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>> A Delicious Feeling of Confidence
>> The Laughing Paintbrusch
>> Art Nucleus Villa Romana
>> The Prize for Young Polish Art

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Inside Silke Marefka's studio
Photo courtesy Villa Romana

To gain mobility, however, the director not only rearranged the space of the public areas of the villa but also reduced the bureaucracy for selecting the fellowship holders. While this year's winners were chosen by a five-member jury consisting of the artists Siegfried Anzinger, Günther Förg, Bernd Koberling, Katharina Grosse, and Amelie von Wulffen, the procedure was trimmed down noticeably for the following year. This time, it was comprised solely of the Berlin-based artist Ayse Erkmen and the Leipzig art historian Beatrice von Bismarck, who selected from ten proposed candidates the filmmaker Clemens von Wedemeyer, the painter Julia Schmidt, and the video and installation artists Asli Sungu and Dani Gal as next year's Villa Romana fellows. "The institution's reputation depends on the quality of the prizewinners," says Stepken, who doesn't want to rest on the institution's celebrated artistic history, but has focused entirely on conceptual work. This also involves inviting the jurors to Florence to engage in discussion with the winners once again.

Angelika Stepken and the 2007 stipendiaries
Photo courtesy Villa Romana

The atmosphere and aura of the house and its spacious garden notwithstanding, a large priority for the years to come is to advance the conceptual work done there as well as its connections to the current art discourse. To this end, the new director intends to encourage her guests to invite future dialogue partners from a variety of different areas to Florence, and will naturally also tap her own connections to get inspired artists, exhibition makers, critics, and art historians to come to the city. In the months to come, Stepken will talk with various artists about joint projects, including Albanian painter Edi Hila (born in 1949), who had a strong influence on an entire generation of Albanian artists, among them Anri Sala. Stepken also plans to invite the New York photo artist Collier Schorr, who has long been a star in the States and who just had her first, highly regarded solo exhibition in Germany at the Badische Kunstverein. In addition, she intends to invite the young Berlin-based sculptor Kai Schiemenz to erect one of his spectacular arena-like sculptures in a public space in Florence.

Studio in the Villa Romana
Photo: Heinz Peter Knes

Through such "guest performances," the contemplative working environment is to be enriched by discussions and lively exchange - not least with other Florence-based institutions including the art historical institute of the Max Planck Society - to rejuvenate the Villa Romana both intellectually and artistically. In Stepken's opinion, the ideal situation would be for the artist's house to be a "nucleus that makes divergent references possible." Even now it is clear that an internationally linked think tank for contemporary art will emerge in this tradition-rich place that will set an example far from the major cities. The prerequisites that the house, its exhibition rooms, its studios, and its guest rooms provide for these ambitious plans couldn't be better.

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