Paratissima is a five-day contemporary art fair that aims to reconnect the wider public with art and shine a spotlight on up and coming artists. With specialist sections on fashion, design, video and photography, young artists have a platform to experiment and build. After all, how are emerging artists meant to emerge, without a space to do so? This ethos is visible in other aspects, too. Young curators also have a chance to hone their skills – graduates from a course earlier in the year lead the curation of several of the exhibition areas. And for the early stage art collectors among us, the small galleries project gives ample opportunity to make a first purchase, if that’s your thing.
It all started back in 2005. As the glitterati of the contemporary art world descended upon Turin for the annual Artissima art fair, on the other side of town, seven artists exhibited their work in an empty apartment. Their attitude was, if they hadn’t yet made the lineup at the trendy art fair, then they would start their own. And so, Paratissima was born. The next year the founding artists took over an abandoned building and attracted 3,500 visitors. For four years, they went where there was space and interest to host them, moving between vacant offices, open shops, an old butcher’s front and so on. They attracted international interest and had sister events and partnerships in Portugal, Sardinia and Macedonia. In a few short years, Paratissima established itself as one of the leading events in the national art landscape with over 400 artists and 50,000 visitors in 2016.
They do now exhibit more established artists, if those artists are interested in engaging dynamically with a wider public audience. However, the central ethos remains the same: showcasing emerging artists for the wider public. Their understanding is that the beauty and appreciation of art should be present in the everyday. Art and the experience of it is visible and interactive, not inaccessible or exclusive to a particular class or economic demographic. This was the logic behind the 2016 “360 Degrees Project,” which turned everyday destinations in Turin (shops, cafes) into spaces with exhibits, all year round.
You see, this too is the learning-by-doing focus of the festival which explores design and new technology, as well as creativity. Attend workshops and art sessions for little kids and big kids of all ages, where you can make jewelry out of LEDs with the FabLabs group, learn about tattoo techniques, or how to use waste material creatively. Take a guided tour with an art historian and be surprised halfway through with a participatory theater intervention. The theme each year guides the exploratory sessions, to an extent.