Gianfranco Tonin | The artist who made his expressive freedom a way of being (and living)

A conversation with the artist Gianfranco Tonin, the award-winning artist of the ‘Most Publicly Voted Work’ section at the “International Prize for Contemporary Art Visioni Altre” 2022-2023 in Venice

The award ceremony at Visioni Altre Gallery – Venice

You call yourself a self-taught artist, what did it mean to you? And how did your artistic vocation come about?

My youthful impetuosity, and my lack of inclination for discipline, clashed with school rigidity and this meant that I left the State Art Institute I was attending after three years. I must confess, to tell the truth, that I was not particularly interested in studying classical art, as I was fascinated by contemporary art, especially the Dada movement and Pop Art. I therefore did not have a school curriculum but embarked on an artistic path independently, I cannot say whether I gained or lost, what I do know is that I started painting looking for a technique closer to me to express what I was living. I felt free, unconsciously free.

Tell us about your black and white period. You describe it as ‘the technical synthesis” of a creative and poetic…

In those years (end of the 70s of the last century ) I wished to ‘live on Art’, searching for specific meanings, looking through the mirror at reality, provocation, love, emotions and fears. For a few years I tried and mixed different techniques and materials, moving from canvas to cardboard and from oil temperas to synthetic paints. I was looking for an essentiality -in technique and in chromatic choice- for emphasising imagination and poetry. So I so I got to black and white, two essential colors, neutral and opposing tones as synonyms of right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, shadow and light. 

I therefore abandoned the colour to use only pencil and white cardboard (as a reference I had the photographer Helmut Newton).I was inspired by portraits or human figures to rework and recontextualise them, creating other images in a photographic figurative realism, with non-conformist connotations. The provocation, well emphasised by the black and white, was direct and sharp but with time also included the whole grey scale, in an “Aesthetic Divertissement” (An example from 1984 is ‘If the net breaks’ depicting two women kissing behind a torn net right at the level of their mouths. Exhibited at the 68th collective exhibition of the Bevilacqua Foundation in Venice).

Why, at some time, choose to leave traditional techniques behind to approach other materials?

If you are referring to oil painting and canvas, I can safely say that I left them many years ago, because I was looking for other techniques to express myself. After the synthesis of black and white, which I worked with for about fifteen years, I started to collect what was around me, everyday materials to return to experiment. It was then that I returned to using colour. I painted on glass, with synthetic paints starting from a detail (e.g. a reflection of light) to the background; I engraved wooden panels with a metal point, overlapping several layers of different coloured paint. The feature that linked this type of work, becoming the common thread, was always the human figure, for me the focal symbol of the universe. 

At the end of the 1990s, I did a series of works with coloured pastels, where strokes and lines made with very fast movements on a white background, created panoramas with an undefined horizon point. Without presumption today I can declare that I’ve never stopped looking for new ways or other materials, such as different types of plastic material (silicone), cellophane, nylon bags, tar or cement powders. A continuous personal research/experimentation to relate to the observer also through play and and his reaction.

In recent years, you have been devoting yourself to the subject of the environment and the consequences that certain human behaviours cause to nature. Forgive us the provocation: in our time, when everyone ‘chatters’ about environmental protection, do you think that art can really make people think and invite change?

I don’t know if art can inspire change, but it is certain that art can make people think and make them more sensitive to a possible relationship with the environment. Since 2017 I have been using plastic in the creation of works depicting the sea and its living organisms, in a path from figurative representation to informal work, yet concealing a hyperrealist vision because, as it happens, this is exactly what we can find in reality. Playing with paradox, these works convey a clear message of denunciation. Denunciation that cannot be ignored and which I also had the pleasure of finding in Pope Francis’ encyclical letter ‘Laudato si’, which I recommend reading. The greed of a profit-driven society is driving human beings in pursuit of a well-being that is no longer sustainable. The planet is experiencing ecological and social degradation that is putting us at risk of future extinction.

A thought of my own: perhaps we are manifesting the true human nature, no longer survival instinct but an unconscious will to self-destruct.

Is it still time for art to deal with social issues?

Of course…..! Art has always stood as a universal language, a representation of the divine, of harmony and beauty. But also as a denunciation of evils and injustices representing the society in which it develops, often anticipating and culturally stimulating a new way of seeing or feeling or a future change. From Giotto’s Expulsion of the Merchants from the Temple to Raphael’s School of Athens to point out the values of the good, the true and the beautiful, from Goya’s “Shooting on 3 May 1808”, which denounced for the first time the horrors of war, to Picasso, to the DADA movement, moving from ‘art for art’s sake’ to Banksy, one of the world’s best-known streetartists who has been able to spread messages of social denunciation in a satirical key. Art is communication, introspective or explicit. Art speaks, or rather shouts.

