This fall, the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo per l'Arte in Torino opened "Guarene Arte 99" (Sept. 26-Nov. 7, 1999), the fourth edition of an annual exhibition of work by young artists that takes place in Guarene d'Alba, a lovely village an hour drive from Turin in Piedmont. Since it was set up in 1995 by two of Italy's richer families, the foundation has established itself as an active force for contemporary art in Italy, promoting group shows of young artists, most of them curated by Francesco Bonami.
The "Guarene Arte" is distinguished by its selection process, which is designed for international credibility. Each artist is chosen by a well-known museum director, curator or critic and invited to exhibit both a work and a proposal for a work. Then, a separate jury awards two $10,000 prizes, one for the work in the exhibition and the other for a proposal. Winners of previous Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Prizes have been Simone Berti, Mark Dion, Tobias Rehberger, Tracey Rose and Mark Manders. This year's jurors were international critic and curator Daniel Birnbaum, Castello di Rivoli director Ida Giannelli, and Vicente Todolí, head of the Fundaçao Seralves in Porto, Portugal.
Winner of the jury prize for a work in the exhibition was Lyudmila Gorlova, who was chosen by Joseph Backstein, curator of the ICA in Moscow. Gorlova, who was born in Moscow in 1968, is known for performances and photography that focus on esthetic representations of alternative values in a post-communist society. My Camp, the work that won the $10,000 prize, is a slide projection of young outcasts wasting their time along the suburbs of Moscow.
Winner of the project prize was the young Japanese artist Motohiko Odani, who was chosen by Yuko Hasegawa, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. Born in Kyoto in 1972, Odani now lives in Matsudo City, Chiba, Japan. His project, titled Air, could be called a kind of virtual sculpture that denies its mass and material. For the exhibition, Odani installed Phantom Limb, five photographs of a half-conscious girl apparently floating in the air.
The other artists, though they won no prizes, obviously are considered fresh talents in their home countries. Tate Gallery curator Iwona Blazwick chose Tariq Alvi, a young English artist of Asian origin. Alvi specializes in accumulating appropriated images. In Guarene he built an installation of collaged found materials, including a collection of images of watches cut out from mail-order catalogues and pinned on large boards.
Italian art critic Emanuela De Cecco selected the Italian artist Roberto Cuoghi. A character like no other, Cuoghi is only 26 though he looks considerably older. Two years ago this punk-styled artist decided to change his life, aging quickly and gaining weight to look like his father (who gave him fashion advice). For the Guarene d'Alba, Cuoghi summoned nine people from his "former" life, commanding them to help him shape a room into a stage where different memories can interact.
Bart De Baere, curator at the Stedelijk Museum in Ghent, chose the Belgian artist Sven Jolle, whose sculptural "animated landscapes" seek to combine esthetic and social issues. In a reference to his host city -- home of the giant Italian manufacturer Fiat -- Jolle proposed a complex concrete landscape based on Fiat's famous test track, a racing circuit built on the roof of the old Lingotto factory.
Guggenheim Museum curator Nancy Spector selected the young artist Nikki S. Lee. As Jerry Saltz wrote in his article "Decoy and Daydreamer" in Artnet Magazine, "Lee is a copycat, an egomaniac and an aviator of fluid identity." Born in Korea in 1970 and a New York resident since 1994, Lee photographs herself as a member of different groups -- her works include "The Lesbian Project" (1997), "The Tourist Project" (1997) and "The Hispanic Project" (1998). Her proposal in "Guarene Arte 99" was "The Female Shaman Project," for which she would return to Korea and live as a shaman for six months, "taking from 30 to 50 snapshots of myself during this time."
Alternative identity was also the subject of Marepe, a Brazilian artist chosen by Ivo Mesquita, curator of the last São Paolo Biennial. Born Marcos Reis Peixoto in Santo Antônio de Jesus, Bahia, in 1970, Marepe is a sculptor who transforms materials found in the streets into works that examine the contradictions fostered by social identity in a mestizo country like Brazil. His sculptures "challenge the conventional definitions of work and at the same time evoke the beauty and sense of creativeness present in the less developed areas of Brazil," writes Mesquita. Marepe's work is so much "in progress" that he kept working on his piece during the opening.
The Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, who exhibited in the first edition of "Guarene Arte," selected Navin Rawanchaikul, who is multicultural in an Asian way -- he was born in Thailand from Indian parents and lives in Chiang Mai in Thailand and Fukuoka in Japan. As Rirkrit says, "One of the ways to deal with such incongruities of history is to travel, to journey to the locations where history has passed in hope of catching its aura."
Rawanchaikul presented a giant hand-painted movie billboard for his project Fly with Me to Another World. A striking mix of memories and actual facts, Rawanchaikul's work included an attempt to contact Inson Wongsam, a legendary Thai artist who supposedly traveled in 1962 on a scooter from Thailand to the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, paying for his two-year-long trip with money he collected by making art exhibitions along the way.
Rawanchaikul also cited the memory of professor Silpa Bhirasri (1893-1962), a Florentine artist (whose real name is Corrado Feroci) who was commissioned to make works of art by the Royal Thai Government in the 1920s and who was appointed director of the first Thai School of Fine Arts in the '30s, teaching students (such as Inson Wongsam) to create modern art without losing traditional Thai art styles.
"Guarene 99" closed Nov. 7. With this last presentation at the threshold of the year 2000, Guarene Arte brings its work this century to a close. For more information on its multiple activities I would suggest keeping an eye on its brand new website (www.fondsrr.org). Next year the Foundation will organize a special edition of Guarene Arte, broader in scope, transforming itself and casting an eye back over part of its young history, to provide an event that will celebrate the new millennium as well as the Guarene exhibitions past and future.