What is the history of P420?
Fabrizio and I met at the University of Bologna, Faculty of Engineering. We were connected by a great passion for artists’ books and hard-to-find art catalogs, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s, which we began to collect. We got more and more involved with this world and for about six years – after graduation and while working in different companies as engineers – we started a business of reselling art books and rare publications that also involved participation in book fairs.
In January 2010, we decided to leave our engineering jobs to devote full time to art. We inaugurated the gallery in Piazza dei Martiri in Bologna with the exhibition “Dadamaino – Piero Manzoni, Storia di un grado Zero” (Dadamaino – Piero Manzoni, A History of A Zero Degree). An important aspect of that show was that, in addition to the works, we exhibited an almost complete collection of all the catalogs, invitations, posters, and original posters that had been produced by the two artists at that time. Since then, we have tried to combine our passion for research and the avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s with contemporary art and with our love for printed matter and books.
Where does the name come from?
P420 stands for Pantone420, a color. A light gray about which much has been theorized. It is apparently the color that makes all other colors stand out the most. Thus, a color that is synonymous with the practice of exhibition, indeed of a gallery’s activity. Also, the letter P is the initial of both our last names, Pasotti and Padovani, so I think it represents us properly.
What is the program of your gallery?
As I said, we try to combine our passion for research and the avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s with contemporary art. Since the beginning, P420 has dealt with artists whose work is located in strands of Conceptual and Minimal Art, who were mostly already active in the 1970s and have developed a strong personal language, but are still underestimated and not very well known internationally. For example, Irma Blank, Paolo Icaro, Franco Vaccari, Richard Nonas.
We also represent artists of younger generations, such as Alessandra Spranzi, Joachim Schmid, Helen Appel, Richard Baruzzi, and Rodrigo Hernàndez. In this way we aim to put in dialogue languages belonging to different periods, with the intention of pointing out their modernity.
We are also very interested in certain Conceptual practices from Eastern Europe from the 1970s which hold there own against the most famous Western research. Therefore there are artists in our program like Milan Grygar, Ana Lupas, Goran Trbuljak.
What does it mean to have a contemporary art gallery in Bologna? What are the limits and what are the possibilities?
The choice of opening a contemporary art gallery in Bologna means to emphasise the link with the local culture and to believe that it can be a social and economic engine to be spread also beyond the big cities.
In the long list of positive aspects, besides the convenience of a city that makes everything very fast and on a human scale, there is the possibility of having a space like the current one, which would be unthinkable for us in a big city. And then Bologna knows how to be very beautiful! We deliberately practice looking far away, while seeing close.
Obviously it is essential to be active, to keep up to date and to participate in fairs. This year we will do 12 fairs… It is very tiring, but also extremely exciting, which is good to balance the daily tranquility of Bologna, in a continuous exchange between inside and outside the city walls.
In addition to being gallerists, you are collectors. What do you collect, and how does your activity as collectors differ from your activity as gallerists? How do you reconcile these two aspects?
Collecting came before opening the gallery. I spoke of our interest in the research of the 1960s and 1970s and this makes up the main part of our collection. It’s always difficult to reconcile the centripetal force of the collector with the centrifugal force of the gallery, but it’s a question of balance. It’s enough if everything is in balance.
Is there a work that you sold that you wish you had kept?
“Quadrato libero” (free square, 1968, iron) by Paolo Icaro.
Last January you moved to a new space in Bologna. What does this change represent for the gallery?
After six years of activity in the previous gallery, we felt the need for a space that was something more, a new point of departure to deal with. It’s a challenge. A gallery that has very different characteristics from the domestic dimension of the previous one, and that inevitably opens up exciting new scenarios. It can’t help but spark new ideas and projects.
Which young artists do you follow with interest at the moment?
We are investing a lot of energy – with great pleasure, of course – in supporting the careers of three young artists: Helen Appel, Richard Baruzzi, and Rodrigo Hernàndez. They represent three very different profiles from each other, but nevertheless with some common elements. We are interested in deepening our committment to painting, and also technical and formal experiments that lead to a new aesthetic.
Who is an artist who ideally you would like to represent if you co could choose freely, even in history?
Is Robert Ryman by any chance still without a gallery?
A difficult moment and a happy moment in your career as a gallerist?
I will start with the happy moment: the opening of the new gallery space. I must say that, perhaps because of the relatively young age of the gallery, until now, fortunately, I do not remember particularly difficult moments.
If you had not opened a gallery, what would you have done, or you might like to do?
Perhaps we would have continued to be engineers, although I cannot put my finger on it.