"Art is for progress, and so art is for change."
Text: Helen Homan Wu
Artists often make us see and experience our complex world in a different light. Devout art lovers dedicate their lives in search of this experience, even if it means traveling out of their comfort zones to unknown territories and destinations.
Myriam Vanneschi is precisely this character. I remember there was one evening, many summers ago, when she arrived in New York City and came straight from the airport rolling in with luggage in hand to a performance event that I had organized post-Armory Art Show opening night. She does not miss an art beat. She has this inspiring energy for discovering interesting talent, and places with stories. Our friendship and conversations usually surrounds around our love of media art, her work as an advisor, and comparing our latest discoveries. Over the years, I have learned how dedicated and committed she is to supporting the arts in a spectrum of angles. Myriam is a curator, writer, art advisor, patron, collector, and a frequent flyer. In the world of contemporary art, where it is largely about consumption, you can choose to be a progressive or a passive participant. Myriam is definitely on the progressive side and has a very active role in the art world and the projects she participates in. Her curiosity for undiscovered territories in this world is evident through her travels to places such as Haiti, Ghana, Palestine, Panama, Iran, among others. Her active engagement in the regions where she has travelled to fueled by a hunger for knowledge is a great example of how one can travel through art and the journey of an explorer that's both intellectually and emotionally stimulating. It can be a lifelong journey!
At a recent dinner, we spoke at length about art tourism, Curagenda expeditions, and how much we both learn about a place through artists, creatives and the eco-system surrounding it that protects this cultural capital. Just back from Basel, she was recently interviewed by Sean Kelly for his Collect Wisely podcast (to be published in July).
Through email Myriam answered the ten questions for our Art Voyager series.
HHW: Where are you from?
MV: Geneva, Switzerland
What's the best exhibition or artwork that was worth a trek across the globe to see?
Inhotim Institute in Brumadinho, Belo Horizonte in Brazil. I went in 2011 and back then it was quite hard to get to but my friend Alexandre Roesler from the amazing Galeria Nara Roesler helped me make it.
How do you navigate an art fair? a biennial?
At big art fairs like Basel or Frieze I tend to go straight to the booths that are of most interest to me. I do those first and if there are purchases I work through those. Then I can stroll and go to the booths that are often based around the edges, the smaller, but often very interesting booths.
Biennials I tend to navigate very differently because I want to see everything. If it is a crowded one, like Venice, I start at the end and backtrack.
What's your advice for someone traveling to New York for an art trip?
If you are in New York for an art fair, make an effort and find the art spaces that are a little less well known. There is a ridiculous amount of art to be seen in NYC, but aside from the big museums, which I often find quite daunting to navigate, my actual favorite places are the non-profit and independent art spaces, organizations and residencies. Some of my faves are: Artists Space, Printed Matter, Apex Art, The Drawing Center, WhiteBox, ICI, Eyebeam, Rhizome.
Go to the Brooklyn Museum and def walk the Highline before you visit the Whitney. And for music, in the summer, go to MoMA PS1 on a Saturday for Warm Up.
What are your travel essentials?
Passport. Phones, tablets, chargers and power banks. Credit cards. Glasses. Supplements. Basic toiletries. Lots of clean underwear. And perfume.
Favorite hotels that you have stayed in?
They are either high-end or low-end, never in between, and never chains. I have many favorites but the ones that immediately spring to mind are:
- Unique Hotel in Sao Paulo, Brazil
- The Royal Senchi in Akosombo, Ghana
- Juliana in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Oloffson in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
- Jungle Bay in Morne Acouma, Dominica
- Niyaesh Boutique Hotel in Shiraz, Iran
- Casa Colombo in Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Explora Rapa Nui in Hanga Roa, Easter Island
- Hotel Quinta de Las Flores in Antigua, Guatemala
- Jicaro Island Lodge on Granada Isleta in Nicaragua
What is art for?
Art is for progress, and so art is for change. I think that what artists do is they try to make sense of the world around them through creating art and by doing so they raise questions and come up with possibilities or alternatives.
What’s the vision behind your collection?
My personal collection has a few common threads. One is thematic, another is visual and yet another is related to material. Thematically I look for art that has a clear message, for example Sophia Wallace or Khaled Jarrar who talk about feminism and Palestine, respectively. Both these artists also make visually stunning work, very clear. There is also a common thread in material, I look at new media and purely digital art a lot. I also try to find work by artists who have bigger hurdles to overcome in order to make money from their work because of bias that is oddly very prevalent in the art world, so I look at artists who are underrepresented because of who they are or where they come from.
What’s your advice for new collectors?
Go out to look at a lot of art. Go to every exhibition that you think you may be interested in and travel to biennials. The more you see, the more questions will arise and as you mentally work through those questions you will inevitably end up following a number of artists more closely. When you start buying, always buy work that really speaks to you, and do not follow hypes. Do not buy with the intention that it is an investment, that is not a good starting point.
What are you working on at the moment?
A book! But that has been long in the making so I doubt I will actually ever finish it. Otherwise I’m working on a show in NYC with new media works that is going to be curated by Iranian artists Mohsen Hazrati and Milad Forouzandeh. And of course busy with the upcoming art fairs.
More about Myriam
Myriam Vanneschi is an in-company and independent art advisor, curator and writer. She is Swiss, was raised in the Netherlands, and went to three different art colleges there. Did applied linguistics in Ireland and then traveled for ten years teaching languages, always keeping an eye out for the local art scene. She devotes full time to the arts and is now dividing her time and her work between New York and Europe. Her interests include Social Practice art, New Media art, feminism and art in a global context. She curated NO EXIT by Khaled Jarrar at Whitebox Art Center and co-curated, with Morehshin Allahyari, AP<P>ART, in Tehran, Shiraz and NYC. She is an occasional contributor to Hyperallergic.