Studio la Città is an art gallery that was opened in Verona in 1969 by Hélène de Franchis, who is still its proprietor. The gallery’s early shows were typified by such artists as Lucio Fontana, Piero Dorazio, Mario Schifano, and Gianni Colombo, flanked by foreign artists linked to European and American analytical and minimalist art, and who included Robyn Denny, Richard Smith, David Leverett, Ullrich Erben, Richard Tuttle, Sol Lewitt, Richard Smith, and Robert Mangold. The presence of artists from abroad opened up the gallery’s international horizon and in that period Studio la Città proposed artists who were little seen in Italy, or not seen at all.
It was in this same period that the gallery began to take part in its first contemporary art fairs; the first was Düsseldorf in 1973, then Art Basel in 1974, Bologna in 1975, and then Cologne, Paris, and Madrid. This frequentation of the international world opened a wholly innovative chapter for that period and saw the gallery’s participation in all the main European international fairs. Later on the path undertaken was widened beyond Europe, as were the artists selected.
This aspect, above all, was to characterise the gallery’s view of art, as the critic Marco Meneguzzo has acutely observed: In those years, then, the rigour of Studio la Città’s “analytical” choices made the gallery famous, together with its international and cosmopolitan outlook, something that meant recognising and appreciating cultural diversity, and always feeling at ease without giving up the gallery’s own cultural heritage. The risk, however, was that of becoming a fashionable gallery, in other words one tied to a particular form of art or to a particular movement. And if this was a point of merit in the 1970s, a period characterised by ideologically-oriented, basically “pure”, avant-garde choices and, paradoxically, by being “anti-market”, in the 1980s the panorama had completely changed. Well, Studio la Città passed unscathed through that decade without having to renounce its particular choices and without making opportunistic choices either, ones that might have made it a belated member of the mainstream of neo-expressionist painting and sculpture. The reason for this is probably to be found in the fact that a series of collectors had anyway remained faithful to its “mental”, rigorous, and analytical choices, and so Studio la Città had remained in that period one of the few reference points for this kind of art; there was also certainly the fact that it had been able to renew its choices while still remaining faithful to itself.
In 1989 the gallery moved to a larger space, again in Verona. Here, in the period that immediately followed the Transavanguardia, which had no influence on the choices of the gallery, the artistic preference was for the chromatic minimalism of such artists as Lawrence Carroll, Herbert Hamak, John McCracken, David Simpson, and Ettore Spalletti, and for that area of research that was exploring the limits between contemporary society and pure nature, with such artists as Jacob Hashimoto and Hiroyuki Masuyama. The leitmotif of most of the choices made by the gallery over time was a search for a silent and intimate expressive form. It was for this reason that artists including Gabriele Basilico, Alberto Garutti, Pierpaolo Calzolari, Ettore Spalletti, and Giulio Paolini are considered to be contemporary classics by Studio la Città which, however, has never lost its interest in complex modes of expression that require the utilisation of different media.
Since 2007, and the opening of the gallery’s new venue in Lungadige Galtarossa, the new large rooms have permitted the organisation of exhibitions of the greatest interest. Here the gallery has hosted the new languages of Indian art, and this culminated in the show titled India Crossing, with such artists as Riyas Komu, Hema Upadhyay, Nataraj Sharma, Valsan Koorma Kolleri, Ashim Purkayastha, and Shilpa Gupta.
In 2012 – after having consistently taken part in the most important international art fairs since the 1970s, and also having participated in the fairs in New York, Miami, and Shanghai – Hélène de Franchis decided to interrupt this activity. This was a resolute and radical decision mainly derived from the natural evolution of the fairs which were becoming increasingly market-oriented and less interested in quality and the search for artistic innovation.
From this extraordinary experience – which came about in a period when participation in a fair meant having a serious art programme, one attentive to innovation without ignoring art history, concentrated on the quality of the work of the artists, and far removed from facile seductions – Studio la Città maintained its interest in research and the pleasure of exhibiting interesting artists, but it could not tolerate an often unjustified financial appetite. This was to lead the gallery to undertake exhibitions in collaboration with museums and institutions in public and private spaces.
The most recent of these was the installation by Roberto Pugliese, La finta semplice, organised at the fresco museum in Verona, a collateral event to the ArtVerona fair undertaken with the ASLC Progetti per l’arte association and in collaboration with the directorate of the Veronese civic museums. But mention should also be made of the show of work by Ettore Spalletti, in collaboration with the Fondazione Cini and the ASLC, on the occasion of the 2015 Venice Biennale and held to mark the opening to the public of Palazzo Cini; the Gas Giant installation by Jacob Hashimoto, curated by Marco Meneguzzo, at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia in 2013; and, again in collaboration with the ASLC association, the show Ad Naturam hosted by the natural history museum in Verona; in 2011 there was an event devoted to the composer Arvo Part with an exhibition of photographs as well as an extraordinary concert in the monumental church of San Fermo Maggiore, Verona; in 2007 there was inaugurated the large-scale installation by Herbert Hamak on the occasion of the reopening of the walkways of Castelvecchio in Verona. And this is just to mention a few of the events the gallery has organised.
Despite the effort involved for all these events, the exhibition programme in the gallery has continued without interruption and, in fact, continues with solo and group shows involving such artists as Eelco Brand, Vincenzo Castella, Lynn Davis, Arthur Duff, Herbert Hamak, Jacob Hashimoto, Roberto Pugliese, Mikhael Subotzky Eugenio Tibaldi, Massimo Vitali, Luigi Carboni, Andreco, Francesco Simeti, and Shaun Gladwell.