(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