FROM GARAGE TO GALLERY
A magnet for creatives and an art gallery
in a seemingly abandoned street
by Stefan Jermann
It’s a Sunday in Regio Parco, Turin. Not much happening. Other than some kids flaunting their BMX’s, folks jogging along the river, passing the internationally acclaimed new University building by starchitect Sir Norman Foster and locals grabbing their long awaited breakfast at the Pasticceria Raspino on Corso Regio Parco. Locals tell me that the Torinese come from the other end of the city just to savor those incredible pastries and croissants.
I dig in and prepare myself for a long day on the road. Slowly heading to the other end of Regio Parco, towards the cemetery and then walking on Corso Novara, a street that has seen better days and seems to serve as a major connector from one side to the other.
Finally, there it is, Via Montalciata. A nondescript little side street I have been looking for. A back alley that supposedly is home to one of the most hailed galleries in Turin, if not in Italy. But, a gallery, here? I can’t help but think that I am lost, I must have gotten the street wrong or my sense of direction has lead me into a one way street once again! Before I know some old lady is yelling things at me from her balcony in the high-rise, she clearly doesn’t like my cameras presence. I am mentally preparing for a mob to attack me, to strip off my clothes, trash my camera into a thousand pieces, but none of this happens. Instead on Via Montalciata number 11, I spot a huge door and a peculiar bench outside that is taken by an old man with dog. No sign would indicate that this is the gallery I am looking for, but my instincts tell me it must be it.
Next morning at 10 am I go there again with my bicycle from the city and enter a former warehouse turned white cube gallery. A dramatic space, light flooded from its glass roof, molded concrete floors, several rooms — a dream of every galerista. Still in awe, the owner Franco Noero, a seasoned art enthusiast with a profound track record, is greeting me. He participates at Freeze in London and Art Basel where he is also in the selection committee. This well styled and sophisticated Italian at first doesn’t fit this run down street he now calls home, but at a second thought the grit makes sense and it makes it ever more interesting. It’s as if I can still whiff the traces of Arturo Herero, the Venezuelan artist who painted his masterpieces directly on to the wall and placed giant backdrops on the balconies of the old high-rise building next door. An installation on a building where each inhabitant becomes part of the installation, genius!
Franco Noero is passionate about his neighborhood so he takes me out on a walk and I soon discover cute little city houses that have been carefully restored, right next to a skeleton of a former factory. While this construction looks abandoned and displaced at first, one can only assume that it will be given new purpose quite soon. We stroll by a nondescript, but perfectly renovated house and Noero points out that this is the home of none other than Gianni Piacentino, one of Italy’s most acclaimed artists. Franco Noero indicates a door close to his gallery and he explains that this used to be some sort of a nightclub discotheque and before he and his partner acquired the gallery, they wanted to get to know their neighbors and shake hands. Sure enough, they were not granted entry, Noero notes with a smile that the suit and tie he wore were just a bit off for that joint at that time. But soon after the opening of the gallery in 2012, they were received very well by their neighbors. One can only assume that “art” must have been quite something new to this blue-collar neighborhood.
I am still trying to fathom how wealthy art collectors make their way to Via Montalciata, as it is not your typical brushed up Soho-Style environment, it takes some guts to park your Benz there at night, it would almost seem like an act of provocation, but then it is exactly that aspect which makes it unique and attracts a global clientele that flocks to this very unique gallery with an impressive list of artists.
To Franco Noero Regio Parco is an accumulation of small laboratories with highly motivated people: “Now it is slowly happening here. There are other engaging areas in Turin, but Regio Parco is the one that is gonna make it!”