This past weekend, after 44 years in business, Lisson opened a gallery in Milan, its first-ever space outside the U.K. “Why Milan?“ was the question burning in everyone’s mind. “This is our secret,” Lisson founder Nicholas Logsdail to told A.i.A., standing in (and referring to) the gallery’s backyard, which it shares with the 15th century Atellani Palazzo, da Vinci’s retreat garden during the period he painted The Last Supper (permanently on view across the street at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie).
In spite of that prestige, the space is unexpectedly modest at just 430 square feet. “Sometimes less is more,” Annette Hofmann, director of the new branch, explained. Julian Opie, charted for the second exhibition, was present at the inauguration and told A.i.A. he’s “looking forward to working with the relationship of the outside, especially the garden.”
The first show is “I know about creative block and I know not to call it by name,” curated by gallery artist Ryan Gander (through Nov. 5). It features a small selection of Lisson artists: Art & Language, Jonathan Monk, Allora & Calzadilla, Lawrence Weiner, Spencer Finch and Cory Arcangel, who, for his contribution, profusely sprayed each press release with Lynx, the common UK deodorant. Gander describes the eclectic selection as “held together by a kind of magic dust, similar to the stuff artists sprinkle on works before the works leave the studio.”
The itinerary of the three-day program accompanying the inauguration was jam-packed, and included a much-coveted 15-minute visit to The Last Supper, stopovers at two exhibitions of another Lisson artist, Anish Kapoor, and a seated candlelight dinner for 200 guests in the garden. In the late-summer heat, there was more spraying and sprinkling at the dinner, as service staff circulated with cans of anti-mosquito spray on silver trays. Artists Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden of Art & Language made a rare appearance and Monk, Gander and Gerard Byrne stayed on until the small hours.
Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary, whose solo exhibition opens at the London branch next month (Oct. 12), felt that the Milan location suits the Lisson way of working, since “here culture and commerce happen side-by-side but it’s hidden, not obvious.” Norwegian collector Rolf Hoff admired Lisson’s courage to try something different, “when all other galleries are opening in Hong Kong, China, Berlin or Rome. It’s great they are going the art way.”