Wet Painting in the Wild: Magazzino Museum of Italian Art Director Vittorio Calabrese Takes Us From Upstate New York to Houston and Beyond


Welcome to Wet Paint in the Wild, an extension of Annie Armstrong’s gossip column in which she gives art world insiders a disposable camera so they can give us a glimpse of their mad industry corner.

I am of the opinion that the Magazzino Museum of Italian Art in Cold Spring, New York is perhaps the most photogenic museum in New York State. Beat me on it! I dare you. The region itself is particularly beautiful in the summer, and the programming of the Italian Post-War and Contemporary Art Museum matches perfectly. So I took the opportunity to entrust a camera to its director, Vittorio Calabrese, for a summer week in upstate New York. Here’s how it was…

I arrive in Magazzino early Saturday evening for the start of an active weekend full of community events. The light is particularly striking at this hour and the park around this sculpture by Giuseppe Penone welcomes our guests this evening. The museum is usually closed at this time and I love experiencing this time of day on our grounds, surrounded by such an explosion of nature.

I take a 10-minute drive to Manitoga/Russel Wright Design Center, where we collaborated on an installation of work by Italian design duo Formafantasma. This project is the latest of several occasions in which Magazzino has collaborated with nearby local institutions in the Hudson Valley.

While the show has already been open for a month, we are hosting a celebration event for local patrons hosted by Executive Director Allison Cross, my partner in crime on this project. Our enthusiasm is evident in the passionate gestures we make when addressing the crowd.

One of my favorite pieces from Formafantasma installed in Manitoga is a chandelier made of inflated, illuminated cow bladders above the dining room.

I run back to Magazzino where I greet the Jog Blues band before their performance in our courtyard later that evening. Jog Blues is a band led by my close friend, Jonathan Rose, which brings together global sounds and genres such as jazz, blues and Indian classical music. The lead singer, Siddartha Mukherjee, had a voice that really resonated in space.

Jog Blues in rehearsal in the courtyard of the Magazzino at golden hour.

As the concert unfolds in the square, I allow myself an evening stroll through the museum after hours and spend time with the artworks in the empty galleries. A piece by Marisa Merz, newly installed in our second gallery, caught my eye, the light reflecting off the metal surface…

…as did mimesi by Giulio Paolini in our seventh gallery, both transformed by the light of the night.

I stop at our last gallery, which houses the work of Piero Gilardi, and gaze at the saturated polyurethane works throughout the space. These works are called Tappeti-Natura (Nature Carpet) and are centered on ecology themes. I keep thinking about how they were originally intended to be habitable and how the viewer could have stretched out on them. I would have loved the chance to lie on a carpet of waves next to the seagulls pictured here.

As I return to the courtyard where the concert is to take place, our team and our guests are dancing. Here, Eve, who manages our external affairs at Magazzino and Thomas, our trainer, soak up the dynamic and nuanced rhythms of Jog Blues.

Our shuttle driver, Jay, watches from the rooftop above the courtyard as everyone gets up and dances.

Sunday is Putnam Pride and our Visitor Services Assistant, Bernadetto Tomaino-Barrett, organizes our presence at the event and represents the buzzing Magazzino. We are also presenting a specially printed t-shirt to honor our involvement. Magazzino has proudly sponsored this event for the second consecutive year and a delegation of team members are tending a very special booth.

Drag Queen Shay D’Pines dances and sings in Brewster, New York, surrounded by families and members of our community.

Tuesday mornings at 9 a.m. I host the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce Periodic Breakfast on the grounds of Magazzino. Representatives of many local businesses, local politicians and community members are present.

Architect Miguel Quismondo and I present Magazzino’s new Robert Olnick Pavilion which will open in 2023. It will house more gallery space, a café and our new education department.

After breakfast, I visit Dolce, the newest member of our Sardinian donkey community, who lives on the hill above the museum. She’s less than a month old and she’s so cute!

After a busy week, I return to Brooklyn where my cat, Zeppola, greets me proudly showing her belly, ready to cuddle. I feed him before leaving.

As if my schedule wasn’t busy enough, I take a two-day trip to Houston to join my dear friend Ylinka Barotto to see her new exhibit “Baseera Kahn: Weight on History” at the Moody Center for the Arts. I love the exhibit, although I’m very confused and disoriented from my first trip to Texas.

When I return to Cold Spring, we begin our big weekend of “Cinema in Piazza”, our annual film series that takes place in the courtyard of Magazzino in collaboration with Arte Cinema in Naples and the Cold Spring Film Society, who have generously donated this popcorn machine to us for the weekend. Here is Tom mastering the production of popcorn.

Eve, at check-in, proudly wears a mask with “%100 Italiana” print that she found on her recent trip to Italy. She’s a real Italian now!

Magazzino designers Yoshi Waterhouse and Beatriz Cifuentes engage in conversation with Kathy Brew, director of the second film featured in the Cinema in Piazza series, The design is a, which talks about the life and work of legendary Italian designers Massimo and Lella Vignelli, mentors of Magazzino founders Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu. The sunset is beautiful that evening.

On Sunday we spend the day visiting a few local institutions, such as Boscobel, which has a massive, brilliantly white dogwood tree beside its view of the Hudson River. Eve and our Curatorial and Programming Assistant, Chiara, are taking full advantage of Dogwood.

We stop at Dia Beacon to see the installation of works by Mario Merz curated by Matilde Guidelli Guidi. I love the cross pollination of Italian art in the Hudson Valley.

We do a bit of shopping in Beacon, stopping at Little King, a bakery and concept store with lots of adorable products, like these sloth glitter purses. I’m not sure I’ll ever use them, but they definitely catch my eye.

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