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He is Lorenzo Balbi artistic director of the MAMbo Museum of Modern Art in Bologna.
Five questions for get to know the great art professionals, the daily challenges to be faced, the choices that have determined their path in the system and in the art market, the changes under the banner of digital and the advices for those who want to undertake the same career in collaboration with con ProfessioneARTE.it.
Constantly pursuing the passion for art with consistency and commitment. This is the path unveiled by the artistic director of MAMbo, who now lives close to the works and the artists coordinating the contemporary cultural network of Bologna.
Studying art, writing about it, telling it and then becoming the fulcrum for the beginning of a dialogue between multiple realities, this is the role of Lorenzo Balbi, who since 2017 has been managing and coordinating a network of six different public locations dedicated to contemporary art and culture in Bologna grouped under the name Modern and Contemporary Art Area of the Bologna Museums Institution.
After studying Conservation of Cultural Heritage at the Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice, he specialized in Contemporary Art at the University of Turin. From 2006 to 2017, at the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation in Turin, he taught Curatorship Methodology at CAMPO, course for curators, and he was responsible for the organization and development of exhibition projects in the spaces of the institution in Turin and Guarene d’Alba , in addition to the exhibitions of the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo collection abroad. He was curator and manager of the Residence for Young Foreign Curators for three editions from 2015 to 2017. From 2018 he took on the artistic direction of ART CITY Bologna, a review of exhibition events in the city promoted on the occasion of Arte Fiera; he is a member of the board of directors of AMACI – Association of Italian Contemporary Art Museums and of the coordination of the Forum of Italian Contemporary Art.
In the interview he tells how the role of the director of a museum has changed, the new tasks, the unprecedented challenges to be faced or the obstacles to be overcome is not a simple undertaking, but the strategy is everything and putting new skills into play has never been necessary as in these weeks that sees museums all over the world closed to the public for the health emergency, but very active online.
Here then the director Lorenzo Balbi took the challenge by opening the doors to digital even more with the “2 minutes of MAMbo” project, a digital engagement initiative to keep on telling the museum, the artists and the works together with the whole staff
Lorenzo Balbi (Turin, 1982. Lives and works in Bologna) is the artistic director of the MAMbo – Museum of Modern Art in Bologna.
1. How did your journey in the art world started?
My parents got me used to traveling and visiting museums, churches and exhibitions from an early age.
It wasn’t just about contemporary art, but they certainly got me used to attending cultural spaces.
Once I finished classical high school I chose to attend History of Art at the Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice and to specialize in History of Contemporary Art at the University of Turin. In the meantime I had started to collaborate with the Giornale dell’Arte and to write about contemporary art, remaining decidedly attracted to it and starting to read, study, visit, get informed.
Today’s passion for art prompted me to apply for a position as cultural mediator at the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation in Turin while I was still studying – to be able to live closely with artists and works – and it all started from there.
2. How would you describe your profession today?
Since July 2017 I have been managing and coordinating a network of six different public locations dedicated to contemporary art and culture in Bologna grouped under the name of the Modern and Contemporary Art Area of the Bologna Museums Institution.
The six locations are: the MAMbo – Museum of Modern Art of Bologna, the Morandi Museum, Morandi’s House, Villa delle Rose, the Museum of the memory of Ustica and the Residency for artists Sandra Natali.
Of these six spaces I take care of exhibition planning and collections, set budgets, coordinate staff, manage locations and deal with action planning and strategy.
It is a beautiful and extremely stimulating, difficult job but also a goal for which I have studied and I have worked hard for all these years.
3. How has your profession changed over time?
The role of the museum director has changed a lot in recent years.
The “old-fashioned” director was the tip of a pyramidal hierarchy on which all the administrative and managerial, scientific and artistic choices depended.
All the indications for the management of the institution’s life started from the director. Now this approach is unthinkable.
The artistic director of a contemporary museum is instead intended today as a “collector” of different instances, a person capable of bringing together different directions, putting together voices, starting the dialogue necessary to come to the choices.
A univocal direction, understood as the expression of a single voice, is not as interesting as a direction that manages to express its ideas and intentions by putting together more voices, more inclinations, more discussions.
4. What impact is digital having on your sector?
Digital is radically changing the way the public perceives the museum’s initiatives and the institution communicates them.
All sector studies and surveys show that it is essential for museums to adopt precise strategies to carry out their online initiatives. Just think that over 80% of the choices we make derive from an awareness derived from having read / seen an online content to understand how important it is for museums to be significantly present on the web.
I have always understood the on-line space of the museum as an additional exhibition space, with its different rules but also with its different possibilities but I want to point out that museums are primarily places: physical spaces where actions take place and works are shown that must be enjoyed in person.
The goal of the museum must be to preserve this physical presence and proximity and to increase it, the web must be an extension and a further resource to achieve this goal.
5. What would you recommend to a young person who wants to pursue your profession?
I believe there is no privileged path to undertake my profession.
The beauty of this work is that it leaves the door open to people with studies, experiences, inclinations and even very different paths.
Of course, schools for curators are an excellent basis – which cannot be separated from a solid background in art history – but some illustrious examples of great professionals show that this path is not the only one possible.
I therefore feel like giving a single piece of advice: the experience that I find absolutely essential in the path of a curator is that of cultural mediation.
Staying in the room, together with the works and in continuous relationship with the public, is an experience of unavoidable awareness, the basis for the development of one’s own curatorial path and ground on which to start offering content.
This interview was conducted in collaboration with ProfessioneARTE.it, the first community dedicated to training, updating and orientation towards the professions of art.