We got an exclusive look inside gallery and day-tripper catnip Magazzino in Cold Spring, NY before it opens to the public.
You’ve heard of the Slow Food movement: farm-to-table, market-to-hipster, ramp-to-salad bowl and the like. But have you heard of the Slow Art movement? It’s a philosophy that Vittorio Calabrese, the director of Magazzino Italian Art, hopes this new upstate weekender destination will embody. Turns out Slow Food also began in Italy (as a protest against a McDonald’s planned for Rome’s historic Piazza di Spagna), and after a leisurely stroll through Magazzino’s sprawling Hudson Valley site, which officially opens to the public June 28th, this doesn’t quite seem like a coincidence.
Magazzino, a warehouse art space for post-war and contemporary Italian art, is set in Cold Spring, NY and has been several years in the works. The founders, Nancy Olnick and Giorgio Spanu, have run an artist-in-residence program on their property in neighboring Garrison since 2003, but the opening of Magazzino marks a new direction for them. The private Olnick Spanu collection contains more than 400 works, and was amassed over the course of three decades. In collector parlance, that’s pretty slow. The idea to house the collection (the pieces will rotate in and out) in a public space is a testament to Olnick and Spanu’s love of the surrounding community. (The region has also won the hearts of other big name creatives like artist Marilyn Minter, who has a weekend home in Cold Spring, and Frank Stella who has a studio in nearby Rock Tavern.) “As residents of the Hudson Valley for 25 years, we knew we wanted to not only open a space to share our beloved works and appreciation for art with others,” says Olnick “but to do so here in this vibrant community as an opportunity to give back.”
In an homage to the tradition of Arte Povera, Magazzino—which literally translates to “warehouse” from Italian—is housed in what will be the third life of a 1960’s-era warehouse, previously having served both as a dairy distribution center and assembly point for military computers. The architect Miguel Quismondo kept the bones of the structure intact, exposing the original beams, and maintaining the concrete floor. But even though it seems at first glance like a stoney fortress, once there one never loses the feeling of being in a verdant valley, thanks to strategically placed windows and doors.
Unlike it’s art-y upstate predecessors Dia:Beacon and Storm King, visits are free by appointment only. But that shouldn’t deter New Yorkers seeking respite from molten sidewalks of Manhattan. They’re making it as easy as possible to get there from NYC, they’ve even amassed a small fleet of cars for Metro-North train station pickups. Once there, you’re on your own—in a good way. You can wander, largely self-guided, informing yourself along the way with the collection brochure. There’s an inside and outside: The grounds currently include two pieces of outdoor art while one corner of the courtyard features a reflecting pool, which fills the gap between the old and new buildings. “It brings the sky down into the courtyard,” says Quismondo. The pool, only visible from certain angles, is reminiscent of Mies van der Rohe’s infamous reflecting pool at the Barcelona Pavilion. The effect of the space is dazzling—calming even. “We have appointments, but we really don’t expect anyone to leave,” jokes Calabrese. To that end, Magazzino plans to eventually hold concerts in the courtyard, making it even more of an appealing destination for weary travelers.
“We really want a place that is friendly and not intimidating,” says Calabrese. “We have a lot of Instagram-able art.” To that point, Magazzino’s is not a collection about the past. The final gallery of the space is devoted to younger artists, and intended to be a rotating showcase of the avant-garde Italian artists of today. “The goal for Magazzino is to really open conversations about what Italian art is and to try to have an exchange,” says Calabrese, “We Italians are intimidated by contemporary art by definition because of [the] tradition that we have. America has always been much more fluid.”
Magazzino is sure to be a popular destination for New York art-lovers or even just New Yorkers who are sick of the city. But it’s also a place to grapple with the same questions post-war Italian society grappled with: what is man’s place in nature in an industrial society? Can primitive materials bring us closer to our origins? A train ride to Cold Spring and a slow stroll among the apple trees may spark some answers.