On Mar. 10, Surface hosted the 43rd installment of its Design Dialogues series, with Marchesi Antinori at the Roxy Hotel in Tribeca. This edition featured Alessia Antinori, vice president of Marchesi Antinori & 26th Generation; Stefano Arienti, the artist selected for the 2017 Antinori Art Project; Casey Fremont, executive director of Art Production Fund; and Zoe Buckman, the artist most notably known for her recent installation produced by the Art Production Fund, “Champ.”
The discussion was moderated by Surface digital director William Hanley, and focused on how contemporary art has the ability to spark conversations and create cultural shifts on a global scale. Specifically, Arienti spoke about the process behind his interpretation of “The Resurrection of Christ” by Giovanni della Robbia, while Buckman spoke to her experience working alongside Fremont, and the original inspiration behind “Champ,” a larger scale public installation based on her 2016 piece “Champion.”
Notable guests in attendance included Grimanesa Amorós, Shruti Ganguly, Freja and Thompson Harrell, Jennifer Olshin, and Adam Shopkorn.
To kick off the conversation, Antinori spoke to how the family’s Art Project was developed: “Growing up, my father said we’re extremely lucky because we’ve always been involved in the arts since we’ve been surrounded by the beauty of art in Florence. Sometimes you don’t realize how important that is, or truly how beautiful it is, because it’s in your DNA. The Antinori Art Project came about as a way to showcase our involvement in the arts over many centuries, and I thought it was [critical] that we show both the present and the future.” This idea of beauty relating to art continued throughout the conversation—Buckman later said, “Art is the business of beauty.” “Personally, I am drawn to beautiful pieces, so with my work, I try to make something that is pleasing to the eye, that draws you in, but that also has a powerful or challenging message.”
Paralleling this idea, Arienti said, “Artists are always trying to create a new definition of beauty, while [helping us] to accept different ideas of beauty. It wasn’t that way in the past—many times the only way to accept [an idea of] beauty was to be a part of certain social group, but now, we get to decide what part of society we want to be in, and accept our own idea of beauty.”
The idea of what makes art important—especially art that is public-facing—was another theme that carried throughout the conversation. Arienti first spoke to this when he mentioned how passionate he was about working with the Antinori family: “It’s very important to work alongside people who appreciate what you’re doing. All of my work in this way is a public work; it is never something private, nothing that is just related to myself. What I do is important if someone else can recognize that it’s an art piece.”
Fremont followed and discussed why Art Production Fund approached Buckman about producing her work: “Champion had this viral response [on social media]. People were contacting [Zoe] because they related to the piece for a whole range of reasons, which was an indication to us that this would make an incredible public project, because we want as many people to relate and react to a piece as possible.” Buckman added, “Great art should be for everyone, and the message shouldn’t be dumbed down for the general public. [Champ] has the capacity to be seen by so many different people, there is a lot of diversity there [in West Hollywood] in who can feel represented or challenged by the piece.”
“It speaks to the power of public art,” Fremont said, “it can really have an incredible impact and ultimately shift people’s perspectives on what’s possible.”