From the Bevilacqua to Collective Ateliers
Communities of Relations in Venice*

The following text was written as a possible means to orient communities of young and emerging artists in the Venice area, from the historic centre of the lagoon to Mestre.

Contextualising my role — given my experience working at the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa — I would first like to remark upon the importance of this institution. It has existed for over 120 years, thanks to the will of the visionary and passionate Felicita Bevilacqua. She imagined a modern factory with studios, spaces for exhibitions, Venetian industries, and a permanent collection which was to be managed according to a careful programme of economic income and rents (in reality, meaning only meagre rents for young and poor artists).[1]

Artists awarded with ateliers at the Fondazione, or the participants in its historic annual collective, prize-winners involved in exhibition activities, including experimental ones, will often — at the end of study cycles, workshops, or masters’ programmes — meet in the collectives which are created to begin a new, more mature and conscious experience.

Over the past fifteen years, this ferment, often a factor present within the best dynamics of emerging contemporary art, has been combined with a new, more spontaneous aggregative trend — one with a different ideology, a pragmatic one, if you will. On the one hand, there is the expression of the real interest of a new generation that wants to create connections of proximity and concrete exchanges of experiences in artistic production. On the other, perhaps, a stimulus and reaction to the phenomenon of social media and the search for new ways of creatively inhabiting everyday life in the city.

Conceived by the sensitive and inspired artists who have chosen to live and work in Venice, Spazio Punch on the Giudecca, in the former Dreher brewery area, alternates, in its spaces, international pavilions during the Bienniali and collaborations with art universities, with initiatives dedicated to emerging artists. Examples include the recent materialisation of works produced on Instagram, the dissemination of experimental publications, and the offer of temporary ateliers. It was indeed at the Spazio Punch that we could recently see temporary ateliers by a group of artists which, joining together for projects on a temporary basis, has existed for over a decade, namely the Fondazione Malutta. This is a heterogeneous collective of around thirty subjectivities between ages twenty and forty; under this name, it organises and participates in exhibitions, events, residencies, actions, thus cross-fertilising art galleries, institutional spaces and alternative venues. This is how the collective presents itself: “Age, native languages and creative tools, often very different, are boundaries that the group constantly challenges: a confluence of heterogeneous cultures, genres and sensitivities to enrich quality and foster collective research”.

The association thus casts itself as mass-inclusive, permeable, open, sardonic, ironic — i.e. an imaginative alternative to the Bevilacqua, as demonstrated by the page on their website that makes fun of this institution’s logo. In 2013 the Fondazione Malutta assumed the status of an association in the “Serenissima Republic of Venice”, and then sought a home, a lair, to develop its projects. It thereby aimed to disseminate a growing, young and gritty artistic heritage through exhibitions and events in ever-different guises.

There is an inevitable filiation and emergence of groups acting in continuation and/or implementation of what has been learnt during the years of study: the curricula indicate intersections between theoretical and practical paths, formative itineraries in search of complementary approaches between the excellence in artistic techniques of the Accademia di Belle Arti, the visual studies and art-historical methods of Ca’ Foscari, and the interdisciplinary design, fashion and theoretical-curatorial practices of the IUAV.

One very recent, promising case is the experience of Lama Farfalla. Anouk Chambaz, Angelo Licciardello, Pierpaolo Petruzzelli, Benedetta Fioravanti, Valentina Goretti and Giuseppe Di Liberto have decided to work in a space in which the continuous interchange of ideas, meetings and sharing become necessary elements. This approach stems from the desire to bring a form of dialogue back to the centre of the artist’s practice, without it thereby being necessary to constitute a collective.

Giuseppe Di Liberto was previously awarded an atelier at the Palazzo Carminati by the Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation (like Enrico Antonello last year). He is co-founder of Default, a group that grew out of a workshop at the Accademia, dedicated to “expanded painting”, to researching sound and electricity, and to the aesthetics of circuits. For Elisa Barbieri, this “is an open laboratory where the union of languages and research moves between artists based in Venice but coming from different territories. Born in 2017 within the Laboratorio di Pittura C, at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia, it is now a nomadic laboratory that uses different spaces as a way to establish networks, with the aim of self-producing, at the limits of the usual flow of distribution. Default is linked to the idea of artistic production beyond the limits of the medium, proposing aesthetic actions with the use of infinite means of expression, pursuing a set of discourses and strategies linked to codes which are not defined in advance”.

Among the best-known and most numerous communities, which cannot be contained in common spaces such as a classroom or a room, it is worth mentioning the Atelier F of painting at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia, characterised by a spiritual fellowship in which younger students meet former students in periodic workshops designed to foster an elective exchange of experiences.

This Atelier was first set up as an open painting and drawing workshop held by Carlo Di Raco and Martino Scavezzon at Forte Marghera. In recent years it was then transformed into the Extra Ordinario Workshop, an imposing atelier in the Antares pavilion in Marghera-Mestre at the Vega, a space made available by the Vulcano agency. They define themselves, in the words of Carlo Di Raco, as “A movement and a school”, “A collective artist” or “An organism with an autonomous life”.[2]

In the face of such a collective recognition, it must be remembered that there are sensibilities that need different dimensions to express themselves, spaces that conform more to precise aptitudes, and therefore shared work rhythms. This is the atmosphere in the atelier of Chiara Enzo, Marta Naturale, Laura Omacini, and Marta Spagnoli in Mestre; one tone of voice unites them: “Sharing a common space allows us to maintain an ever-open dialogue on our work, and also on everything that revolves around it. We question each other, exchange constructive criticisms and try to jointly solve the issues that cause us difficulties. Above all, we avoid relapsing into solipsism, constantly checking that our artistic discourse does not remain in the private sphere but is able to speak to each other and reach a public dimension”.