At the end of 2022, you decided to participate in a Contemporary Art Prize in Venice and, having reached the finals, your work was the most acclaimed by the public. We think it was a rewarding satisfaction, tell us how it made you feel and in your opinion, what is the added value that allowed your work to be so appreciated (remembering that it won out of 78 works on display!)

I am very pleased and grateful for the recognition I received from the Contemporary Art Prize, the emotion was great also because it was unexpected. As for the added value that enabled this recognition…I suppose it was the apparent simplicity of the image, a horizon line suggesting calm, stillness and therefore great tranquillity bathed in a breathtaking light (what we probably need today).

I don’t know, that’s my idea but who knows how many other interpretations have been given on the subject. Maybe someone in that strip of horizon heard a scream? Who knows!

In ‘Arctic Landscape’ (the award-winning work), nature as a whole decodes the human soul and its facets. How does your stylistic choice of harmony and authenticity fit in with an often violent and contradictory reality?

We need harmony and light and in ‘Arctic Landscape’ we can find it.

We can feel the elements linking in a vision opening up to a geometry, seemingly regular but questioning us, offering a deliberately broader perspective of observation. A subtle suggestion of action-non-action, because when nature is compromised by human action, the universal balance is broken and reality needs to recompose this fracture, repairing the precious sacredness of creation.

Is there (or has there been) a contemporary author who influenced or enhanced your artistic career? A painter, a scholar or a musician…?

I cannot say that there is/was a particular author…I admire several artists, that in various ways and at different times, I have felt closest to me and to my new desire for expression. As you may have guessed, I am constantly researching, and always open to the desire to let myself be contaminated, re-presenting in my own way what I feel, what I experience and what I want to communicate.

A goal (or dream still unrealised) for the future?

The purpose is not to stop working with art and to continue searching for a personal technique and style with which to communicate. As I have already said, for me art can only be expression of emotion and/or food for thought, through various stylistic forms including simplicity, play, provocation, paradox.

The dream is to realise the many ideas in my mind and to disseminate them as widely as possible.

On display – Venezia – 2023

The work was on display throughout February 2023 at Visioni Altre Gallery Campo del Ghetto Novo, 2918 in Venice (Sestiere Cannaregio).

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Venice | Minkkinen’s “inseparability”

Within by the photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen is the second exhibition in the brand-new SpazioEventi La Toletta

The new Spazio Eventi La Toletta opened the doors with “Venice, 2019-2021” – the stunning solo exhibition by Michele Alassio – just a few weeks ago. Now it makes people talk once again.

As a matter of fact, it’s no coincidence that the venue’s owner Giovanni Pelizzato has precisely recurred to Alassio’s art direction to manage this unique and peculiar location. As a skilled photographer, Alassio is not a professional who usually leaves things to chance. So, from the very first days of the opening, he has already presented an exhibition schedule 2021-2022 which is worthy of the most famous galleries devoted to photography worldwide.

The second exhibition “Within” by the photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen (Helsinki, Finland, 1945) is another remarkable demonstration of Alassio’s guideline. It’s more than clear that for the Spazio Eventi La Toletta won’t be difficult to amaze the visitor again with such a kind of high-level proposals in terms of works and authors involved.

Even outside the venue where the poster of the exhibition is already visible, a peculiar sobriety clearly arises and guides the public through the rooms during the visit too. Although Minkkiken plays the role of the subject in his own photographs, he has nothing in common with the classic idea of the self-portrait (and with the modern and trivial version of selfies as well). Actually, it can be stated without any fear to be contradicted, that the concept of self-portrait has never been so far from the artist’s intention.

As a matter of fact, the author of these extraordinary pictures – who is the pioneer of this genre– has travelled worldwide (putting himself concretely in his own pictures) for 50 years. Becoming part of the world is absolutely essential in order to make people enter his personal relationship with the surrounding environment. So his naked body – or just a part of it – is literally included (first as an idea and then as a photography technique) in (the most various) contexts which accept his presence and embody it as an added value.

A body/a stone mass between water reflections; an arm which outlines the horizon; a hand which stands out from the rocks. These details are apparently unimportant but turn into key-points to define a new reality. An imaginary one? Not at all, because we are right there to see it thanks to Minkkiken’s eyes.

