12 February, 2020
Lapo Simeoni (Orbetello, 1979) stands out as a polyhedric figure in the contemporary art world: his multifaceted identity, together with a deep knowledge of the history of art, brought him to play multiple roles in the sector, in addition of being an artist. In fact, Lapo Simeoni had been a gallerist and pioneer in commercially representing street artists, through the Art Lab Contemporary Art Gallery he opened in Grosseto in 2004, he is a collector, focusing mainly on emerging contemporary art, and a curator, also of museum’s exhibitions as Forever never comes at Museo Archeologico e d’Arte della Maremma in 2017.
Nevertheless, the conversation with Lapo had the aim to highlight the milestones of his artistic research, which is necessarily in a dialogue with his several souls, both professional and personal. His artistic path, in fact, origins from the most intimate sphere, represented by the familiar roots, to arrive then to their most external expression, consisting in the social dynamics.
From the family to the world, the world in the family
The starting point lies in the family. Lapo grew up in a context full of intellectual stirrings: he spent his childhood visiting art museums everywhere in Italy and Europe. His familiar context, then, brought him the desire to explore the international environment by himself, moving to London to study at Central Saint Martin in 1999, and getting to know the highest level of the contemporary art expression of those days, represented by the New Young British Artists Generation. From his family he acquired also a nomadic attitude, which brought him to spend time in India, to travel worldwide to realize street art, and to move to Beijing after having won a grant for an artistic residency and related exhibition.
Despite the international perspective and background of the artist, who’s currently based in Berlin, his connection with his familiar origins and his country remains central in his personal and professional growth.
Lapo Simeoni, studio view
The place as an object of investigation
The innumerable travels made by the artist have had an impact on his artistic research, bringing him to develop an interest in exploring and investigating the issue related to the place and its relationship with contemporary art. The artist’s work origins in fact from the interest in putting the artistic expression in contact with the physical contextualization, which originally took the form of graffiti. The focus on street art represents in fact a milestones in the artist’s path: “my view was based on the willingness to find a connection between art and the place where you realise it - it is necessary to create a strong relationship between the piece of art and the space. The artwork without contextualisation doesn’t make any sense”.
The investigation on place takes then multiple new forms for the artist: in a few occasions, in fact, Lapo deepens the places’ local roots, putting them in a dialogue with time. An example in this sense has been the Empty City/ Mutant Place exhibition at the Art Channel Gallery in Bejiing: “it was an exhibition about the transformation of places. I took many pictures of the South-East area of Beijing, which was completely changing because of the 2008 Olympic Games. I was there and saw them destroying the entire cultural and historical pattern, building new districts that seemed completely fake”.
The perspective about the research on place evolved then with its conception as a symbol and its relative decontextualization, as in the Viva L’Italia! exhibition, organized by the Province of Grosseto for the 150th Anniversary of the Italian Unification. In this respect, the artist presented artworks representing Italy, including also the squares and starting then an investigation on the Italian monuments: “these artworks depict exclusively the monument, without the external environment. The monuments, mainly dated beginning of the ‘900, were almost unknown. We have lost their memory, we stopped to look at them even if their story is significant and they are excellent under an artistic and architectonic point of view”.
Hutong - part of the Beijing reportage
The cult of the object and its lifes
The artist’s background generates an obsessive attention towards the object, not in terms of possession, but as a form of respect for its history and energy. This attitude made Lapo a meticulous objects’ collector, bringing also him to use as much as possible objects in his work. This is, once again, a result of its family context: “my father was an editor and had a huge collection of underground books and illustrations. My mother collected her family objects, together with Indian fabrics, holy cards and prophets”.
Lapo started then to use objects in order to realise its works, with a particular reference to abandoned items: “the objects I find used to have a life, which they lost, but then it is possible to give them a new life thanks to their use in a different context”. Starting from this assumption, Lapo develops artworks containing objects of the past as postcards, pictures, or even sculptures. In this context, a significant example is the Things Left Unsaid series (2014- 2016).
Objects belonging to the Lapo Simeoni’s collection
This attitude is also a result of the artist’s criticism towards consumerism, which, in his view, can also originate from the artistic production process: “I like to work with recovered items because also the art system is a part of the global consumerism. On one side art is beauty, while on the other it is a mere product, contributing to a huge consumer market, coming also from the artists’ production activities”. In this sense, the artist also uses the artworks’ scraps in order to create new pieces, as it happens in Skin, part of the Things Left Unsaid series, and where the waste of the spray becomes the essence of the artwork itself.
Red Skin. spray, plexiglass theca, 27x19 cm
Art as social narrative tool
Lapo is a careful observer of the social dynamics and of the effects they cause. He narrates them, mainly through his painting, in the most objective way, giving the viewer stirring reflection and the responsibility of interpreting the depicted episode.
