Founded in 1990 by three friends in the Tuscan town of San Gimignano, Galleria Continua now represents the likes of Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor and Michelangelo Pistoletto with spaces in Havana, Paris and Beijing. Last week, the gallery opened its first location in Rome within the St Regis hotel. We spoke to co-founder Lorenzo Fiaschi about the opening, artist residency programs and the year ahead
1. Why Rome and why now?
The people, situations and places we encounter are what inspires us, our projects don’t come from how the “market” works or from collecting. When we find somewhere with which we feel a certain type of harmony, we launch ourselves into it, body and soul. We let ourselves get swept away by passion and luckily, results follow. In Rome, we have collector friends who follow and appreciate us, so we’re happy to create this new adventure in order to see them more often.
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2. How did you first develop a relationship with the St. Regis?
We started our collaboration with The St Regis Rome through a project with Loris Cecchini. His exhibition had great success and created a lot of interest and buzz. Some Romans were curious about the installation Blaublobbing that you could see from outside and entered the hotel to discover the other works. A place that hosts international artists while creating a dialogue between the works, the space and the guests that stay there is something new and it worked. We then followed that with an exhibition by Pascale Marthine Tayou, an artist who celebrates life through his works. Forms, colours and a mix of human and geographical oddities invaded The St Regis and it was another thrilling experience.
The General Manager, Giuseppe De Martino, from the beginning has been a promoter of an open relationship towards the world of contemporary art, at this point he showed us a very unusual wing of the hotel, unknown to guests, the Sala Diocleziano. We liked it and so accepted the challenge, imagining what it could become and deciding to open a new exhibition space.
3. What are some of the challenges of opening a gallery within a hotel?
The challenge is to stimulate and draw in people who don’t know, or don’t frequent the contemporary art world. The challenge is to bring the gaze of the hotel guests onto forms and languages that are unusual for them. Art opens us up to new realities and new ways of thinking.
The educational aspects of Galleria Continua Roma’s program aim to bring children closer to contemporary art by providing them with suitable reading keys, not only for the understanding of an artistic language for the time they live in, but also for the creation of creative knowledge and stimulants. The intent is to educate about art through art.
4.Can you tell us about the concept behind José Yaque’s exhibition Maturation?
José Yaque, as the first artist in the new space, represents a continuation of the Cuban experience which began with the opening of Galleria Continua Habana. He’s a witness and representative of a gallery experience which aims to weave relationships between cultures, geographies and diverse individuals, Yaque conceptually represents a bridge between Cuba and Rome.
For Maturation, he presents a series of new paintings and an installation from the ‘Tumba Abierta’ series, an archive in transformation made up of natural elements (plants, seeds, fruits, leaves); new forms of landscape where matter, colours and smells magically transport the viewer to other places. José Yaque’s paintings are like windows opening onto a landscape. Mixing and applying the colours using his hands, a sort of magma is formed and transformed when he wraps the works with plastic film before removing the protective layer, once dried, resulting in an eroded painting.
5. How will the artist residencies work?
We’ll also be launching an artist residency program that will be selected by an expert committee every 6 months, giving an opportunity to young artists from emerging countries to stay in the capital, to increment their personal and professional growth by confronting themselves with the immense contemporary, and antique Italian artistic heritage. The works done during these stays will be presented to the public in the spaces of the gallery.
6. What other developments do you have planned for this year?
Coming up, with the Chinese artists Sun Yuan & Peng Yu (their exhibition constitutes a third stage in the collaboration project with The St Regis Rome, after Loris Cecchini and Pascale Marthine Tayou) we organised talks at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma and a talk at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara. We’re always open to any collaboration that can create an exchange and a dialogue.
In 2020, we are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Galleria Continua so there are many exciting things to come. At the end of the summer we are opening a new location in Sao Paulo in Brazil in the Pacaembu stadium, a historic building in the heart of the city, since 1940 it has been a central part of the city’s cultural life.
In September, we will be celebrating this anniversary where everything began, in San Gimignano with an exhibition of Chen Zhen inaugurating on 18, 19 and 20 September 2020.
‘Maturation’ by José Yaque runs until 28 March 2020 at Galleria Continua at The St Regis Rome. For more information visit: galleriacontinua.com