This exhibition is open until the 7th of January, 2022 with the following hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays 4-7.30pm
Sundays: 11am-2pm | 2.30-6pm
Mondays off

Free admission

SpazioEventi La Toletta

Michele Alassio Photographer

(S)elective focus

The new SpazioEventi by La Toletta bookshop has reopened with the art direction of one of the most important Italian contemporary photographers: Michele Alassio, who recently gave us an interview

A photographic exhibition schedule which is ambitious and of the highest-profile . This is the one presented at the brand-new Spazio Eventi by La Toletta. Is there a tendency or maybe a main stream that connects the majority of your exhibition proposals?

Actually not. There is no trend or preference in terms of styles and genres from my point of view. Definitely, this could be self-contradictory if compared to my role as an art director. This gallery is open to any graphic or photographic proposal. There are only two discriminating factors: the absolute quality and the frankness of the works proposed. It means that even if I have a precise idea of what artistic photography should be, I don’t despise anything which differs from my personal conception as long as it’s appreciable according to the two aforementioned aspects.

How does the Spazio Eventi by La Toletta communicate with the Venetian social fabric? Have you already thought about further collaboration or shared large-scale projects which would involve activities of excellent quality in the surroundings?

I only deal with the artistic and exhibiting aspect, whereas Giovanni (Pelizzato, owner of both the Toletta bookshop and the exhibition area) takes care of the literary part. On my behalf, I have no preconception about the city and I’m open to any proposal as long as it respects the two rules previously mentioned. For what concerns large-scale projects – which means to be part of an exhibition that develops in more than one location – I don’t think they are practically feasible due to a significant difference of quality in terms of the exhibition area and lighting system. As a matter of fact, the Spazio Eventi is a unique venue with quality standards which cannot be found in other local places (institutions and museums included). What’s more, it has been conceived in order so that the public can enjoy the original works, being them photographs or graphic pieces. Just a few images: the top ones arranged in the best way. To be part of a “kermes” which cannot offer the same quality is not unfortunately of our interest. The upcoming “Art Night”, in its own nature, is only an admissible exception since we currently have an exhibition underway, but in the future nothing will be presented if not fully planned and checked out by the art direction.

The intention of promoting worthy proposals of photographers who don’t have the opportunity to self- finance a public exhibition is in your objective. Which are the dynamics to be carried out with this aim?

The Venice Photo Prize – thanks to Banca Generali’s collaboration – is an initiative which goes exactly in this direction. In fact, we offer an absolute beginner not only the possibility to work on a new series in Venice, but also to exhibit in the most interesting period of the year (during the International Art Biennale). It’s a way to challenge the rental market for exhibition areas which has experienced a rise in terms of location fees and this impedes a young and fresh cultural offer. No art gallery presents a beginner because, considering the costs, the risk is mega high. The result of which is that in every Biennale edition we come across the usual galleries and the usual well-known names. Toletta Eventi does exactly the opposite: it offers its own location (the best one in terms of general equipment) completely free of charge.

In this opening exhibition the roles of the artist and of the art director coincide. How does the latter behave towards “his own” exhibition?

The decision to open the venue with an exhibition which focuses on Venice has been tormented but inevitable. Spazio Eventi is and will always be a cultural proposal (free of charge…there are no tickets), dedicated to what remains of our inhabitants but, at the same time, with an international view both in terms of the exhibitions and visitors. My last three series describe the problems of the city, the shock of this

pandemic and the uncertainty of the future. No other photographer in the world better knows this reality and neither has succeeded in expressing it as intensively: the point of view and the knowledge of the territory is essential and – since I live in Venice and I love it – I might have started off with an advantage.

As a photographer, you have travelled worldwide collaborating with international magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Lui, Vanity Fair and working on fashion campaigns of haute couture. Why did you want to come back to Venice right now with a permanent exhibition proposal?

Despite everything, from an artistic point of view, Venice is the centre of the world. Because of its Biennale, but also for Venice in itself, for what Venice offers to those who see it and for the huge visual and literary culture within it and therefore can provide it. All the other metropolises have to usually find a reason to set up an exhibition; Venice just has to show what it is because the city is itself an exhibition. The point is that this causes the city to be used as “a window display” and not as a permanent centre of cultural enrichment. The aims of the Spazio are: a cultural offer and a preserving dialogue with the city and the world. After all, numbers have already supported us: the opening on the 4th of September – parallel to the vernissage of Palazzo Grassi, the Venice Film Festival and several other events – saw hundreds of visitors from 4 pm to 11 pm, without the means and the looming promotion of our competitors. We just used 100 leaflets and no mural postings (unfortunately the areas had already been taken up).

