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Issue 237

Archivio Massimo Is a Constellation of Memories

At Galleria Massimo Minimi, Brescia, an intervention by Formafantasma celebrates the practice of archiving by looking at how we remember, categorize and read the past

BY Giovanna Manzotti in EU Reviews , Exhibition Reviews | 14 JUN 23

‘Archives have that extraordinary power to speak to people who are distant in time, geography or even culture from those who created and organized them, while still carrying their original intentions and visions,’ writes Cristina Baldacci in Archivi impossibili (Impossible Archives, 2017). Located in the offices of his historic gallery in Brescia, Massimo Minini’s private archive is no exception, comprising a remarkable collection of ephemera gathered throughout his 50-year career.

Formafantasma, Untitled (Table), 2023, aluminium, glass, printed silk, 75 × 213 × 100 cm, Untitled (Cabinet 1), 2023, aluminium, cardboard, glass, silk, 183 × 100 × 50 cm, edition of 4, installation view. Courtesy: Formafantasma and Galleria Massimo Minini; photograph: Marco Cappelletti 

For ‘Archivio Massimo’, Formafantasma’s current solo show at the gallery, the research-based design studio – which was founded in 2009 by Italians Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin – has conceived a body of work that responds freely to this archival material, bringing some of its vibrancy directly into the exhibition space. Inspired by Minini’s rigorous yet playful approach to collecting and preserving diverse materials, Formafantasma’s intervention looks at how we remember, categorize and read the past, providing a display that, in the words of the artists, aims to celebrate the practice of archiving as a tool for transforming one’s life and work experiences into tangible and consultable material fragments’.

A series of tables, bookcases, cupboards and panels with sliding doors of stainless steel and glass rhythmically punctuate the gallery spaces. They function both as display and storage elements for a heterogeneous number of documents: invitations to exhibitions, posters, photos, artist books, publications, articles, correspondence with artists, galleries, museums, writers and musicians, as well as design objects from Minini’s personal collection. The material is often juxtaposed in surprising ways: one panel, for instance, marries a selection a selection of photographic documentation of divergent artworks by Luciano Fabro, Mario Merz, Luigi Ontani and Ettore Spalletti to create an unlikely formal dialogue.

Formafantasma, Untitled (Cabinet 1), 2023, aluminium, cardboard, glass, silk, 1823 × 100 × 50 cm, edition of 4, installation view. Courtesy: Formafantasma and Galleria Massimo Minini; photograph: Marco Cappelletti 

Screen-printed onto some of the elegant grey silk panels that serve as backdrops to these archival selections are red Ophrys apifera – better known as bee orchids – which are able to reproduce autonomously. In the exhibition text, the artists describe this choice of flower as a reflection on ‘the practice of the collector and archiving as processes of intellectual self-pollination’. This rather poetic interpretation is in line with the spirit of Formafantasma’s research, which focuses on understanding the natural environment and its processes of mutation, evolution and connection between different plant and animal species.

The installation also includes a row of cardboard files arranged in alphabetical order on the floor in the first room of the gallery. Containing books, posters, invitations and prints, amongst other documents, these folders testify to a history whose significance still resonates. Reading the names on the labels of these files reveals the story not only of the gallery and its founder, but of the group of extraordinary artists – including Carla Accardi, Vito Acconci, Daniel Buren and Maurizio Cattelan – with whom Minini has worked. Also displayed on the floor are invitations to all 48 exhibitions at Banco, Minini’s first gallery in Brescia, held between 1973 and 1978. Linking the second and third spaces like a temporal and spatial pathway, these invitations lead to the final room, which is mostly empty, except for a small, partially unrolled carpet and a colour print of Ophrys apifera installed low down on the wall – a subtle tribute, perhaps, to the gallerist’s habit of consulting documents while sitting on the floor.

Formafantasma, 'Archivio Massimo', 2023, installation view. Courtesy: Formafantasma and Galleria Massimo Minini; photograph: Marco Cappelletti 

Immersed in and nourished by a constellation of memories of private and collective experiences from longstanding relationships with artists and art professionals, Minini’s archive is also a diary – one so closely linked to his personal and professional history that Formafantasma named it after him: ‘Archivio Massimo’.

Main image: Formafantasma, 'Archivio Massimo', 2023, installation view. Courtesy: Formafantasma and Galleria Massimo Minini; photograph: Marco Cappelletti 

Giovanna Manzotti is a curator, writer and editor based in Milan, Italy.