Interview with Ilaria Leoni, founder of the gallery Ermes-Ermes in Vienna
After wandering as a nomadic gallery in Rome and in Milan for two years, Ermes-Ermes was opened as a permanent space in Vienna in March 2017 to show Italian and international artists. The gallery founder Ilaria Leoni told us about her vision.
Tell us the story of your gallery
I founded Ermes in 2015 in Rome, initially as a nomadic gallery. My limited budget meant I was unable to afford a permanent space, and I thought it would be interesting to organize exhibitions in places with unique characteristics that would stimulate the artists to respond to them and to the limitations of the spaces themselves.
I opened every exhibition in a different space: in my apartment, in the lobby of an Art nouveau hotel in Rome, in the space of the Fonderia Battaglia in Milan, or at a friend’s house. The program had an intuitive approach that was not strictly curatorial, presenting young Italian and foreign artists whose practices investigate diverse media: sculpture, painting, photography, video, performance, and installation. Ermes promotes the artists it represents by developing collaborative projects and by promoting their work in institutional spaces. In March 2017 I opened the first permanent space in Vienna, a former horse stable in the heart of the city. I divided the gallery to include a project space, called Guimares, where we have alternate programs.
What is your background?
I studied literature and art history, and I worked in fashion for some years while maintaining a strong connection with contemporary art. Then I started working with Nero Magazine and I managed a project space in Rome: Pigna, founded by Francesco Stocchi and Olivier Antoine from Art:Concept in Paris. In 2015 I decided to open Ermes-Ermes.
Why did you choose Vienna?
Vienna is a very charming city with an important history and marvelous museums. The quality of life is very high, the people are extremely warm and the conversation about contemporary art is stimulating and lively. Also the costs of maintaining the space is much lower than it would be in Italy.
What is the meaning of the gallery’s name?
Ermes is a god of Greek mythology, he is the messenger of the gods and the protector of the homeless and vagrants. I thought it would be important to have a protector.
What type of art do you represent? Can you give us some examples?
At the moment Ermes-Ermes represents six artists whose practices investigate diverse media: sculpture, painting, photography, video, performance, and installation. Jakub Czyszczon, Gina Folly, Andrea Kvas, Diego Marcon, Nicola Pecoraro, and Samara Scott. At Granpalazzo I will present the work of an Italian sculptor Alessandro Agudio, and in Rome I opened the first one person exhibition in Italy of Nick Bastis, edited by Luca Lo Pinto.
What according to you is the role of a gallerist in today’s art world?
I don’t feel like I can define the role of the gallerist today, but I can speak about my intentions: I want to grow with the artists who work with me, developing the gallery program and promoting their work in fairs and working with institutions. I am interested in having strong intellectual and professional connections with them that go beyond the exhibitions.
What are the best and most difficult moments in your career as a gallerist?
It is hard for me to identify the best moment, it’s really difficult. For me every exhibition is a gift, to have the trust of the artists is an honor. Every exhibition or project is born from a long and intense gestation period.
Ermes-Ermes takes part in Granpalazzo on May 27th-28th, 2017. The gallery will present a selection of works by Alessandro Agudio
Thursday to Saturday: 2:30 pm-6:00pm