries. So there’s a lot to be done in that sense.”

“We thought we should really celebrate Shanghai in the region and in the art world. It synthesizes a lot of the functions that a lot of cities do. Maybe it doesn’t have as many interesting artists as Beijing does, but now it has enough interesting galleries and enough museums and institutions to be as relevant as Beijing. Maybe the market is not as strong and thriving as in Hong Kong—and I’m thinking of course of Art Basel—but still it’s an important market.”

Art in the City is about building an “open platform” with different formats to be developed throughout the year. Aside from this initial event, they have launched an art app highlighting the exhibitions of participating galleries.

“This year, it’s a bit reversed,” Quadrio said, “The idea is not to have this [exhibition] first. We wanted to try out the responses from the galleries—you know, if it doesn’t work, then it would have just been a fantasy we had. Actually, it worked very well… The format would change. We wanted to work with design as well, together, and combine the two. It could be incredibly interesting.”

And plans for the future?

“It’s not going to be an event, but rather an exhibition. Donna is working with the galleries to see who is going to be in town, what’s going on, the talks,” Quadrio said.