The Blu(e) Thread

Reflexions about Galleria Blu's fifty years of activity by Luca Palazzoli

(Traduzione a cura di Grazia Musumeci)

This text collects my reflections about Galleria Blu’s fifty years of activity and especially about the changes in art and galleries and the coherence that supported our choices. I entered this small universe in the early 1960s, a period characterized by a convivial atmosphere which would be inconceivable today. The love for art made my father an art gallery owner back in 1957. He opened a meeting place in Andegari street and he shared it with a few collectors, critics and artists who loved contemporary art and 20th century avant-gardes, like he did. The people who attended this place, the “Members of the Blu”, all knew each other very well and this allowed that convivial atmosphere which expressed itself at its best during the Opening Nights reported by the chronicles of the time.

Since the commercial aspect hadn’t been considered yet, my father interpreted the aim of the gallery as: to show unknown works, both recent ones and old ones. So the success of our job depended on the exhibited works and the power they had to start a debate among the so called “authorized staff”. This situation -not depending on money in any way- made collectors and gallery managers real patrons. When we organized the exhibition of Balla’s masterpieces, back in 1959, no work had been sold. We overcame the embarrassment in front of the artist’s relatives by buying the works ourselves, so it sounded as a great success!

A characteristic of the time (and I mean the early 1960s) can be seen in the collection of bad reviews about the works of Fontana and Burri. Not only they harshly criticized the artists but also the open mind of those who would appreciate their works. Contemporary art was not considered as “real art”, back then, and it was kept in a limbo while they were waiting for the passing of time to delete the “non-values”, in order to only save the works that deserved to be remembered. This was the task the spirit of the 1960s gave to the activity and exhibitions of the museums.

Another characteristic of the time was that art magazines had to finance themselves. Like the NAC, for example, a magazine organized -issue by issue- by a bank director we will never forget: Francesco Vincitorio. Besides, it would sound as an omission not telling that the world of the art is in debt to the great publisher Vanni Scheiwiller, a searcher of the truth, a witness of “poetry” and especially a man of wonderful skills.

In a word, every field -from the magazine to the book, from the collection to the gallery, from the artist to the critic to the museum- was filled with passion and they were sure that the art work was the most precious treasure mankind could ever get.

These memories aren’t just expressions of nostalgia but also simple testimonies telling us how the human nature spontaneously interprets the evergreen values of the art. Those same values that are discovered now -day by day, effort by effort- in many works differently conforming themselves to the cultural changes. In the following years, the art work was slowly identified not only as “enjoyable good” but also as “shelter good” or investment. So we, the owners of galleries, had to add business responsibility to our traditional passion. The continuous rise in prices made the economic aspect so important that we had to deal with the same situations as the Stock Exchange’s. The big amount of money, in our growing field, allowed speculations. The art market was turning more and more global, so it was considered snobbish and anachronistic not to deal with art works as stocks to be chosen depending on their economic growth expectation.

This phenomenon started in the 1980s and became more and more conditioning. The speculative hypertrophy of those years had been one of the conditions which led to the rarefying of the groups of artists and of movements; the exponentially rise in prices allowed the creation of a place where two artistic realities would be pointed out. These realities were different as for ways of expression and tasks. On one hand there were artists who experienced a deep creative loneliness, on the other hand there was the world of the economic ambitions of many people who were more interested in the quotation of the works, rather than in the works as “enjoyable goods”.

The marginal territory -where our first meeting with works and artists we loved had taken place- sounded like it could have been replaced by this new reality. I mean, the creation of museums of contemporary art would adopt that quality evaluation that only the passing of time could reliably establish. The development of such a situation led to modern days, and to so many kinds of handmade objects called “art works” that you must wonder which is the real meaning of this broadly used word. This difficulty has been overcome thanks to a harder and harder search of artists and works that -with their specific personality- agree with the meaning we of Galleria Blu give to the word “art work”: elective affinities to discover rather than to find, because searching in loneliness means to seclude oneself.

Showing our elective affinities, during these years, hasn’t stopped us from giving our public a constant information about experiments that – in our opinion – have (or could have) opened new prospects on the horizon of that troubled reality which, sometimes, is called “world of the art”. For three generations we have been sharing the point of view of those people who believe art is necessary. It is a means to make the memory of self grow in every man. It is the means that makes a man not just a spectator of events but also an observer of the deepest truth that is always with him. This vision induced –and keeps on inducing us to look for exclusive jobs and deal with works that give us big emotions and the possibility to recognize ourselves in them. I don’t mean “interpretation” but the quick relationship between the individual and the work: a fecundative spark set aside from the meanings recognized by the critic authorities. In our opinion, the art work finds its meaning in this immediate and exclusive recognition; it is an event we experience both physically and emotionally and can’t be rationally described. We think it is the quality of the meaning that makes a handmade object an art work. The whole group of such works proves the “history of mankind”.

This “classical” vision -which tells us of the human being’s depth- strongly influenced the choices that created the features of our job within the “system of the art”. This selection has always been the rewarding part of our job, because time has often proved we were right. In fact, the exclusive jobs with those artists who met our ideas had been decided long before their works had the attention of critics and market. That’s why someone could call us a “Waiting Gallery”. Today, though avoiding to be responsible of the whole present production, the Galleria Blu seems to have found artists who have got a sensitivity that meets its own history, which can be called its “blue thread”.

Luca Palazzoli