According to their website, ReA! is a call to action and essence of their curatorial vision: reactive, raw, and new. The Independent Emerging Artists Fair is a disruptive concept that challenges the industry to adopt new operational strategies.
The protagonists are visual arts talents from academic and freelance background, who are carefully selected by a team of curators. The fair was inspired by the original purpose of the Biennale, and is a celebration of emerging artists who are not currently working in a museum or galleries.
ReA! Art fair is a combination of paintings, sculptures, photography, digital arts, installations, and performances. It’s a celebration of art in all its forms and provides different artists who are not yet established at an institutional level with the opportunity to show off their work at a public venue.The team, which happened to be all women, and the passion for arts is what brought them together to create this innovative, successful and brave project. I’ve had the pleasure to speak with some of the founders and curators of the fair, Maryna Rybakova, Pelin Zeytinci, Maria Myasnikova and Vittoria Martinotti, to get a glimpse of what an art fair is and how it was launched.
“The project was an idea that was born out of the simple fact that we, as a group of friends, or colleagues, or people that knew each other in Milan, were also lots of other foreigners. We collectively felt that emerging artists in Milan didn’t have opportunities to exhibit and so we just decided to have a try and build something ourselves,” Myasnikova said.
“We wanted to build the festival and a fair but also something that would benefit the artists, something that will be commercial. It sort of took on this hybrid form, which is now reality,”
In general, art fairs have galleries that show off their artists and they pay for the wall space, as Myasnikova pointed out. It is borderline impossible to be a part of an offer if you’re emerging artist.
ReA!, on the other hand, works directly with the artists without mediators involved by for example collaborating with gallerists who do not charge the artists.
The connection is directly between the artist and the collectors. It is a fair, but the team also like to see the project as a “gigantic group exhibition” where each year 100 artists have the opportunity to be part of the fair.The first edition of ReA! took place at Fabbrica del Vapore in Milan, from October 30 to November 1, in 2020, after eight months of planning and preparations. Despite the restriction due to Covid-19, the fair was a success.
“That was a really interesting experience. I mean, until the last minute, we didn’t know if we could have the fair, and we did it just at the last minute, because the last day of the fair, Italy entered the red zone. It was a really, really challenging time. And at the same time, it was really nice because we were the only exhibition that people could go to and so that actually helped us,” Zeytinci said.
An interesting part of the fair are the panel discussions on different art topics followed by debates. “In 2020, we couldn’t have them in person due to Covid-19, so we had online talks on Zoom, that were streamed on our social media. And then finally, last year, we could have them live from our location, with fair, free access, no ticket, no fee. For this reason, for us, it was also very important to educate the visitors who came to see the artworks on the most relevant topics in contemporary art. From technologies to curation,” Rybakova said.
The peculiar thing about ReA! is also that the fair is not only for the artists to have the scene, but it represents a dialogue between various cultural professionals, gallery owners, curators, institutions and also collectors and the public.
The goal is to create real opportunities and added value for young and emergent artists who are entering the art market world.
The second edition took place at Fabbrica del Vapore again, from September 3-6, and the team felt it went even better than the first edition.
“We knew how to organise it, we already had experience. We wanted to create new challenges for each of us, and so that’s what we did. I believe it’s going to be even much better next year,” Zeytinci said.
“As an association, we are trying to create different programs, which are for example the curators’ course, or the ReA! kids, or even now, there’s going to be many more new things, but I cannot speak about that right now. But yeah, there are going to be many, many different new events coming on,”The fair exhibits 100 artists each year who are carefully chosen by the team of curators. This year, the team is made up of six curators, where each of them will collaborate with 20 different artists each. All the works are selected all together by a democratic vote system.
Artists cannot participate more than once at the fair, but the team is always willing to collaborate with them in other artistic projects. The reason for allowing artists to participate only once at the fair is to create opportunities for different artists and above all, to create a different fair, with different art, each year.
The main criteria to get a chance to get exhibit at ReA! Art Fair is talent.
“We want to know if they have a future in the art scene, which is really important for us. We don’t want to choose artists, who do not want to become artists. For example, maybe one person just creates one artwork, that’s not an artist for our art fair. We just want to choose someone who grows and who wants to grow as an artist and in the art world. If one artist, for example, is already presented by a gallery, we are not going to choose them,” Zeytinci told us.
Organising an art fair is full of challenges, especially given that ReA! is a non-profit organisation: “Everything we do, we do because we have a passion for the art world, and it is really important for us to collaborate with emerging artists. It’s very challenging, but also very rewarding,” Rybakova explained.
“Then people come to see the fair, or when they read about us, and they’re like, ‘Wow, you’re doing such a great job’. We also have seen lots of people try to copy the idea, actually, that’s very good publicity.
“We’ve seen at least three or four different festivals or fairs emerge in the past years with the same concept of 100 independent artists. This has been very flattering to us. Even if, well, they didn’t make it.”ReA!’s team is also organising workshops, classes for both artists and people willing to learn about the art market and how to organise exhibitions.
“For this edition, we have structured three main departments within the educational side, which are course curators. It’s going to be a very large project, lasting from April to October, involving all of the exhibition activities we’re doing,” Rybakova said.
“We’re teaching art, performance art, and painting, along with art history and contemporary art to everyone, also to kids.”
The next edition of ReA! Art Fair will take place at Fabbrica del Vapore in Milan from October 14-16, 2022. The open call for artists is open until May 15.
Featured image by ReA! Art Fair
Edited by Atiyyah Ntiamoah-Addo & Annika Loebig