Art or business? Old catchphrase. More than ever fomented since the first patron even became the market itself, an anonymous operator, with no competence other than that of making cash and, moreover, completely involved in those stock market games well known for being based on evaluations that are as ephemeral as they are suddenly controversial, even at the cost of widening abysmal crises where everything appeared to be under control. Who, outside of exclusive specialist circles, i.e. those frequented by recognized experts and art workers, has never felt assailed by similar doubts? Doubts that are silenced, but not extinguished, only because of the bad impression one risks making by raising them, when the propaganda of this or that painter, sculptor or performer goes crazy, also proving to be more aggressive than ever in defending the goods to be promoted?
Whether business or not, market or not, art can exist, can live its own life, it is a thesis that one would be wrong to believe fully demonstrated in our time. Neglecting the need for such a demonstration can only lead to where, thanks to the omnipresent and omnipotent communication, we sink into that indistinctness which, as it is known, can only penalize the beautiful to the advantage of the ugly: for the maximum satisfaction of those many who no longer tolerate hearing about such terms that are so classic so that they sound almost naive, but always obligatory to find meaning in every invention with an aesthetic purpose. That the search for beauty and art can inspire a whole life, creating a meeting, exchanging and relaunching point for infinite different experiences, all this is what Manuela Teatini’s stimulating film on Massimo Minini, internationally famous gallery owner from Brescia. Released a few years ago but penalized by the outbreak of Covid and its distancing consequences, the documentary “MASSIMO MININI. The Story of a Gallerist” will be in an extraordinary screening in Rome at the MAXXI Auditorium, Wednesday 8 November 2023 at 6.00 pm in the presence of Francesco Stocchi, MAXXI artistic director, Massimo Minini gallery owner, Manuela Teatini author and director and Angela Vettese curator.
Among the merits of this, which is a true filmic portrait, the absence of any commentary for the benefit of the images and words which have Minini himself as the protagonist, together with his innumerable and very famous artist friends, among whom Maurizio Cattelan, Anish Kapoor, Daniel Buren, Roger Ballen and Nino Migliori, just to name a few, his wife and his daughters, all involved in expanding and continuing the work of their father, who is always more active than ever. The declared eighty years do not seem to weigh at all. As the story unfolds, time seems to suspend. It is only punctuated by the meetings, the ideas, the coincidences that made this or that exhibition, installation or performance possible. The circumstance is immediately recounted according to which Minini, at the beginning of his career as a gallery owner in the 1970s, did not even have a telephone in his exhibition venue, so that a would-be buyer was forced to search in the phone book for the bar closest to that venue to have the contact needed to fulfill his wishes. On the other hand, the much more sophisticated communication technologies available today and the extraordinary fame acquired in the meantime do not seem to have much of an impact on this collector’s activity. Always generous with surprising jokes, he even comes to compare himself to a confessor in his relationship with his clients, while with artists he always appears to be linked by bonds of intimate friendship.
As we learn from Teatini’s video, Minini himself in his youth, when he collaborated with Flash Art, had been tempted to undertake an artistic career, but then, meditating on the not always valorised luxuriance of existing art, especially in Italy, he choose to dedicate himself to art promotion. His considerations on the importance of our country from this point of view are penetrating. However, throughout his activity, the constant references to his native city, Brescia, shine through. A singular characteristic of the character is in fact his attachment to his original place, which instead of being abandoned for more glamorous sites, such as the large metropolises of global appeal, was promoted by him as a node in the international network of relationships and events in artistic field. The film bears witness to the open-air museum scattered in various nooks and crannies of Brescia that Minini himself contributed to creating, managing to have works installed there, some of them impressive and now very famous, by artists such as Mimmo Paladino and Michelangelo Pistoletto.
Far from limiting himself to the trade of works, this gallerist has therefore always worked to promote them by creating and weaving opportunities, relationships and meetings between direct interested parties. The real pearl of the video worth mentioning is a confidential and ironic conversation, entirely focused on close-ups, between Minini himself and Anish Kapoor, between one glass of wine and another, in a sunny outdoor banquet, where the object of the discussion is the almost total coincidence of this artist’s collaboration with the French Daniel Buren on the occasion of an exhibition at Galleria Continua in San Giminiano. Nothing better to realize how much inspiration and creation can follow the most unpredictable and surprising paths. Lastly, we cannot fail to mention how the film also documents the books that Minini continues to conceive, write and publish, accounting for the interest and aesthetically relevant issues that their presentations arouse among the participants. Further proof that this gallery owner, a more unique than rare case, was and still is infinitely more than a merchant.
Valerio Romitelli (born in Bologna in 1948) taught, researched and lectured in Italy and abroad. His disciplines: History of political doctrines, History of political movements and parties, Methodology of the social sciences. Among his latest publications: L’amore della politica (2014), La felicità dei partigiani e la nostra (2017), L’enigma dell’Ottobre ‘17 (2017), L’emancipazione a venire. Dopo la fine della storia (2022).