Other groups, many ultimately descending from Atelier F, have opened spaces in Mestre in recent years, attracted by the low rents and a supply of properties that has only grown with the crisis hitting small shops. Perhaps the most structured association today is zolforosso, created in Venice in 2017 and now operating also in two other locations, a second in Mestre and a third in Venice. It is concerned above all with painting, but not only that; it has experience working with video, performance, and installation, and shown a great deal of activism and organisational skills. Zolforosso has concretely participated in the projects networking independent spaces, mentioned above.

Filippo Rizzonelli, one of the founders, describes the specificity of this space, also at a conceptual level: “What is zolforosso? Zolforosso is a named space. And what is space? Space is a dimension, an abstract place, a particular place, a context. The unity of existence, nature and matter can only come to be through space and time. The search for a refuge in which to develop one’s own intimate creative potential, and the desire for engagement with the other, in an exemplary visual and kinaesthetic process, substantiates the movement of the imagination that drives today’s artists to come together in shared studios”.

They include Luisa Badino, Caterina Casellato, Celeste Dalla Libera, Greta Maria Gerosa, Manuela Kokanovic, Hetty Laycock, Angelo Licciardello, Gabriele Longega, Nicolas Magnant, Rob van den Berg, Runo B and Riccardo Vicentini, but their numbers are ever changing.

With the Extragarbo association, artistic and curatorial actions go hand-in-hand and theoretical reflection becomes cultural practice.

An attempt at a definition: “Extragarbo is a collective and platform for artistic and curatorial production, founded in Venice in 2019 by Est Coulon, Cosimo Ferrigolo, Gaia Ginevra Giorgi, Edoardo Lazzari, Leonardo Schifino, Theresa Maria Schlichtherle and Giusy Guadagno”.

The project springs from the sharing of heterogeneous research and practices regarding the languages of the stage and the performing arts. Extragarbo self-defines as a hybrid subject, a support and promotion system for the projects conceived by its members and their collaborations. The variety of aesthetics and formats brought together under this name constitute a prismatic identity united by shared desires and a solid political positioning. The vectors and lines of tension that direct the collective projects intersect with themes that are relevant not only in aesthetic-artistic terms, but also on the socio-cultural level: the creation of a statute of art workers, the recourse to a situated projectuality (in the public space and in the local dimension), self-education as a political practice of sharing (of specific needs and requirements related to each community).

Connected to Extragarbo is Bardadino. This latter describes itself as “a shared studio and independent cultural space born in Venice in November 2020. It hosts a group of artists and art professionals who have decided to stay and live in the city as a practice of resistance, with the intention of contributing to the reconstruction of an active community in the lagoon. On a day-to-day basis, the space serves as a multidisciplinary studio and, at irregular intervals, becomes a place open to a diffuse community, hosting transdisciplinary events related to music, the performing arts and radical literatures. In its few years of promoting the artistic practices of young authors, Bardadino has activated a process of micro-economy and collaboration with cultural realities, independent spaces and a group of heterogeneous professionals from across Italy. Its headquarters is in Calle della Pietà 3716a, Campo della Bragora, Castello district. Today, the contributors to the project are Edoardo Aruta, Nicola Bertolo, Elena Della Corna, Silvia Faresin, Cosimo Ferrigolo, Melania Fusco, Edoardo Lazzari, Cristiano Focacci Menchini, Margherita Mezzetti, Tommaso Pandolfi, Giulio Polloniato, and Michela Salvi”.

The people, places and groups mentioned in this article act from below, with a high degree of autonomy and freedom. They trouble up the traditions of contemporary art by fuelling a debate that for some demands reaching out to institutions (including artistic ones such as the Bevilacqua) to help them keep up to date, but for others demands total autonomy and self-sufficiency, to preserve its meaning and keep alive the instinctive freshness that produces emerging culture.

In territories as permeable to the sensitive dimension as possible — generating thoughts and works that are always new precisely because they are different and unstable — the best contemporary art is able to flourish.

*Thanks for the valuable dialogues: Edoardo Aruta, Elisa Barbieri, Chiara Enzo, Giuseppe Di Liberto, Edoardo Lazzari, Francesco Maluta, Augusto Maurandi, Corinne Mazzoli, Filippo Rizzonelli, Paolo Rosso.

[1] G. Bianchi, Traccia per un iniziale storia degli studi della Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, in Atelier Venezia. Gli studi della Bevilacqua La Masa, 1901-1965, edited by S. Cecchetto, Grafiche Veneziane, 2018, pp. 32-49; S. Coletto, Attualità degli studi. Dagli anni Novanta ad oggi, ivi, pp. 208-223.
[2] Artribune editors, video Extra Ordinary. Giovani artisti in mostra a Marghera, <> (February 5, 2023).

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