A conversation with ReA!, a fresh perspective in the art world

A team of young (and predominantly female) professionals determined to break down barriers and inspire the new generations of artists.

Since its foundation, ReA! Arte has been synonymous with democracy and accessibility in the art world. Born as a small art fair with a great purpose – that is to break down barriers and facilitate the access of emerging artists and young collectors to the contemporary art market -, today ReA! Arte is a cultural association with a measurable, growing impact. Bypassing the intermediation of galleries, every year since 2020, it has offered 100 emerging artists the opportunity to present and sell their work to a heterogeneous international audience, made up of art lovers and bold collectors, but also many neophytes who have found in the fair the right environment to approach contemporary art for the first time, free from the presumptuous and judgmental gaze of the “artistic intelligentsia” of the high-end market segments. The participating artists are also eligible for different types of prizes promoted by the association’s partners. During the latest edition – held from 12-15 October in the premises of Fabbrica del Vapore, Milan – prizes were awarded to Laura Badertscher (Switzerland), winner of the Artsted Cash Art Prize, and Niccolò Quaresima (Italy), invited to participate in the 2024 edition of the VIR Viafarini-In-Residence program. In this interview Maryna Rybakova and Pelin Zeytinci – co-founders and directors of the association – give art-frame a broad insight into ReA!’s strategies and vision as well as a glimpse of its upcoming projects, always striving to make the art market more inclusive and democratic to the cry of “Art for everyone!”.

Installation view, ReA! Art Fair 2023

The fourth edition of ReA! Art Fair ended just over two weeks ago. How has the event changed and grown in the past four years?

Maryna: It’s been an incredible journey, both challenging and stimulating. We have had over 100 people participate in the organization’s activities, in roles ranging from staff members to volunteers for specific events – not taking into considerations thousands of members of our online community. Despite the daily challenges of finding new ways to sustain the organization and keep moving forward, we consistently receive positive feedback from the participating artists and our audience, which continues to be a driving force for us. The event has grown not just in terms of participation and visibility, but also in how we influence and inspire the emerging art scene. We are constantly striving to improve, making each edition richer and more inclusive than the last.

What principles and values is your association based on?

Maryna: Our association stands firmly on three key pillars: transparency, accessibility and innovation. We strongly believe in transparency, ensuring clarity and reliability in both art pricing and our internal processes. Accessibility is another core value; we work tirelessly to make art accessible to everyone, breaking down the barriers that often surround the contemporary art world – our motto is “Arte per tutti!” or “Art for everyone!” and this embodies our spirit pretty accurately. Lastly, innovation is crucial for ReA!. The art world is an industry where innovation is often frowned upon, with many art dealing practices remaining the same as they were 50 or 100 years ago. We are committed to bringing fresh perspectives and innovating processes and business models, always with the goal of supporting artists and art organizations like ours and creating new opportunities for them.

Do you believe that the art market is moving towards increasing democratization?

Pelin: The democratization of the art market is a notable trend driven by various factors. The proliferation of digital platforms has made art more accessible to a global audience, allowing artists to showcase their work and connect with potential buyers worldwide. Traditional art fairs and auction houses have expanded their reach through online bidding and virtual events, enabling art enthusiasts from different regions to participate. Art financing and investments have also gained prominence, making it possible for a broader range of individuals to invest in art. Emerging and underrepresented artists are receiving more support and initiatives dedicated to showcasing new talent contribute to a more inclusive art market. Moreover, increased art education and transparency in pricing have empowered a growing base of art enthusiasts and collectors. While democratization is a significant trend, exclusivity and speculative elements still exist, particularly in high-end segments of the art market. The future trajectory of the art market’s democratization will depend on ongoing shifts in technology, market dynamics and societal values.

Installation view, ReA! Art Fair 2023

Besides the fair, what other activities do you carry out to fulfill your mission?

Maryna: We are always open to collaboration whenever an interesting proposal comes our way, ensuring that we offer the artists we work with a variety of opportunities, such as art residencies, grants, collaborations with brands, and more. Additionally, we have CReA!, an educational program for emerging curators, as well as workshops and educational activities for artists. Our goal is to provide tools and resources that can truly make a difference in the careers of emerging artists, supporting them on their journey and contributing to the creation of a stronger and more united artistic community.

Your team is predominantly composed of women. As industry professionals, do you believe that the art world is still heavily biased when it comes to gender equality?

Maryna: Absolutely, the art world, like many other industries, still has a long way to go in terms of achieving gender equality. Our team being predominantly composed of women is a statement in itself – we want to be part of the change we are advocating for. The statistics speak volumes, with women representing a significant portion of art graduates, yet holding less than a third of leadership positions in major cultural institutions. In Italy, the situation is even more pronounced, with numbers falling below the European average.

By fostering a female-led environment, we are challenging the status quo and demonstrating that women are more than capable of leading and innovating in the art world. We believe in leading by example and are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in every aspect of our work. This commitment extends beyond gender, encompassing a wide variety of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, which we believe is crucial for fostering true innovation and change in the art world.

The team of ReA! Fair, ph. Marta Karkosa

In May you will launch ReA! Fair Lugano. Could you tell me something more about this new project?

Pelin: ReA! Fair Lugano is an exciting project that we’re gearing up for. Following the successful run of ReA! Art Fair in Milan from 2020 to 2023, we’re expanding our horizons to Lugano. The idea is to create a dynamic platform for emerging galleries and independent spaces. We’re curating an environment that’s reminiscent of a biennale, with a strong emphasis on accessibility, democracy and sustainability.

What sets this fair apart is our mission. It’s not just about art but also about advocating for political and social justice, promoting equality and championing environmental causes through the art we showcase. We see ourselves as agents of positive social change through artistic expression.

Why Lugano (Switzerland)?

Pelin: Lugano, Switzerland, is the ideal canvas for ReA! Fair, chosen for its rich cultural heritage, global reputation for stability and strategic accessibility. With its stunning natural surroundings and the support of a local community that values the arts, Lugano promises a unique environment where ReA! Fair can flourish. Additionally, its position as a part of Switzerland, celebrated for its international art market status, ensures the fair’s connection to a diverse global audience. Lugano’s blend of culture, nature and quality of life enhances the appeal, offering the perfect backdrop for an art fair dedicated to artistic expression, social and environmental engagement and a dynamic, inclusive art community.

Agnese Torres
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