After “Venice’s autopsy”, “Our darkest hour, its radiant time” and “Mirages-joking with fire” which describe the upset that hit Venice in just three years, where do you feel you should set your focus?

Not in Venice. After all, it has been a choice due to the impossibility of travelling more than any other reason. From 6th to 11th October my classic series will be exhibited at the MIA in Milan in the biggest booth of the fair where I’m going to present my book “Passing Steamer-nella fotografia” edited by La Toletta- Edizioni which is selling very well without advertisement. I’ll then think about what to do. I always need an image to start with in order to put together a series, and for the last four months all my energy has been taken up by the venue.

SpazioEventi La Toletta

Michele Alassio Photographer

(From the left) Massimiliano Camellini, guest of one of the next exhibitions; Giovanni Pelizzato; Michele Alassio

Anum Farooq

The artist who explores Science via Art

Hello Anum, it’s really a pleasure to know each other – even if only virtually, for now. Thanks for sharing your world and artistic path with Art On Gallery. Can you tell our readers something about you? Where do you come from and which is your educational background?

Thank you and likewise, a great honour to have this conversation. I grew up in north London and studied at a school which was about a hundred years old. I remember walking down cobbled paths to Enfield County School, with aplenty of daffodils in the spring along the way. 

I went on to study Biochemistry with Management from Imperial College London, as well as a History of Art course at University College London. Am also an Associate of the Royal College of Science through Imperial, thereafter I completed my PGCE and then obtained my QTS through the Department of Education, England.

We know you’re an Associate of the Royal College of Science in London as well as an international educator, mentor and consultant. How does your artistic practice intertwine with your everyday life?

During my professional practice as an educator and mentor, the process of observation continues, for instance it could be a focus on behaviour management and an act of kindness or teamwork observed. That would be a thoughtful stimulus to explore in my art, through the links to humanity.   

Practically, my artistic practice comes to life in the evening when my children are sleeping and won’t run after my paint tubes!  I have set aside an area as a mini studio, to ensure focus on the artwork. This is also an interesting point for working women artists who are also mothers, it’s a tough schedule, but with hard work and discipline, miracles can be woven into the reality of life and art!

Your interest in exploring the relationship between Science and Art is a distinctive feature which influences your production. How does this help you practically to conceptualise new works?

My interest in exploring the relationship between Science and Art stems from my background in Biochemistry, as well as utilizing pedagogical approaches in combining these disciplines via cross curricular links. I utilize the stages of observation and experimentation from the Scientific method, in my approach to Art, for instance I observe the natural world around us, whether that be the shape of a leaf, patterns in the waves and rocks, colours in the cloud formations to the shape and texture of the tree branches and so on. Then, I experiment with distilling these themes into the abstract paintings or I simply photograph the biology of life with links to human insights and emotions.  

My painting “Certainty (2011)” focused on patterns in nature;  of light overcoming darkness, rain from the clouds cleansing, nourishing and healing the Earth. Vulnerable saplings blooming with time, and subtle droplets of water bringing forth strong roots and natural justice. These natural themes also linked to the ‘our journey’ of life, with challenges and miracles yet certainty that destiny and truth will triumph.


In looking towards the future, to further strengthen the ties between Art and Science by exploring the themes of wind and kinetic energy in the natural world, with links to human emotions; essentially how does the sea breeze make you feel? Such explorations, I hope will also influence the academic aspect, in expanding the cross-curricular links between Art and Science for a holistic learning experience.  

“Nature is king” in your artistic process. Apart from it, what do you gain artistic inspiration from? 

My art has strong links with nature, faith, inner perspectives, and humanity, and is deeply connected and influenced by the natural world. In the photograph “Zephyr Nostalgia”; there is an  exploration of sound and colour. One of my most favourite sounds is hearing laughter in the wind. It evokes a distant memory of running with and against the wind, as a child hands outstretched, and bursting into peals of laughter at the simple joy of it. The colours blend in a zephyr nostalgia as if the wind is pulling them as the hues intermix and are pulled towards the sounds of life.

Zephyr Nostalgia

According to you, which is the difference between painting and photography in terms of self-expression?

Ultimately, I think it depends on the artist and how they utilize the mediums. 

Overall, I think painting provides a little bit more freedom in terms of self-expression and there are times where I have completed a painting over months, and it still is incomplete. Some of my paintings over a decade ago are left unfinished, and can be revisited. Furthermore, there are times when the canvas has started off with particular colours, tones and brushstrokes, only to be completely changed during the process, even with the mediums used. I might start off with acrylic or gouache and finish off with oil. I think because I am self-taught, perhaps in my ‘ignorance’ I am a little bit more uninhibited.

