Andreas Petrossiants, NYU Class of 2016,
stood out of the crowd at the recent La Pietra
Dialogue held in the beautiful interiors of
NYU Florence campus, Villa La Pietra. He indeed
organized the conference around issues of producing,
displaying and appreciating contemporary art in
Florence with Mapping Contemporary Florence, another
NYU-led art criticism initiative. Global Art Daily
had the pleasure to ask him what he finds exciting
about Contemporary Art in a city with probably the
largest art-baggage, Florence. An interesting case
of a situation where the heritage of art history
is so large it affects, good or bad, the DNA of
Sophie Arni: Mapping Contemporary Florence is a great initiative
to engage directly with Florence's Contemporary Art scene. Before we get
into the raison d'être of MCF, I'm interested in how you view MCF's
contribution in Florence. When you were studying away in Florence, what
motivated you to mediate dialogue platforms between cultural actors, to
source new art critics and photographers to document the scene?
Andreas Petrossiants: I studied in Florence for three semesters.
At first I had little intention of delving into the rich modern and
contemporary Florentine art history, but my interest quickly developed.
This is largely because I fell for two clichés that characterize
Florence: firstly that is a facade of idealized Renaissance history
(something of a simulacrum with no real referent in the past), and
secondly that there is no contemporary art production or spirit in
Florence. Both clichés are as true or as false as one would like them to
be, and by this I mean to say that one can escape the disneyland-nature
and find serious and significant contemporary art there with effort.
I was interested to explore how the actual past of the city —
specifically urban redesign of the late 1800s and cultural mindsets
prevalent through the 1900s — correlate to the idealized past of the city
promulgated to secure its touristic nature. I was also interested to see
how the development of very important avant-garde movements in Florence
thrived in such a place; I refer specifically here to the early
Florentine avant-garde (comprised of the poets and artists surrounding
Aldo Palazzeschi, Ardengo Soffici and Giovanni Papini), the radical
architects of the 1960s/70s and contemporary artists working today.
There is a wealth of great art to be studied and uncovered in Florence
and a dialogue between different people involved in both the production
and exhibition of art is necessary.
S.A.: As an active member of the organization, can you tell us
exactly what Mapping Contemporary Florence's mission is? Could you tell
us about some ways it has attained its goals?
Andreas Petrossiants: While I cannot speak on the entirety of
MCF’s goals, I can say that they are trying, and succeeding, to catalogue
Florence’s contemporary art history. While the latter point might seem
like a paradox, it is in fact the proper term for both describing
contemporary art in Florence and studying it. In order to properly
understand that which is taking place in Florence, it is necessary to
both catalogue and contextualize contemporary art production and
exhibition. MCF is doing just that, and incredibly well.
We are trying to create not only a point of mediation and contact between
the viewer and the art, but also a resource that newcomers to the city as
well as long-time citizens can utilize as a source for discovering the
contemporary art scenes in Florence.
S.A.: Global Art Daily is very similar to MCF in the sense that we
are both initiatives started within NYU. I was marvelled to see that NYU
Florence students were interested in documenting Contemporary Art in
Florence, as much as I, an NYU Abu Dhabi student wanted to document the
art scene in Abu Dhabi. I personally believe that the "Global Network
University" is one of the most fertile grounds for reinventing a new kind
of engagement with art. An engagement from the inside out - since we are
young minds who live in the places we write about. What are your thoughts
on NYU, the Global Network University and directions for new art
Andreas Petrossiants: I think the “Global Network” of NYU is a
fantastic thing — in almost all respects. The art world and its
apparatuses have been “globalizing” for a few decades, and in the last
twenty years this globalization has led to the growth of the
international biennale, the art fair and interesting new international
art platforms that keep contemporary exhibition makers involved in
interesting projects. The nature of this new globality — the plurality of
global centers as Hans Ulrich Obrist has discussed — is an invitation to
explore the pluralistic nature of contemporary art to uncover trends,
singular efforts and new critical approaches.
S.A.: Do you want to share with us a highlight of your time with
Andreas Petrossiants: This would have to be the recent conference
and panel that we put together this past February. I worked very closely
with MCF, La Pietra Dialogues and all of NYU Florence to put together the
dialogue “Contemporary Art in Florence.” I’m so grateful for LPD’s
invitation to moderate the conference. I had been researching and writing
on the topic for quite some time at that point and having the opportunity
to speak with some of the most important minds at work in Florence’s
contemporary art world was a dream. The panel consisted of Valentina
Gensini (Museo Novecento, Le Murate, Mus.e), Tommaso Sacchi (Chief
Cultural Cabinet of the Mayor), Sergio Risaliti (major curator,
Fondazione delle Papesse), Justin Randolph Thompson (artist and
educator), Ricardo Lami (Palazzo Strozzi) and Caterina Toschi (Professor
and co-founder of Arte Senza Cornice). It was an honor to speak with them.
S.A.: As an NYU student back in NYC, do you have future
aspirations or goals to merge the arts scenes of Florence or New York?
Andreas Petrossiants: I just finished my thesis, which
investigated Florence briefly in an effort to set the argument for a
larger exploration of contemporary art production, and my argument for
the existence of a contemporary global avant-garde through serious
analysis of modern and contemporary movements. I will be back in Florence
this September, where I hope to continue the dialogue with the persons
mentioned above, and others, to continue cataloguing and studying
Florence’s contemporary art world. Next year I will be completing my MA
in Art History in London, and I will be traveling back and forth often.
I don’t plan to merge NYC and Florence, but I would like to map and
analyze consistencies between their respective art world’s to document
trends and relations within contemporary art production. Florence is in a
somewhat lucky place in that it partially avoids the contemporary
exhibition-as-spectacle nature that many art centers in the world find
S.A.: "Global art" is a buzzword these days. I'm interested to
know how you define it. How can initiatives like MCF thrive in the
current art world ecosystem?
Andreas Petrossiants: “Global art”, as I briefly described above,
exists as a result of the continuously growing field of contemporary art
The institution and the museum are no longer the sole
authorities documenting contemporary art history, and new art world
structures are appearing by the day.
In an effort to “define” the term as
you have stipulated here, I believe we have to look at exhibition making,
art production and those aforementioned structures in total to begin a
truly serious, and not just semantic understanding of how “global art”
relates to what came before it and how the viewer engages with it.
Sophie Arni, July 2015, New York City - Florence.
All of the images are screenshots of the Youtube video accessible here.
Other images courtesy of Andreas Petrossiants.
No reproductions allowed.
For captions, please contact a member of GAD's team. Copyright Global Art Daily, 2017.