“Dealing with good artists also means dealing with people who, through their works, give you the opportunity to see things from another point of view”
AT: How did you start engaging with the art world and how/when did you decide it could become your profession?
MB: I wanted to be an artist, a painter to be precise so enrolled and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. Along the way, I realized that being an artist meant “making art the priority of your life” fusing everything together. I didn’t have that strength. I felt it was too great for me and so, after finishing the Academy, I enrolled into an art history degree course. While I was studying, I had my first experiences in the field of art; first in museums, thanks to a professor of restoration who involved me in the practice of creating the “Condition Report”, and then moving to the private sphere. I had the experience to be an assistant in a contemporary art gallery in Milan. Here I did my apprenticeship, I learned the trade and I understood that this would be my future.
AT: What convinced you to open your own space?
MB: There comes a certain point in one’s life where one understands the umbilical cord has to be cut. For me this happened at thirty-five. I decided, as we say in Italy, to “throw my heart over the obstacle” and opened my gallery. It was in February 2015 and I had already found the space. Once March rolled in I had arranged it and on 22 April I inaugurated it with my first exhibition; a solo show by the German artist Felix Schramm. His large installation “Intersection” had broken through the walls of my space and for me his work had symbolically represented the break with the past towards my future.
AT: What are the toughest and the most fulfilling aspects of your job?
MB: What is rewarding above all are the many relationships one is able to build with different artists. For me these are very important and make it worthwhile. Dealing with good artists also means dealing with people who, through their works, give you the opportunity to see things from another point of view. Another important aspect is when you manage to involve people who have never approached contemporary art and who show curiosity in these visual paths, thus a kind of shared path and mutual education is born. For me the gallery is like a big family where we come together to compare and grow together.
Felix Schramm, Bent, Spatial Intersection, 2015 (installation view).
AT: Does your gallery have a specific and coherent thread passing through the exhibitions? Why this choice?
MB: An important aspect for me are my very eclectic taste and choices that I want to represent in my gallery. Since I like many things I want to make sure that my gallery does not display only one type of art. I believe that in variety there are new stimuli. Contemporary language is so varied that we cannot close ourselves off to diversity. Having said that, today, in my opinion it is extremely important to be versatile. The comparison, through new, more alien media, is part of a growth path. If I proposed only artists or works related to my sensitivity, I would not be able to grow. I relate above all to mid-career or emerging artists: ones who have never had an exhibition in Italy, or who have never had a solo exhibition in a gallery. I want to bring something new to my city and country that has not yet been seen. The exhibition projects have always been personal exhibitions until now but, starting from the exhibition curated by Domenico de Chirico, which sees Stefano Perrone and Przemek Pyszczek in dialogue with each other, a path has also begun where painting and sculpture dialogue with each other, introducing also bi personal performances.
AT: How do you intend the gallerist – artist relationship? What is the first step you make and how do you relate with them?
MB: I believe that there is a relationship of mutual growth with artists. You find talented people and they make you part of their world. You enter their studios and participate in their creative process. From being a working relationship it often becomes a friendship, sometimes even a conflicted one, with ups and downs. It is a relationship that allows you to interact both with the art pice and with the person.
AT: How important is the networking concept in your job? How do you relate with your same field colleagues?
MB: For me the relationship with my fellow gallery owners is very important nevertheless I am often faced with great hostility. Individualism is at the root of the work ethic in Italy, however, among young galleries I would like to have more support as we are all in the same boat. I must say that I also feel a generational difference with respect to the great merchants and great gallery owners who have lived through an era that today is very different and who, in a certain sense, have conditioned a series of behaviors in the public and in collectors that often backfires. Seeing hostility in a young colleague makes me a little sad, there should be synergy. There is no desire to create a system of support. Many times, among small galleries, there is someone who wants to stand out from others and wants to prove that everything is always perfect. It often happens that if a collector of mine sees a work in another gallery, I am the first one to encourage him to go and buy it. There is no relationship of exclusivity. We all need different things and the collector cannot always agree with my taste and marry my choices.
Karim Noureldin, Tekati, 2018 (installation view).
AT: What is your relationship with the art fairs? Which art fairs do you get along more with, today?
MB: Fairs are, unfortunately, inevitable. I would like to be able to do without them, but since these days collectors have stopped coming to galleries, it is the gallerists themselves who have to reach out to collectors. I also put myself in their shoes considering that in a fair they can see many works and have many choices compared to a single exhibition. But be careful, the visual and growth path that the collector can make in the gallery together with the artist is not replicated in a fair setting. An exhibition is the result of a project, often of a dialogue with the space, this aspect is practically canceled out in the fair environment. Gallery stands always feature one, maximum two, artists in dialogue, however, they don’t offer the same concept a curated exhibition would. Despite this, I participate in many fairs during the year, both nationally and abroad, but I must admit that the ones I have been able to work best are Italian. Standing out are Turin and Milan; the first for a greater influx of foreign collectors compared to the others, and the second because it is the fair of my city.
AT: How would you describe the collectors of your gallery? How important are they for you?
MB: My collectors are divided into two types: a very prepared collector, a lover of discovery who is attentive to contemporary art at an international level, and who travels a lot. Secondly a slightly more inexperienced collector who, however, lets himself be guided and is curious. The latter type is my challenge, that is, a chance to educate a taste.
AT: What is the role of the digital tool in what you do?
MB: I feel like the approach with digital is inevitable as we now live in a reality in which it cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, I remain of the idea that a work of art should be seen live because in addition to being an image it is a vibration and emotion. Seeing something digitally can completely change the sensations and impressions ones would have seeing the same art piece in person.
Igor Hosnedl, Vera Kox – In conversation / Chapter #2, 2020 (installation view).
AT: What do you think will be the role of the galleries, in the next future?
MB: We wish the galleries long life for a very important reason: even in a reality like that in Milan, a lot of culture is kept and created in galleries. We would be impoverished if a multitude of galleries did not exist in a city without a contemporary art museum.
AT: Next projects on site?
MB: Right now the program includes my second exhibition curated by Domenico De Chirico. It is another dialogue between painting and sculpture. After that a series of personal exhibitions, which I have already scheduled for some time, will feature some very interesting artists such as the Mexican artist GT Pellizzi and the Englishman Harrison Pears, I will not spoil more.
AT: If you had to give some advice to a youngster who wants to open a space, what would it be?
MB: First of all: you need to have a sacred fire inside, followed by great faith in which you really believe in. You must be moved by real passion because art does become your life filling your days, during the time you spend at the gallery and out of it.
Christian Gonzenbach, Serut Plucs, 2016 (installation view).
RIBOT gallery opened in April 2015, based on an idea of Monica Bottani, with the purpose of enriching the art scene of Milan through exhibitions of international and emerging artists. The gallery exhibition program is mainly composed by solo shows of international artists who present their work in Italy for the first time, and comprehends all contemporary languages, between painting and sculpture, installation, photography and new media. Furthermore, each show is characterized by a special project, often an edition in limited exemplars, thought and realized by the artist especially for the occasion. The aim is to create a link between artist and gallerist in oder to overcome the concept of “content” and “container”, of work of art and exhibition space. The gallery of via Enrico Nöe 23 is a double floor location in which the artists are asked to redefine for each and every show, a place open to dialogue with a public made up of both collectors and amateurs.