Put Art, young people and a number of hotel rooms in a glossy hotel together right in the heart of London: the result is unexpectedly not a party everyone has to recover from the day after, this time; it is rather a non-conventional time when artists find the freedom to create their own environment and visitors join together for a real art experience, to (sort of) quote Cristina Cellini Antonini, its director and curator.
The concept of Art Rooms is simple and irresistible at the same time: let’s give young artists a platform to meet buyers, let’s give art lovers a place where, room after room, meeting artists not only is possible, it is actually the focus of the entire experience.
So here we are at Meliá White House hotel, strolling around, room after room, trying to say intelligent things to artists so they don’t think we are silly. I almost have a heart attack when meeting Kevin Dagg in person - I should have known of course he was there, should have read carefully my pamphlet, and thank God I didn’t: I got this immense surprising pleasure instead. We stay in his room maybe a little too long, a queue goes increasing outside the door, but I am not so concerned, as I get to see his eyes get teary when explaining Breaking Point (2013). The image inspiring this wood-carved heart-breaking work of Art is taken from a newspaper photograph of a prisoner being ‘softened up’ in Abu Ghraib prison in 2004. He has the maquette with him, right in the room and I just can’t believe it.
If I didn’t make this clearer, we are right now in a bedroom, with somebody I have admired since a long time - although he too is a young, contemporary artist, asking direct questions without second guessing from books, websites, youtube. None of that: his words, my ears. Fantastico.
Some artists are so young and so evidently at the beginning of their career, some of them surely with the extra factor, that one should spend an entire week between these corridors and invest what’s necessary. Art does work like that: when something speaks to us, and does it with a universal language, nothing can be keep us away from that piece of eternity. We want to own it, to be defined by it, to penetrate the sense of life through that artist’s sight. I wish I was an artist.
We meet Cristina and her team at the end of the journey, and she introduces this venture to all of us, some hundreds of previewers, explaining what’s the aim of ArtRooms. We have no technical time for our interview so we have to postpone it to next week, on the phone. We make it happen and thankfully her voice is as clear as an alphabet written on the wall the first day of school: no surprise, apart from her involvement in Art, she has been a theatre actress. I can get every word she says.
Le Dame Gallery, an immense space at the Meliá White House hotel devoted to contemporary, unexplored artists, mainly Italians, is planning on two major events this year, one during the winter (December) I assisted to and one in the summer around June. Cristina explains to me this is an itinerant entity, with a natural vocation to get to all the European capitals and, why not, further.
Cristina, how did the concept of ArtRooms come to your mind?
I have always been involved in Art, as a performer myself, initially, and now as a curator. My background involves theatre and events organisation, so ArtRooms would be considered a natural evolution. It is a completely different concept when it comes to show Art, a new one, we truly believe in young artists and their potential: they were missing a powerful platform and we have created one just for them.
Art Rooms experiment has attracted both artists and Art enthusiasts. What is your intention with ArtRooms in the long term?
I see ourselves travelling all over Europe capitals for sure, bringing our represented artists to sensational knowledge. It’s an act of love, as in this stage of their production there is absolutely nothing that makes us ’safe’ in the investment, but our results are pretty outstanding right now, already. I think artists see the future. Actually, they are our way to see what’s going to happen. Investing in them in this early stages means to get in touch with some pretty intense visions, row material: it is a fantastic bet to be made.
How do you choose the artists to represent?
For ArtRooms2015 we contacted over 5000 artists, emailed 1987 artists and chosen approx 200, part of which were selected by our committee (Ian Rosenfeld director and curator at Rosenfeld Porcini Gallery, Roberta Cremoncini director at the Estorick Collection of Italian Modern Art, Greta Scacchi actress and Arturo Galansino exhibition curator at the Royal Academy of Arts).
What role do the Art Galleries play today and which one do you personally like to play in the Art Market?
Art Galleries are a marketing tool for artists. We simply offer a platform. In our case is one that is riskier, but we think we are going to be right in the long term. We already manage a number of artists exclusively, the aim is to duplicate our current performances of course. ArtRooms2015 was our very first initiative in this direction, we have to grow up, adjust something here, something there, but I think we are in the right pattern.
Who are today the 4 most influential figures in the London Art emerging market?
I can tell which were the most interesting emerging artists we had the pleasure to showcase at ArtRooms2015: Maarten van den Bos, winner of the Bloomberg New Contemporaries Award in 2013. Joe Reddy won 2 prizes at the National Open award: The Piran Strange Award for Young Artists, and The Young Photographer’s Award. Jean-Luc Almond, winner of The CASS ART Commission – National Open Art Competition, Somerset House, 2014 and Rafal Zawistowski, in 2012 Zawistowski exhibited his first solo exhibition and Charles Saatchi bought the entire collection before the private view.
Who made ArtRooms possible?
Many people… first of all, Chiara Canal my business partner at Le Dame Art Gallery; Francesco Fanelli who is co-director together with me at ArtRooms. The Meliá White House Hotel who believed in the project since the very first moment. Brownhill insurance group, Bow Arts Trust, all our sponsors and media partners, all the people involved, the arts advisory board, the exhibitors and all 3000 visitors who visited us!
In ten years from now, ArtRooms will what?
ArtRooms will be all over the world, of course. We are already working on it. We are planning on two events for 2015 but probably at least twice in 2016. We are focusing on a capital a time.
For more information visit: www.art-rooms.org