LUCCA, 4 December – Microscope, a fledgling contemporary art gallery in New York, shot to worldwide fame recently thanks to an artist who gave birth to her first child in the gallery as a piece of controversial performance art called Marni Kotak: The Birth of Baby X. The Microscope gallery is the brainchild of Lucca-born Andrea Monti and his partner Elle Burchill, and since its opening in September 2010 it has presented more than 11 exhibitions and 80 events. The gallery specialises in film, video, sound, performance and temporal art, presenting both well-known artists such as Jonas Mekas, Michel Auder, Takahiko Iimura, Su Friedrich, Nick Zedd as well as local emerging artists.
LoSchermo International caught up with Andrea recently to ask about life and art in the Big Apple…
Andrea, you were born and bred in a small town in the province of Lucca… what brought you to New York?
My interests in visual arts and independent cinema brought me to the United States. I think it is like living in Rome for someone passionate about the Romans. Love has also guided me here. On my first trip to New York I went with my good friend, poet and film curator Alessandro De Francesco. We were trying to organise a big show of works by Jonas Mekas in Lucca, and so we decided to go meet him in New York. It was on the occasion of that meeting, one night in a bar of Brooklyn, that I met Elle.
How do you find the difference between the two countries and their arts scenes?
My real commitment to life as an artist began when I moved to New York. Before then, I was making collage works to give to my friends, and occasionally I would compose musical scores for films. After my studies in philosophy and music, I started my curatorial work as part of the Lucca Film Festival, an activity that later developed in New York, where I worked as a curator on retrospectives at film venues and art galleries.
The main difference between the two countries is the perspective: while Italy looks more to the past, New York concentrates on the present. When you have such a historical burden as the one Lucca has, deciding to invest all resources solely in the celebration of your prestigious artistic heritage, then it makes it very difficult for contemporary artists to find opportunities, interest and support in their work. In this respect, I believe that the fact that we are all connected via internet really helps young and emerging artists find their way.
New York is like a gigantic office where everybody works restlessly. Artists are totally committed to their vision, and being surrounded by such an engagement and passion makes you work even harder and it’s exciting to share your work with others. I don’t want to praise work at all costs, but I really enjoy seeing people trying to accomplish their ideas.
What plans do you have for the future?
I plan to continue doing my artwork, as well as curating a film series and art shows at the Microscope Gallery and elsewhere. In particular, I would like to foster the exchange of rare visual works between Europe and the US that to this day haven’t been shown.
I miss plenty of things about Lucca – you really don’t know what you have until you no longer have it. Last time I was back, everything was so amazing, starting with the food, cheese, salumi, and cakes. The city looked so beautiful, I couldn’t believe I had been living in the same town. And of course my family, and all my friends made me wonder why I’d moved to New York.
Lucca is a beautiful place to live. It just wasn’t bringing out the best in me.