63rd-77th Steps

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Last summer, Glass explored the young contemporary art scene in Bari, Puglia. We discovered that the fresh city by the sea was not only host to many young commercial galleries, such as unconventional curatorial projects like Vessel, but also the home of independent and dynamic creators who are forging their own paths. Fabio Santacroce is one of them. He opened his project space 63rd-77th STEPS in 2013 in the building where he lives, and a number of very interesting artists have exhibited there ever since. Glass talked to Fabio about this new adventure.

Why did you decide to open this project space? Was it needed on the local scene – and if so, why?
New art spaces are always needed, everywhere, as long as they generate discourses and new visual experiences. I wanted to add something different to the local scene that could also speak outside, something frictional, dynamic, just like its flamboyant logo.

I live in Bari, the capital city of one of the most beautiful Italian regions, but one which is peripheral in relation to contemporary art – something which has to be considered in both a constraining and a positive way. The good part is that there’s less frenzy and greed here, which is definitely saner. Inversely, you have to work very hard to trigger something, to promote yourself and reach a wider audience. I didn’t want to waste any more energy with these considerations and I set up this project on the last segment of a staircase, inside the building where I live with a few other nice and collaborative families.

What are your aims regarding this space?
63rd-77th STEPS has to function also an extension of my artistic practice, both visually and ideologically. This staircase is for me as intimate as my adjacent house. This encouraged me to focus better on my ethical approach to art. It’s more about the peculiarity of the physical space that, doubtless, played an important role, allowing new and interesting solutions.

The main idea was to set a witty and dense visual program in order to be able to work, simultaneously, on an effective transposition of the project to a virtual dimension. I was interested in tracing a kind of global generational mood and set a dialogue with the local surrounding area, a popular and vibrating district, with a curious irreverence to restrictions and certain social, visual codes.

How do you choose the artists you work with? What kind of relationship do you have with them – do you curate their works? Are they residents at your space? Is there a commercial dimension to the project?
I invited artists that I follow and appreciate, able to generate curiosity and healthy scepticism about our time. They all welcomed my invitation. Only Ilja Karilampi, Daniel Keller and Lucia Leuci could come to Bari and spent some days here. With Amalia Ulman, Renaud Jerez and Riccardo Benassi we planned everything on distance.

We discussed the main concept of the project, about their proposals and we worked to find the best solution in accord with the location, a non commercial space strongly connoted by its brown-red varnish and retro vintage architecture. Another effective supply has come from the curators Attilia Fattori Franchini, Che Zara Blomfield and Alex Ross that wrote texts for some artists and contributed to make the program more “crispy”.

How do you see this project evolving over the next two years?
Two years sounds to me like the minimum time for a business plan, as well as a long time for my life organization. There will be soon some nice online projects. The staircase is conceived as an intense, temporary and fast-consuming experience. It’s more in tune with notions such as “instantaneity”, acceleration and overload as markers of our visual culture.

by Cristina Bogdan

Find 63rd-77th STEPS on Facebook here