In photography, I feel there is less room to manoeuvre once the original is complete. Once the photograph is taken, it captures a particular moment in time, and for self-expression. It cannot be changed unless a new photograph is taken or it is altered digitally so I feel photography is perhaps a more, disciplined and rigid form of self-expression compared to painting.

In your writing and poetry a delicate attention to spirituality and humanity arises. How did this philosophical approach develop in your life as a woman and as an artist?

As a woman, starting off as a young girl whose father had died, who did not have any brothers or sisters and whose mother was schizophrenic. I faced incredible challenges in my life and even as a child, utilised art as a form of expression and healing. I started writing poetry at the age of twelve exploring my curiosities and observing the world around me.  When I would face difficulties in my life, I would go to the mountains or literally climb trees in the park and look out towards the horizon, I would surround myself with nature and think that if the Creator has made such a beautiful world and maintains it so well, then I as a very small part of it would be looked after by Him, and that would calm my fears.

I also am a keen traveller, and  as an artist greatly absorb lessons from all the cultures and places that I have been fortunate enough to visit. For instance, around 2014, I stayed in a farm in Greve in Chianti, and that really was a wonderful experience being immersed in nature. From there, I visited the Uffizi Gallery, which for a self taught artist like myself, was an incredible experience to see the works in real life, from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo. I further explored Florence and Sienna, and gained immense insights from beautiful architecture, people, art, food and the mesmerizing culture

In my painting “Sanctuary”, I explore the concept of  looking for a sanctuary to heal, to become whole, to answer our calling. In saving ourselves, we gain the courage to save others. This painting is about holistic healing; the warm, homely hues a calling to the soul towards calm and kind healing.  The underlying tones of Sienna;  reminiscent of a time of quiet discovery through nature and colour.  In exploring  the world around us, in finding a sanctuary, in looking inwards to complete ourselves…we begin the journey to heal the world around us.


Let’s focus on your interest in promoting cultural differences and human interconnections. Can you tell us something more about your participation in the “Urban Dialogues Festival Exhibition” in London?

The Urban Dialogues Festival Exhibition in London was in the Red Gallery, in conjunction with Shared Roots in Faith. It was a group exhibition and my artwork there was influenced by my interfaith work on various projects with these organizations, from conducting oral history interviews of Muslim, Jewish and Christian elders in London and transforming their stories into art for an interfaith harmony rotational exhibition in Tower Hamlets Library, a Cathedral in London as well as  the Red Gallery, in an exploration of the shared heritage of the Abrahamic faiths and to understand and celebrate diverse faith and cultures.  

Bridge of Faith

Has the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated lockdowns changed your personal approach to art?

Yes, it has definitely.  It’s allowed more introspection and thought about the depth of interlinks between the various themes. For instance, my painting “Roots of Courage (2021)” is directly influenced by the interconnection of roots of trees, and furthered experimented with links to human perspectives such as finding courage and achieving our dreams, despite the turbulence of time and events, just as roots remain grounded in the earth. That there is diversity in humanity, yet our roots are interconnected. That despite the ever changing times, we can stand with courage and integrity, towards a brighter horizon of hopes and dreams.

Covid-19 has also allowed new opportunities such as a focus on digital exhibitions, as well as a breaking down of physical borders and making art truly global through technology.

Roots of Courage

What sort of initiatives can we expect to see in the coming years? Would you consider “cultural sustainability” to be a contemporary key to experiment in the field of art?

On a personal level I am focusing on further exploring the links between Science and the Arts, as well as preparing for an upcoming digital exhibition titled “Trees and Reflections”.

Am also collaborating and curating for the first time, on a global art open call titled “Compassionate Women: Kindness in Action” which really about starting cultural conversations about kindness making a meaningful impact on women’s lives globally, and will culminate in an international exhibition.

I do think “cultural sustainability” will take deeper roots in the field of art, it is something I believe already in progress with many indigenous cultures celebrating and preserving their heritage through art, as well as trying to create dialogue with future generations of artists. Experimentation in art would continue as it has over time, and we may see further innovative and though provoking artworks coming to the forefront.

I also think there will be a greater shift towards the interlinks between art and the environment, especially in light of the contemporary climate change issues, where I believe art can be used as a communicative tool, as well as agent for change in protecting and conserving our environment.

Anum at work

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A gold cooperation

G’art and PR Marketing – Communication

© Stefano Ceretti

Dear 2021, we might say that you’re having fun as you’re going on and on provoking us… And what about us? Well, we haven’t lost time at all. Actually, we’re about to present a brand-new website and a lot of news for the public!