This research front started in 2007, when the artist began a deep investigation about symbols, translating them sometimes in obsession: an example is the Altare della Patria series, where the monument was painted even 60 times, but always keeping the distance from the artwork, using exclusively black and white and grey shadows. This kind of artwork generated a political interpretation in the mind of the viewers, bringing the artist to legitimate the narrative role art can adopt towards the society. In this context, the artist developed then pieces on the basis of the most debated events as Gomorra, the Carlo Giuliani’s murder, street battles and international facts as the World Trade Center attacks.
The artist acts as a reporter: “The elements I depicted were based on true events, but I didn’t judge them, I just showed the fact”, making the artwork a mere figurative report (examples are the Black Out and Illusion of the Perfect century series, 2011-2014).
Altare della Patria, oil on canvas, 2007
The artwork and its valorisation
As mentioned above, Lapo is attentive to the surrounding dynamics, including, obviously, those related to the art world, not only in reference to the artworks’ production, but also in relation to the market that it generates. From the very beginning of his career, in fact, the artist has been operating in the art system, on one side with a commercial perspective, working as a gallerist, and on the other by placing his own work on the market: “we used to sell a lot in those times, it was more natural. The commercial part has always been present in the art world, but I have always been more focused on my production and personal growth”.
Despite this approach, over time Lapo has developed, even if unconsciously, an interest towards the market and its main exchange tool, represented by the coin, which Lapo meticulously collects as a symbol of history, place and time. Also in this case, he included these tools also in some of its works, as, for example, in the EU Series (2018).
In a wider view, also the investigation on the relationship between art and value could be seen as a part of the issue: “in the contemporary art system there is a pyramidal distinction: the relationship between the piece of art and its value. The artwork’s value is not related to the value it can have for the public, but it is the result of a heterogeneity of factors which don’t include the most important one, which is the value it has for the humanity”. To this context belongs the most iconic artist’s work, represented by “25.000 Euro”, consisting in a plastic bag containing 20 euro notes, minced by the Bundesbank, for a total value of 25.000 euro. The selling price of the artwork is the original value the notes used to have, with the result of giving them back their full value, consisting then in 25.000 euro.
Considering its history and peculiarities, the artwork has been selected by London Trade Art as a pilot project for the launch of its pooling investment service: the total value of the artwork has been divided into 25 shares, each with the value of 1.000 euro, giving potential buyers the possibility to become co-owners of the piece. In this sense, the artwork represents a perfect bond between art and finance: “It became a work which is on one side for everyone, and on the other an artwork that could potentially grow if the value of my work will grow, being in this sense a result of its own speculation. At the same time, it is made by money, but they are minced, that means that it used to have a value which then went lost. Through art the value returned, but the sale in shares provides just a fragment of it; not only there is a fragmentation of the shares, but also the artwork itself is fragmented…”.
25.000 Euro, 160x40x40 cm, 2015.
Future as a bridge to the past
The future perspectives of the Lapo’s work can be seen as an integrated evolution of the topics that, on different levels, have characterized and stimulated his artistic expression over time: “the works I would like to realise are in relation with the history of the society and with the family. l am creating a de-compounded and re-compounded timeline, based on several temporal plans, and I wanted to put there elements coming from my family, personal objects and pictures, images part of the story of my life. They seem to be personal but they could also become interpersonal as they represent a kind of life which is still partially unknown”. Currently, the artist is focused on a meditative phase dedicated to painting, tool that allows him to create a contemporary connection between what is, under a temporal point of view, part of the past, and what, on going, represents the future. The preliminary result of this research lies in the Annunciazione series, based on a work by Simone Martini (Annunciazione tra i Santi Ansano e Margherita, 1333, on display at Uffizi Museum), which puts at the core of the investigation peacock’s wings, which in the Arabic culture represent the openness to the universe, and could also be interpreted as a spiritual tool to connect with the afterlife. Once again, the investigation starts from the inner side of the artist, becoming then easily an object of social reflection on the role of family, the relationship between human being and soul and between life and death, putting in the middle the innate human questions on the sense of everything.
Annunciazione 3, oil and ink on canvas, 30 x 24 cm, 2020.
Lapo Simeoni (1979) studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and now lives and works in Berlin. Selected exhibitions: What Goes Around Comes To Art, Herrick Gallery, Londra (2018), Diorama / Napoli, Intragallery, Napoli (2018), Forever Never Comes, Archeological and Art Museum of Maremma (Grosseto) (2017); Bonelli Lab Gallery, Canneto sull'Oglio Mantova (2017); Biennale de La Biche, Guadalupe island (2016); Albornoz Museum, Narni; Reggia di Caserta (2016); Bocs Art, Cosenza (2015); The Gras Grows, Basel; The Format Gallery, Milano (2014); Kunstverein Kreis Gutersloh (Germania) (2013); De Krabbedans exposities, Kunstinstuitleen, Eindhoven (Holland); Giovanni Fattori Civic Museum, Livorno (2012); Art Channel Gallery Beijing (China) (2008).
Available works on the LTArt marketplace