From energy to art: the success of Itisartime

The experience of two alumni of the Master in Energy Management programme who together manage Itisartime, an Instagram page with half a million followers. From their meeting in the classrooms of MIP to the development of an entrepreneurial mentality, following the concepts of progress, innovation and change.

What’s the relation between a Master in Energy Management from MIP Politecnico di Milano and an Instagram page with over 450,000 followers that talks about art? Apparently none, but in reality, the relationship exists, and it goes beyond the fact that the hosts of Itisartime, Alessandro Brunelli and Andrea Del Moro, are both alumni of the MEM programme. «Art and energy share the concept of progress. Art is by definition creativity, and in turn creativity is innovation and change. And what are the most common words in energy conferences? Progress and revolution», explains Brunelli.

An ongoing project

Itisartime’s experience goes way back. «In part it coincides with my personal story»,  says Brunelli. «At the age of 19 I started to collect small pieces of art that seemed to be talking about me; showing them to everyone on social networks seemed to me an innovative way to tell about myself». A vision that gradually expanded: «When I realized that the world of art was boundless, I decided to go beyond that limit and instead repost all those works that stood out from others. That was the true birth certificate of Itisartime, a project that saw the light in 2015».

The success of the page, which also brought the two to the Affordable Art Fair of Milan, initially took Brunelli by surprise. «I’d never have thought to reach a half million people». Big numbers that require some reflection on the future of the project. And also from this point of view the Master in Energy Management played an important role: «There I met Andrea, who joined the project in a later phase. He has excellent communication skills, a broad commercial and project vision. For all these reasons he came onboard, to transform Itisartime into a more solid reality. We aim to become a reference for the sector», reveals Brunelli.

Five ideas for art in Italy

On the state of art in Italy, and on what concerns its communication and dissemination to the general public, Brunelli has clear ideas: «The potential of our country is enormous, we know it. There are initiatives that I think have represented important steps forward. I’m thinking, for example, of Domenicalmuseo, that brings many people closer to places of art. But also the combination of art and cinema can arouse interest in those who are perhaps tired of the usual exhibits». Obviously, there’s no lack of areas in which it would be possible to do more: «We should maintain and increase subsidies to funds like Fai or to private exhibition spaces, like Hangar Bicocca or Fondazione Prada, to give some examples. The appeal with young people would grow. Secondly, all initiatives should be channelled through an information channel and disseminated. Lastly, try to transform problems in solutions. I’m thinking about street art and urban art: investing on thematic projects could transform acts of vandalism in works, thanks to which you could redevelop peripheral areas».

The added value of the Master in Energy Management programme

Among these and other suggestions, Itisartime looks to the future. And it does so thanks to some lessons that Brunelli and Dal Moro learned during the Master in Energy Management: «I have an engineering background, Andrea an economic one. The first thing a master’s does is to connect people with different backgrounds: it’s from the comparison of points of view and different experiences that good ideas are born. It was a truly lucky meeting, if we think that we now collaborate in a sector so far removed from our training and educational experience. The master’s gave us ideas for professional improvement and more generally of personal development. If today we evaluate job opportunities tied to Itisartime with an entrepreneurial mentality, the credit goes to the MEM», concludes Brunelli.

Gabriela Galati: a manager in the art world

As I’m about to finish my MBA journey at MIP soon, I wanted to share an interview focused on the Italian cultural scene, where I would like to continue working after graduating. I would like to introduce Gabriela Galati, a very special friend and colleague who came to Italy from Argentina twelve years ago and is currently Director of the Milanese art gallery aA29 Project Room. We had the opportunity to discuss the role of the curator as a manager, the art market in Milan, as well as the impact of digital technologies on the commercialization of artworks.

What is the job of a curator?

The job of the curator varies, depending on where you work. In a contemporary art gallery, the director is usually the one who curates the shows. This means looking for artists for the gallery, as well as working with the artists who already collaborate with the gallery. Curating a solo show means accompanying the artist in the process, deciding which works will be featured and defining the central topic of the exhibition. For a group show, on the other hand, you pick the artists and the works that are most coherent with your idea. In smaller shows and commercial galleries, the independent or invited curator often acts more as an advisor or PR. Being a curator in a museum is very different, as you have to deal a bit more with bureaucracy. Exhibitions usually have bigger budgets and spaces and, in general, more research is involved. A curator in a museum is probably a scholar, who researches and works on a show for a year or even two, depending on the complexity of the exhibition. When you are bringing works from abroad you also deal with permits and shipping. You also write texts, curate catalogues and liaise with other institutions, as well as the press.

What does Milan mean to you?

Now it’s home for me. I really like living and working here and how things work. It’s a great place for managing a gallery and teaching as well. Even though it is a small city, a great share of the main cultural manifestations in Europe and around the world arrive here and it has evolved a lot in the last couple of years. There are many private institutions and patrons like Fondazione Prada and Hangar Bicocca bringing first class international art shows to Milan. However, the main complaint from the galleries since I’ve been here is the fact that there is no real Contemporary Art Museum in Milan. This means that there is no institutional commissioning for buying works of art from a museum, compared to other European capitals. Hopefully, this will change in the future.

Tell me about your work at aA29 Project Room and the role of this gallery in the Italian art scene?

This gallery is relatively new, having been open for only three years. Its role is to promote young and mid-career artists. This is a very good niche to avoid competing with large established galleries, to present young, emerging and experimental talents. Our roster of artists deals with different media and aesthetics. The central topic of their work is socially relevant issues like the environment, biocentric matters or antispecism, for example, according to which the gallery works. Most of our collectors are from the Italian market and some are quite young, actually. We also have medium-specific clients from the Americas who collect photography. Regarding our exhibitions, we are ending this summer season with an exhibition by the Italian artist, Matilde Sambo. In the fall we will have an exhibition by Kyle Thompson from the USA, in January Liu Yi from China and for spring 2020, Ivan Grubanov from Serbia.

What do you think has been the impact of social media and e-commerce on the art market?

Many small galleries that are struggling economically have decided to go virtual. I don’t think it is a bad model, depending on the price range for the commercialized artworks. Personally, I don´t look for artists on Instagram, but I have heard social media channels are becoming popular, especially for younger artists to promote and sell their work. For high price ranges, however, I don’t think it works, as you don’t buy expensive art online. In the visual art market, for example, what happened with music has never transpired. Platforms like Amazon and Yoox have tried selling art but for limited editions or low-priced works. Selling online has not even turned out well for Artsy, which showcases works of art from very important galleries. Nobody spends a million Euros to buy a work of art online unless they already know the work of an artist who is probably on the other side of the world. No-one who really knows how the contemporary art world works is going to put a tag with a price in the gallery or buy a piece of art with a price tag on Instagram. Most people need to see what they want to buy in real life, as they are making an important investment. Shopping for art in a physical space will still be a unique and relevant experience in the future.

Stay tuned for my next chapter, where I will tell you all about my Project Work experience.


About the author
Roberto Niño Betancourt

Roberto is a student of the International full time MBA. He is a Colombian filmmaker and new media artist based in Milan.
He has collaborated as a post producer for MTV Latin America, as well as many European production companies. He is very passionate about international cross-cultural collaborations, craftsmanship and the sustainable conservation of natural resources.