Interview with Monica Bottani, founder of the Ribot Gallery in Milan
There was once a horse named Ribot, and although he did not have the build for racing, he nevertheless became a champion in the past century. “He is the good luck omen for my artists” explains Monica Bottani, the founder of the Ribot Gallery in Milan. On a hot summer afternoon we visited the gallery in the Citta Studi area, not far from the famous Bar Basso.
How did you start the gallery?
In 2015. We just celebrated the third year of activity of the gallery with the publication of a catalogue that revisited the 14 shows orgainized by the gallery. For me it’s a goalpost. When I decided to to open the gallery everyone said that I was crazy, but I believed it would work.
What is the program of the gallery?
The gallery was born with the idea of bringing something new to Italy: aside from Lorenza Boisi, the only Italian artist in the program, I represent only foreign artists who have never had a solo show in Italy. They are not just emerging artists, but also mid-career artists that are already known in their countries, but not yet in Italy. For example the German Felix Schramm, or the Greek Dora Economou, who in Greece has worked with The Breeder, or the Scottish Kaye Donachie, represented also by Maureen Paley in London. Among the emerging artists there are Vera Kox, Felipe Talo, Oren Pinhassi, and Daniel Boccato, who will have a solo show in the gallery in September.
Is there a prevalent genre or tendency?
They are mainly painters and sculptors. If I went only by my own taste, I would always pick figurative painters, but in every exhibition I like to test myself, so I have also shown abstract geometric work of Karim Noureldin, another mid-career artist who is Swiss and works also with Von Bartha. Also I organized a small video festival with works that were projected at night and were visible from the street.
How do you find the artists?
By going to see exhibitions abroad, or on the interenet. Sometimes the artists suggest other colleagues and they have a point of view I really appreciate.
What is your background?
I wanted to be an artist, but when I realized that I would be a mediocre artist, I gave it up. But I did not give up working in the arts. I began to work in conservation in various museums and galleries in Italy and abroad. I was able to compare the different ways of working: abroad everyone has their specialty, while the Italian galleries are small firms and you must know how to do everything, from secretarial, to artist liaison, to hanging the works. I learned the trade from Paolo Curti and Annamaria Ggambuzzi, who have influenced me a lot, in fact they have also brought many foreign artists to Italy.
Why did you choose this area of Milan?
I chose this area that is not in the center because contemporary art does not belong in the historic center, it needs more space, and besides, this is an area that is changing, as can be seen every year during the Salone del Mobile. And then I also want to be in a lively area, because my daily life is in the gallery. Nearby there are other galleries, like Raffaella Cortese. It is not an area devoid of contemporary art.
What can you say about your choice of the space?
I looked for a space facing the street because I believe in the powerful image of a single work in the window, but also because in Milan the galleries are often enclosed in courtyards, reflecting the typical enclosure of the art world. To enter you must ring the bell, which can be intimidating, but with a window you can peek in. The lights are always on, even at night. The space is spread over two floors, a feature that has always been used by the artists to create separate but connected projects, so the two spaces are speaking to each other.
What is the Parentesi Project?
Galleries are always judged on the basis of the consistency of their program, while I want to take the liberty every so often of going outside the box, and opening the brackets to other generations. For example, with the exhibition of Corrado Levi, who is now almost 90 years old, a great critic, architect, professor at the Milan Polytechnic, gay rights supporter. Another parentheis is that with Greg Bogin, who, I also showed at Artissima in dialogue with Marco Reichert. These brackets often transform into artists representation.
Up to now, you have organzised only solo exhibitions, and never group shows.
I have never done group shows because for that you need a curator of a certain level. I prefer focussing completely on an artist, even if it means taking a beating.
What kind of gallery do you want to have?
I want my gallery to be a lively place, and I would like to turn back to the artist-gallerist-collector relationship in which one is always confronted with and learning from the other, but that is something that is difficult with today’s communcation, which takes place from behind a screen.
What will you show at Art-O-Rama?
Art-O-Rama is the first international fair the gallery will participate in. Up to now, I have only participated in Italian fairs like Miart and Artissima, but now I am starting an international journey, starting in Marseille with Art-O-Rama, passing through to Swab in Barcelona, and finally arriving at Sunday in London.
At Art-O-Rama I will present Lorenza Boisi, who is a painter but also a sculptor working in ceramics. Her work is very poetic, narrative, rich with literary references. The stand will present a large wall painting in dialogue with other paintings and on the floor there will be some of her ceramic sculpture with anthropomorphic forms, that have already been exhibited at the Reggia di Caserta, and were created at a residency at Montelupo Fiorentino (which is well known for ceramic production). The colors and motifs are floral, vegetal, sensual, relating to the Mediterranean, to the sea and water, to nature.
Ribot Gallery takes part in Art-O-Rama in Marseille from August 31st to September 2nd, 2018.
Via Enrico Nöe, 23
Tue-Fri: 3-7.30 pm, Sat: 11.30 am-6.30 pm
And by appointment