G’art [galleria delle arti] has worked a lot since 2007 when it was founded as a cultural association. After having found ourselves at a turning point four years ago, we opted for Venice which has happened to represent the first step of a deep metamorphosis. True, we adore looking towards future, but sometimes our artists and historic collaborators are the ones who make us look back at the past and supply suggestions to explore new innovative roads. So, that was exactly the moment when we made up our mind giving room to marketing and communication services dedicated entirely for artists. We decided to fulfill the requests coming from local artisans and designers who needed to promote their work through a concrete online platform. The transformation of G’art [galleria delle arti] was born exactly on this flow.

So, what could we propose to really make the difference? Instead of “what”, we decided to focus on “how”. 

Key word: cooperation. The liaison with “PR Marketing – Communication di Ornella Naccari” was born following the same policy characterising G’art [galleria delle arti]. As a concrete supporter of the important cultural and artistic heritage, this company has decided to endorse and promote the topics of our cultural association investing in a commercial form of exposure.

First a multi-potential platform. A multifaceted self- marketing tool for all those creative people who intend, both to sell their own products online and also take advantage of the promotional activity included.

Are you interested in presenting your works of art to your customers or increasing your social interactions online? Do you want to enhance your business contacts or attract new potential customers or collaborations? Our digital gallery displays and trades your works of art, design objects and works of artistic craftmanship online. We curate the online publication via an informal and easy-going procedure which suits the style of international art platforms. Not only. A treadmill cannot stop spinning, we are able to arrange all promotional activities including all aspects: this platform promotes you and self-promotes itself too to develop all the incredible opportunities offered by the web nowadays – video clips included. Your creations are proposed to the public with a clear approach; they gain access to detailed weekly marketing campaigns and are arranged depending on the plan you chose. We create new web contents and publish them on the main social networks. While our new monthly magazine mainly focuses on you and publishes thematic articles and interviews via connections with the contemporary world. This magazine is sent along with our brand-new newsletter by G’art [galleria delle arti]. 

What else? The whole contents – both published in Italian and English – are promoted by our new virtual friend called Venipedia – the cultural and sustainable platform of Venice – of which we’re the leader partner in the field of contemporary art.

Activities and services

What about our services? We have decided to improve our offer in terms of PR and our event organization services where it stands out – listen, folks! – therefore, the new unconventional rental service of sommeliers and maitres d’hotel. With the purpose to give an original touch to your special event and surprise your most demanding guests. What’s more, our number of available locations has raised again: exclusive unconventional partners on all the Italian territory to create the atmosphere you most desire.

And the exhibition projects? We look forward to proposing new cultural and artistic enterprises when the international circumstances will allow it. The liaison with several Italian art galleries continues and allows us to show you in person many of the works you can see in our online platform too. So, art is getting ready to “accomodate you“ in the main Italian cities. Since we adore grabbing every opportunity and being able to combine ongoing commitment, passion and pure intuition.

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Yes, we deal with cultural tourism as well!

Our tours? Let’s start from Venice!

You’re probably wondering how tours can coexist in a website which is basically on art and for art.
Let’s start by precising that tours are the “leisure part” of our service agency: a real DMC (Destination Management Company) which has been working on all the Italian territory to arrange conventions, fairs, exhibitions, journeys, and cultural itineraries.

Let’s just take a step back. Cultural tourism…almost an heresy. Isn’t it?! Unfortunately according to many people the combination of culture and tourism has never been considered a successfull blend – at least up to some time ago. In fact it was thought of as dangerous which could negatively influence the high cultural value of monuments, artworks or tourist attractions.

Let’s go back to nowadays. It is time to give room to the socalled “cultural tourism” which has done a lot in order to promote our cultural heritage worldwide. We are in fact talking about journeys, visits, experiences of a place including values, lifestyle and local folklore: arts, craftmanship, traditions and all those cultural activities and events that a site can offer.

Atelier Scatola Magica
Un teatro di sensazioni, curiosità, stile. Costumi  teatrali, maliziosi corsetti, costumi professionali per la danza si alternano alle collezioni donna, agli accessori, agli abiti da sposa in una inusuale galleria di proposte con un tratto in comune.

Let’s go into detail

Starting from Venice, our city, we propose 3 different types of tours which represent three different approaches to discover our territory: heritage, arts and traditions.


Let’s begin with the Shakespearean tours proposed in Venice (July 2020). These tours come from the project entitled “Shakespeare in Veneto” which was conceived on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death in 2016.

