Andrea Festa discusses the opening of his brand-new home gallery, a format that is still not so popular in the Eternal City. When the space opened to the public in November 2020, Andrea inaugurated his newly born project with the international group exhibition Softer Softest, featuring artists József Csató, Paul Heyer, Maximilian Kirmse, Yeni Mao, Grace Woodcock and Yang Xu.
Helped by his collaborator Giulia Sorani, he recently inaugurated a second exhibition—this time a double solo show—on Mar. 7, featuring some of the most recent works by painters Tom Poelmans and Danilo Stojanović. It was temporarily put on hold after the d.P.C.m. of Mar. 12, which labeled Lazio as a red zone—or high-risk area—and therefore issued the closing of all artistic spaces, from national archeological sites and museums to privately-owned galleries.
Originally born in Turin, Andrea Festa has been collecting artworks and traveling to international art fairs, auction houses and galleries since 2008. Describing this process as “obsessive compulsive,” his intent was to initially collect artworks to furnish his new apartment in the heart of Rome, conceiving it as an extension of his own personality.
When he started selling some of his collected artworks to friends and acquaintances, he decided to change career and take on a more active role in the art world, especially to help artists achieve their ambitions. Although he had been working on this project for over a year, he eventually opened his exhibiting space at the end of 2020.
“The traditional gallery model has been undergoing a crisis for several years, even before Covid,” Andrea says. “We need to re-evaluate the content offered to the public.” He mentions some of his gallerist friends who noticed how people only tend to visit during the opening but not during the exhibition itself.
According to Andrea, the interest of the public for an exhibition is essential: while the purchase can be made online, the true experience of admiring an artwork can only happen in person. When many non-essential businesses were forced to close, galleries moved to online platforms and started putting out a lot of content.
“By crisis of the traditional gallery, I’m referring to a gallery that organizes an opening, hosts a show, and keeps their visitors posted on future projects,” says Andrea. According to him, galleries need to offer other content apart from the exhibition per se, such as visiting an artist’s studio or giving a talk, performance, or lecture.
“Organizing exhibitions is not enough anymore,” he concludes. After the pandemic phase of the virus is over, Andrea’s apartment will give him the opportunity to make his projects come to life, organizing talks and video calls with artists from their studios.
Putting into consideration the expenses of renting a locale and hiring a gallery manager, he instead decided to open a gallery in the comfort of his own home, a situation which turned out to have advantages that regular galleries don’t have.
First of all, he won’t have to pay for what has been mentioned before. Secondly, it will allow him to sort out people who are truly interested and engaged in the art displayed: even after the pandemic, the visit will always be scheduled because the visitors enter a private home.
“It’s a more familiar environment. It’s not a business model but a gathering place to exchange views on art,” he says. In fact, what is central to Andrea’s home gallery is the rendezvous: visitors can stop for a coffee or a chat, which hardly ever happens in traditional art galleries, allowing Andrea to focus on one client at a time.
Home galleries, Andrea says, also help fight the image of art as elitist. In the Fifties and Sixties, gallerist Leo Castelli had no money and had to start his business in his own apartment, as many more did after him.
“This is a start-up, a bet,” Andrea calls it. His project is a bet that he has technically already won, judging from the positive response he is receiving from his public, his artists—for whom space is central—and even critics.
“Home galleries will keep flourishing as a result of the crisis of the traditional gallery model and the crisis of Covid-19, which doesn’t allow you the risk to make huge investments,” he says.