• Into a New Curation

    Interview with Maria Chiara Valacchi

Getting to know what the versatile art curator has meticulously built over the years. Revolution, craving of innovation, and tenacity have allowed her to refresh and recreate an established system, highlighting the power of an unusual perspective. The brilliant curator sheds light on the multitude of possible paths to pursue a goal and emphasises that innovation and creativity are driving forces for new artistic horisons.

Regarding your educational background, could you tell us about your degree as an art restorer? Do you believe it was crucial for achieving your current career? And how did your formation journey progress?

I had just finished high school when I landed in Milan from Tuscany. My childhood dream was to become an art restorer, sparked by my fascination in Assisi, watching professionals skillfully restore vivid colors to frescoes. Initially, I planned to attend the high-level Opificio delle pietre dure school in Florence. However, while figuring out the stringent admissions process, I learned about a course at Brera, open to only twenty-eight students, focusing on the restoration of contemporary art over six years. This intrigued me more, and I participated in the selection process, fortunately securing a spot from a large pool of applicants.
Although I graduated in restoration, I never truly practiced the profession. Immersed in the vibrant world of contemporary art, I discovered another passion for curation and art criticism. I enrolled in a specific master’s program and began taking my first steps in that direction. However, I believe that an in-depth study of subjects like art history, aesthetics, color chemistry, and a hands-on approach to the artwork has enhanced my ability to interpret. I can simply discern whether a person can paint or sculpt, understanding intentional rough resolutions or detecting executive incompetence. While an extensive knowledge of materials facilitated describing and narrating certain works, I am well aware that contemporary art often diverges from purely aesthetic resolutions. My journey has been a series of events and a desire to read, see, and study. Without any true supporter backing me, I moved forward independently, reaching out to magazines for collaboration, galleries for exhibition curation, visiting studios to network and delve into the surrounding cultural scene. I’ve been very curious and always ready to genuinely commit, never leaving anything to neglect. I believe this has been the true process that has brought me to where I am today.

Sometimes, art is perceived as an institutional and elite system. Conversely, your career advocates for a fresh, fluid, and integrative approach. Do you think the Italian cultural scene is still distant from this latter vision? What measures could help dispel this perception?

I couldn’t technically access an elite because, initially, I wasn’t part of it. This, of course, closed off many paths for me, especially institutional ones, but it granted me great freedom of expression and the opportunity not to adhere to certain dictates imposed by the intellectual world. I could, therefore, support diverse approaches, less conformist, which fortunately were recognised as valid alternatives. I approached the art system, eventually becoming a part of it, showcasing competence and aiming to prioritise high-quality projects without succumbing to the allure of easy gains or swift recognition, even if it meant facing consequences without regrets. However, I believe that the Italian cultural scene is still very rigid and bound by antiquated systems and ways of doing things, often favouring old-fashioned methods of management. In the institutional world and other realms, a sort of “clientelism” persists, which I think will be challenging to dismantle. Meritocracy, well, that’s a whole other story!

Through media and social platforms, you’ve brought artistic content to a broad audience. Are there exhibitions or works from these years that you are particularly proud of?

Yes, I’ve used social media in a “young” way despite belonging to a generation that didn’t grow up with them. Honestly, I take pride in every project I’ve curated. At the expense of economic and promotional gains, I’ve given up on many things, but it has left me with the freedom to decide what to do and with whom to collaborate.

Your career weaves together various cultural elements. From a curatorial perspective, is it important to have a flexible and heterogeneous aesthetic, or is adopting distinctive marks more functional?

In the past, the curator’s role was primarily to create or outline artistic movements, identify potential creatives to propagate culturally foundational themes relevant to the period. Choices were clearer, and practices and approaches were more defined. Today, this is impossible due to the heterogeneity of languages, the bombardment of increasingly fragmented information, and a society that has shifted from fluid to gaseous and disintegrated. Therefore, to capture the spirit of the times, it is fitting to embrace this intangibility, adopting a cross-disciplinary approach that defines it, even in the way of narrating it.

Over the years, you’ve launched significant projects like Cabinet, Studiolo, and Paint. Can you shed light on their diverse purposes and identify a common thread that unifies them?

A constant across all three projects is the co-founder, Antonio Di Mino, who, over the past 14 years, has collaborated with me in creating and structuring these ideas. Cabinet was conceived in 2010, enriching the offerings of emerging non-profit spaces highly active at that time in the Milanese scene. Its main intent was to rebuild the intellectual reputation of painting, which at the time was a language confined to “commercial” environments distant from a certain elite of collectors, critics, and gallerists. We introduced a very coherent double-show format from the start, where dual exhibitions of mid-career international artists established connections between painting, installation, and sculpture to highlight potential correlations and emphasise each other’s qualities.
Studiolo, on the other hand, was born in 2015. After five years in the non-profit format of Cabinet, it became a space created with the goal of discovering young emerging artists in the Italian and international scene, supporting a select few in their growth within the contemporary art system. Paint!, on the other hand, was the first experiment of an online magazine entirely dedicated to the pictorial language, relying exclusively on the expertise of prominent artists. It’s an online platform dedicated to showcasing the best painting exhibitions, reviewed by creatives who have complete control over the selection. Paint! utilises a carefully chosen group of internationally renowned painters who submit noteworthy exhibitions, both public and private, for publication using exclusively high-resolution images.

Your dynamic attitude is involved in numerous initiatives. Is there a specific focus or upcoming project you’re currently working on?

The specific project aims to create exhibitions that meet our expectations and become moments of reflection for our visitors and supporters. We are currently developing a project tied to the theme of the Archaic, scheduled for late March. This exhibition will unveil not only prominent names and emerging talents but will also be connected to a new phase of our project.

Maria Chiara Valacchi / Into a New Curation

Credits:

Art Curator: Maria Chiara Valacchi / @mcvalacchi
Interview: Annalisa Fabbrucci / @annalisa_fabbrucci
Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko

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