Viola Angiolini is the director of research, curatorial and European liaison at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, a modern and contemporary gallery with spaces in New York and Los Angeles.
Is there any particular moment you can remember of having first realized your passion for the arts?
I recall an afternoon at the Milanese residence of Giovanna Panza di Biumo, wife of the late Italian collector and champion of Minimalism and Land Art. She passionately shared enviable memories about her meetings with artists and travels through canyons and desert lands. As the hours passed by, the light in the apartment changed, affecting the monochromatic paintings in her living room and making the experience almost mystical. I was already studying art at that point but that was such a memorable encounter.
How did you initially get involved with curating at Jeffrey Deitch?
On the second day of the BFA program I attended in Milan, the professor walked into the class holding a copy of Post Human, the catalog of Jeffrey’s landmark exhibition that traveled through several European museums in 1992 and 1993. I started working at his gallery after graduating from the Institute of Fine Arts in New York.
As director of Research, Curatorial, and European Liaison, you must have your hands quite full. What does a typical day in the office look like for you?
Typically, I spend most of the day doing office work in support of exhibition coordination, liaising with artists, collectors, curators and press. Studio visits with artists and exhibition walkthroughs are often on the agenda too.
What do you find most rewarding about being a gallerist?
Helping artists to realize their vision and gaining a deeper understanding of their work while doing so are the most fulfilling aspects of my job. For this reason, I especially enjoy the planning process and installation phase of an exhibition.
When selecting artists to work with, what kinds of qualities do you specifically look for?
It depends on the project, its context and theme, but generally I admire work that is personal to the artist but that also addresses pressing issues. I also appreciate an artist’s ability to dialogue with the history of art and other forms of expression in deep and unexpected ways.
Can you recall any experiences you’ve had with an exhibit and/or artist that were especially fulfilling to you?
I recently organized at our main Los Angeles gallery a survey of the late artist Rammellzee, whose estate we represent. The show featured over 200 works, including drawings, paintings, costumes and sculptures—some floating from the ceiling. It was possibly the most expansive exhibition of the artist’s work to date. Everyone involved – from the lenders to the installers – was exceptionally dedicated to the project and contributed so much to the show. It was a real team effort.
Do you have any upcoming plans for Jeffrey Deitch Gallery we should know about?
Besides the gallery’s dynamic program of exhibitions, we have been developing several book projects. I have been working with a number our artists on their first monographs, some of which will be coming out this year. I will also be editing a publication about Luncheon on the Grass, the exhibition of contemporary responses to Édouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe that I organized with Jeffrey at our Los Angeles gallery. The book will feature scholarly essays and interviews with the over 30 artists who participated in the show.