Where can you find the world’s smallest gallery with the world’s loudest buzz? Wedged into a foot and a half deep windowsill in Milan’s trendy Porta Venezia neighborhood.
Roughly the size of a slightly-larger-thanaverage fish tank, Caroline Corbetta’s microscopic non-profit exhibition space is a constantly refreshed outlet for young Italian artists. Despite its minimal dimensions, over the past four years, Il Crepaccio has hosted artists from across the country, often showing their more experimental work, or forays into unfamiliar mediums. Corbetta describes it as “a test site—a situation more than a space.” The artist on display at the time of writing is Andrea Incontri, the men’s creative director at Tod’s, who in this case has been experimenting with digital illustration.
The gallery was discovered, so to speak, in 2012 during a lunch at the trattoria Il Carpaccio with the artist Maurizio Cattelan. What started as a joke between friends soon morphed into something very real when Cattelan revealed his idea for a name: Il Crepaccio, the Crevasse. It was the perfect descriptor of a gallery that measures in at just less than two feet deep, and they only had to paste over two letters of the existing ‘Il Carpaccio’ sign. As an independent curator, Corbetta is able to imbue all of her projects with her own unique sense of sophistication, born from an innate confidence and individuality. Part of a new generation of gallerists that are actively rejecting the stuffy confines of institutions, Corbetta and her contemporaries are comfortable breaking rules and redefining the nature of the profession. Particularly for other young and ambitious female artists and curators. In many ways, Il Crepaccio represents Corbetta’s view of the art world.“I am obsessed with the idea of accessibility in art,” she explains,“I wanted young artists to have an access to the art system.” So Corbetta created, both literally and figuratively, a gallery with no door—only visible from the street—an atypical act in a world that trades in the currency of exclusivity.
The first step in making Il Crepaccio a reality was convincing the owner of the restaurant to let them use the window for the exhibitions. Back then, it was full of the typical trattoria kitsch: bottles of wine with candles and old paintings. Though the paraphernalia has now been cleaned out, the original identity of the space resists erasure. The owner, Mr. Gino, or ‘The Boss’ as Corbetta calls him, communicates his approval through a series of wordless gestures—mouth slightly downturned, a brisk wave of the hand—which translate roughly to: yes you can do it, but please don’t bother me. A silent partner of sorts, The Boss holds court over the peach-walled establishment, whose decorative offerings rival even the exhibitions. An enormous display of autumn verdure greets you at the entrance, arranged delicately over strips of faux foliage. Gorgeous, brightly colored textile pieces by his wife, Roberta Bozzi, line the walls.
As for the exhibitions? Unconventionality begets unconventionality. Corbetta describes a particularly memorable opening, in which filmmaker Yuri Ancarani hired an Americanstyle yellow school bus and parked it outside of Il Crepaccio. “We had collectors and other people from the art world getting into the school bus, excited, shouting ‘we’re going on a field trip! yay!’ But the bus didn’t go anywhere!” Corbetta approaches her work outside of Il Crepaccio with a similar sense of unorthodoxy. Recent projects found her curating Expo Gate for the Milan Expo, wrapping the TIM mobile building site in Rome with geometric-patterned textiles alongside getmultimedia artist Matteo Cibic, as well as teaming up with Yoox for a Crepaccio Pavilion during the Venice Biennal in 2013. Which, of course, all furthered her mission of promoting emerging Italian artists.
This ethos of openness translates easily to her personal taste. When it comes to style, Corbetta follows an approach similar to her work: young, interesting and close to the heart. “Most of the designers that I wear are friends”, she says. “I wear MSGM by Massimo Giorgetti and Andrea Incontri.” When it comes to jewelry she’s more sentimental, next to her engagement ring she wears a small band with a fox’s head attached. “I bought it when my little girl was born,” she recalls fondly. “It was a gift I gave to myself, but also to her, my little fox.” She is rarely without her Nudo pendant, gifted to her from Pomellato creative director Vincenzo Castaldo, which she wears like a second skin and always manages to cleverly incorporate into her outfits, day and night. Corbetta is, above all, an ambassador. She devotes her time to lifting up not only the people around her, but also her city, Milan: “With Expo, and everything that’s come along with it, there’s been a Renaissance in Milan,” she says, before listing off some of her favorite galleries and fondazioni (for the record she counts Fondazione Castiglioni , Fondazione Albini and Fondazione Portaluppi as some of Milan’s best-kept secrets). “It’s a very good place to be right now.”
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