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> About the Emerging Talents Award, by Franziska Nori and Riccardo
Franziska Nori and Riccardo Lami
The Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi created the Emerging Talents award to encourage the new generation of Italian artists between the ages of twenty and forty whose creative and cultural potential demands a far wider audience. The competition is organised by the Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina (CCCS) and fulfils the Fondazione’s mission to provide a point of reference for future developments, whilst remaining unconstrained by the limits imposed by the temporary exhibition. The CCCS chooses to produce and present exhibitions and events to stimulate discussion between artists, critics and the public. In addition to the prize, an exhibition and a catalogue will be produced to mark the competition, which offer young artists the chance to gain recognition and promote their work in Italy and abroad.
Emerging Talents is quite unlike any of the many other initiatives in Italy. It adopts a new formula with a two-tier selection, each with its own special panel. The Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi first nominated a scholarly committee made up off five independent art critics and curators, all Italians, between the age of thirty and forty, each fully engaged with contemporary art.
The scholarly committee includes Andrea Bellini (independent curator and critic of the Artissima fair in Turin), Luca Cerizza (independent curator and critic), Caroline Corbetta ((independent curator and critic), Andrea Lissoni ((art historian and curator), Paolo Parisi (artist and teacher at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna). Each presented five artists. Their expertise makes them ideal talent scouts and guarantees candidates of the highest quality while ensuring that this is now one of the most prestigious awards in Italy or elsewhere.
Although the selected artists might well have already had personal exhibitions and received the support of galleries and institutions, the concern of the CCCS is to bring them into contact with a much wider audience. Their work is immensely varied: painting, graphics, sculpture, installations, photography, videoart. The selection was not made on the basis of a single work but on the artist’s creative evolution, considering their originality, consistency and maturity. Of fundamental importance was the innovative aspect of their production with regard to its social impact, form and conceptual development. The quality of the presented work was assessed in the context of all the artist’s previous output.
The CCCS therefore prepared a vast documentary presentation of the twenty-five artists selected to help the international jury decide on the prize winners. The jury of museum and gallery curators and directors is composed of Kathrin Becker (director of the Videoforum of the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein), Jan Boelen (director of the centro d’arte contemporanea Z33, Belgium), Rudolf Frieling (curator of media art at San Francisco MOMA), Hubertus Gassner (director of the Kunsthalle Hamburg) and Cornelia Grassi (Greengrassi Gallery, London), all at the forefront of contemporary art and culture. Consultants to them are: Heiner Holtappels (director of Netherlands Media Art Institute Montevideo, Amsterdam), Christoph Tannert (director of Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin) and Franziska Nori (project director of CCCS, Florence). All the jury members are highly influential in the international contemporary art world where they are strategic players in the relationship between artists and institutions.
The two winners of Emerging Talents 2008-2009 will receive travel scholarships entirely financed by the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi / CCCS, to the Netherlands Media Art Institute Montevideo in Amsterdam and the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin. During their period of residence in the artist’s studios, they will able to produce and exhibit new works. Both these leading art centres have been successful in launching emerging artists onto the international circuit. They provide new opportunities for comparison and promotion, organising, for example, studio visits with curators, critics, and journalists. For this reason a cash prize was rejected in favour of a residence abroad as this gives the winners a real opportunity to advance their careers and make the most of their experience in an international context. The prize is not meant to be an isolated recognition of talent but is intended to make a lasting contribution to the artists’ future.
From 23 January to 29 March 2009 the CCCS will stage a collective exhibition of the twenty-five finalists, providing all those involved, and not just the two prizewinners, with an invaluable platform. Although the works chosen by the five judges will be exhibited in five distinct sections they share a wide ranging creative energy, intimate, private, authentic and reflect an awareness of the European and international context. . Each artist was asked to contribute a work that best reflects their creative evolution. In the accompanying catalogue members of the scholarly committee put forward their candidates and the reasons for their selection. In addition to these texts the catalogue also documents the artists’ activity with brief biographies and, more importantly, selected images of their production.
The idea of the project Emerging Talents is to present and promote a new generation of Italian artists who all too often do not receive enough support in their professional development. In Italy today there is a sense of disenchantment and scepticism. Unlike other countries Italy unfortunately lacks an adequate infrastructure to support contemporary artistic production in all its various forms of expression. The problem is not solely due to the scarcity of specialised exhibition spaces but also a lack of interest in the young generation, and a disregard for artists who have not yet made their names internationally. These artists however actively support as the future creative assets of our society.
Study programmes abroad, as well as public structures that provide studio space and art education at accessible prices, create the conditions for artistic production. These might operate in collaboration with public and private associations running programmes and exhibition spaces along the lines of the Kunstvereine, together with a system of galleries prepared to invest in the younger generation: these are some of the prerequisites for the adequate growth and development of tomorrow's culture. During the period of the exhibition EMERGING TALENTS - Nuova Arte Italiana, the CCCS will again offer a weekly series of lectures, giving the public insight into the decisions, theories and personalities behind the selection committee. Representatives of various institutes and universities will also speak about creative and cultural life in Italy. These lectures reflect different experiences, sectors and disciplines in the cultural promotion of the new generation of contemporary artists.
Unfortunately all too often Italy lags far behind the other European countries in providing support for young talent. But if culture, research and creativity are, as we believe, the leading strengths of Italy today, Emerging Talents provides a model of serious and concrete commitment, and provides a vigorous alternative to timid rearguard actions. It is precisely in times of crisis or stagnation that we must find the courage to look for new creative solutions. This is not the time to retreat, but a moment to invest all our strength, energy and talent to injecting new life into our contemporary art and culture.