The story of “The merchant of Venice” is set in well-known places in the city which can still be identified in some areas in Rialto, Cannaregio and the Venetian Jewish ghetto. Furthermore, the tour of “Othello” – or more precisely Othello and Jago – comes from some legendary areas of the city which are characterised by the combination of curious coincidences, anecdotes and historic references. These confirm the references mentioned in the tragedy of the Moor of Venice according to the Shakesperean view.


Our photography tours, instead, are set out to teach this beautiful technique having fun as well. It suits all photography enthusiasts who will be accompanied through unique itineraries to see the city from new points of view. What’s more, other beautiful destinations will be proposed in our bel paese from Spring 2021.


New 2021! Our “sparkling tours” take place in four locations: a palace, a wine bar, a court and a restaurant. Four wines to be tasted and many bubbles! A unique sensory itinerary starting from a place, a wine, art and architecture with a maître sommelier and a local professional guide.

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“I could do the same!”

Contemporary art: tendencies and contrasts

As photography appeared in the 1800s, pictorial art – capable of reproducing reality just like masters such as Leonardo, Raffaello, Botticelli – gradually faded away. A realistic depiction was not enough anymore. Art had to change its “language” in order to not lose its expressive strength.

Over a span of one hundred years we went through various phases of modern art (Impressionism, Post‐Impressionism, Pointillisme, Symbolism). Then contemporary art arose: the representation of an object, a face or a landscape was not necessary anymore since photography was taking its place: what was asked from the artist was to represent a concept in order to trigger emotions.

So the artist began to take over a new role. In addition to their personal inclinations, techniques and experience, the artist had to operate on ideas, perceptions and – that is to say a concept. An authentic revolution in the field of arts.

How can we forget the real turning point (or better, the breaking point) between modern and contemporary art carried out by the French artist Marcel Duchamp (Blainville 1887 – Neuilly‐Sur‐ Seine 1968) with his “Fountain”, his ceramic urinal?

Fountain” di M. Duchamp (1917)

With that work the artist demonstrated that everything could be art in the modern era, if supported by an unconventional idea and an efficient marketing strategy.

And so, another important revolution was the development of new dynamics in the field of contemporary art. In addition to the artist’s technique and the creative concept other elements started to become essential: the commercial purpose (which will determine the quotations of the artist’s work), the public intellectuals (later the art critics) and the art market (which will become the gallerist and the collector).

In a few words, taking Duchamp as an example, when an everyday object is presented as an artistic creation and is supported by a precise idea (a provocation in this case) and an excellent marketing strategy and is exhibited in a prestigious location, the artist has managed to convince the art critics and collectors that they are observing a real work of art. He even states that whoever could (in theory) do the same.

Atelier Scatola Magica
Un teatro di sensazioni, curiosità, stile. Costumi  teatrali, maliziosi corsetti, costumi professionali per la danza si alternano alle collezioni donna, agli accessori, agli abiti da sposa in una inusuale galleria di proposte con un tratto in comune.

The art critic and curator Francesco Bonami states although that “it doesn’t mean that art today art is a hoax and artists are marketing geniuses only or that everybody is an artist”. Come on, whoever has faced a white canvas by the American painter Robert Ryman (Nashville 1930 – New York 2019) or one of the cut‐off paintings by the Argentine‐Italian painter Lucio Fontana (Rosario 1899 – Comabbio 1968), would have probably said: “I could have done that myself!”. Yet, Bonami continues: ”White canvases look like something very simple to reproduce, but what really matters is to be the first. As a matter of fact Ryman was the first one who “took this risk” in 1955”.

Not only. “Behind those simple canvases there is a message. The painter had already realized that nowadays the most frightening enemies are not wars, but emptiness and boredom. If art conveys society, this is the society we live in: an empty one. What could better represent boredom than a white canvas? So Ryman as a matter of fact produces art. He doesn’t show great technical skills, he launches messages which make us think”.

So, how can we understand as mere mortals if there is a real message behind a work of art or if we’re observing an artist who has no technical skill at all?

Actually sometimes it’s the artist to unveil it (Fontana is an example). Sometimes instead, it’s the art critic (actually Duchamp never explained his artworks). In other occasions the artist enjoys making fun of the art critics’ and the public’s interpretations of them proposing elusive works of art (Salvador Dalì, Figueres 1904 – 1989).

Metamorfosi di Narciso” di S. Dalì (1937) 

Another way of approaching contemporary art, besides the message, the artist wants to convey is to let ourselves be influenced by what we’re seeing. Since today’s forms of art expresses what we are, what we feel and what we’re experiencing. Together with those who – while observing a work of art by the Italian Gino de Dominicis (Ancona 1947 – Roma 1998) or by the English Damien Hirst (Bristol 1965) – appreciate the artists’ impressive aspect, there’ll always be someone who will consider them obscene and outrageous. Anyway these people are enormously impressed, so the artwork has achieved its main goal.

What makes us think is that nowadays art critics, gallerists and dealers are the ones who really settle what art is…promoting tendencies and tailoring ready‐made commercial products.

If the value of a Tiziano’s artwork is based on technical and stylistic perfection, for what concerns a contemporary work the value often depends on how much an artist is able to attract public attention (for better or for worse) letting critics and collectors promote his image and raise the quotations of his art.

For sure, this “system” can seem appalling as it makes us believe that one can impose real “fakes” to the public. Distinguishing a work of art from a mediocre (or bad taste) one is not always easy. Yet, there is a way which is to look at it with “innocent” eyes without any expectations or prejudice. Just letting ourselves get carried away by the sensations that arouse to enable us what our inner selves, our experience and feelings suggest after having filtered and contemplated them.

Beauty or ugliness are not the most important aspects when an artwork, instead, makes us think, surprise us and when they inspire or simply entertain us: in all these cases the artist has made his point. After all, the following proverb is always true: “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. In our contemporary society ‐ when nobody believes in universal truth and the concept of beauty is more and more relative ‐ emotions are the best we can aspire to!

“Lo potevo fare anch’io ‐ Perchè l’arte contemporanea è davvero arte” Francesco Bonami – Mondadori, Collana Strade blu, 2007

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ANTIQUES – The art of collecting

MARZADORI, the collector 

Maurizio Marzadori was working as a teacher when he also became an antiques dealer and an art collector. In 1987 he founded Freak Ando in Bologna which is his world‐renowned brand of antiques and modern antiques. His activity led him to collaborate with museums, art galleries, auction houses and eminent artists as he used to supply objects and furniture to exhibitions, permanent collections and art installations. Moreover he was asked to find items for the cinema, the theatre and shop windows by popular directors, set and fashion designers, photographers…

At the Freak Ando he meets architects and set designers with whom he establishes new collaborations to work in historic houses supplying ancient floors, doors and materials. He also works in the field of restoration and deals with every style of furniture: country, chic, stylish and industrial. What’s more, his latest design projects of bars, locations and restaurants are really appreciated by young people too. In the Renaissance cloister in Via Moline – which he defines “his gate to the city” – he has arranged several important exhibitions on applied arts and design.

Atelier Scatola Magica
Un teatro di sensazioni, curiosità, stile. Costumi  teatrali, maliziosi corsetti, costumi professionali per la danza si alternano alle collezioni donna, agli accessori, agli abiti da sposa in una inusuale galleria di proposte con un tratto in comune.

INTERVIEW TO Maurizio Marzadori

When was the Marzadori collection born?

The Marzadori collection of toys and furniture for children’s bedrooms started 27 years ago as soon as my first daughter was born. In addition to the discovery of single objects – which is an everyday treasure hunt – I must say I did a lot of research too. Thanks to ads, research of original brands, geographic analysis and oral memories, I discovered the identity of companies and artists who had been anonymous up to now. All of this has been a pleasant dilemma and the fulfilment of an adventure which is not yet finished.

What are the objects we are talking about? How is the well‐known Marzadori collection conceived?

It’s composed by toys, children’s bedrooms, school furniture, clothes, outdoor toys…They were created by great artists and designers, but also by unknown authors who were inspired by culture and fashion of their time. They created objects to be launched both on the common and luxury markets.

How wide is the collection?

The collection counts approximately 800 pieces of furniture for children’s bedrooms, both for the house and school, mainly Italian, ranging from mass production, more popular, to the ones by great authors which date back to the later nineteenth century up to now.

The section of wooden toys gathers approximately 350 pieces from the first half of the 1900s and is inspired by artistic avantgarde movements. What’s more, 250 children’s items of clothing from the last century have been acquired.

A characteristic which comprises the whole collection…

Every piece tells the story of the design and shows the development of clothing and of the social, productive, cultural, historical and educational changes in our society.

I wonder how much success it had…

Luckily, it is a collection very much appreciated by who comes to visit. What’s more, it has had a wonderful success in the many different exhibitions “outdoors”: in fact it has been (partly or totally) exhibited in several prestigious locations such as in the Archeological Museum in Bologna, Moma in NY, Salaborsa Library in Bologna, Milan Triennale Design Museum and Ca’ Pisani Boutique Hotel in Venice.

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