Giacomo, Milan

A small Venetian art gallery outside the usual circles opens an atypical exhibition of sorts. It talks about bullying and how to ‘escape the corners’ where life sometimes leads you. About the artist – both a banker and a tailor, definitely 100% painter – you will soon read in one of our upcoming columns, wheras what follows is the story of the curator, Giacomo Nicolella Maschietti. We met him in a small corner of the gallery, sitting on the curb, talking non-stop for 15 minutes straight – while life, visitors and comments flowed over the works.

Your story

Hey, so then this is really a private thing!
I just turned 34, this year. I was born on Lake Como but I moved a lot because of my mother’s divorces and I was in Turin and then Rome. I attended primary school in Milan, I went to high school on Lake Como and after that I returned to Milan and now I would say that I’m a Milanese by all means.

I studied Philosophy with a dissertation in the philosophy of science (with a teacher, Giorello, who has always taken an active in the life of the town). Eventually I realized that I was not really interested in an academic career, I spent a great month in Thailand after I graduated, as is the case of many who have no clear ideas. When I came back, I ran into an art gallery where a ‘Wanted assistant’ sign had been posted. I started there, it was a small gallery in Como, then I went to Milan from Cannaviello, at Stein’s, at Curti’s (that is working for the established ones).

I worked briefly in PR but I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. And at some point I got fired and I started an internship with Class Editori, without any hope of employment (it was 2006/2007), but instead they decided to keep me. It is a financial publishing house but nobody was covering the art section so there I found my little place – while carrying out a series of parallel projects.
I have also always played the guitar. Over the past five years – and I think it will be the group that I will keep throughout my life – with the Gran Riviera (fan page FB). We made a record and we try to combine a shred of live touring more or less continuously, from all over the North of Italy down till Rome. More south than that we find it hard to make it happen, my singer has three children, but …


Do you sing in Italian or in English?

At first we sang in Italian because we made a record with Universal. Now we gave up on the ambition of becoming famous and we engrave, with great passion, with a nice independent label in Genoa where there is Beppe that gives us a hand securing us gigs. This record we made in English, however, is truly an artistic work, we set no limits and we do what we like (


Your passion for contemporary art came to you because of that sign that you saw in Como?

Oh yes. During college I used to work at a bookshop, I found that it was a good way to make some easy money without much effort – for example, the guitar and the amplifier I bought with the money I earned working in a three month exhibition of Picasso.
You know those big museum bookshops: I also made some sales under the counter because the catalogues, as they were not counted, I could sell them without receipts, every now and then a few would disappear… And I remember that I also made up this excuse to those asking for a receipt: ‘no, don’t worry you, taxes are covered by the publisher’. It worked with everyone! They were costing a lot, 25 Euros (the euro had just appeared!). So I managed to save a little extra money. If those agencies were to find out what I did, producing catalogues … oh well they all probably shut down!

Perhaps working in galleries was the best moment: you get to meet the artists, you work with them, you get a sense as to how the wind turns. On the other hand, however, it can also be ugly: it’s like being at the grocery store, it’s all very commercial. And you will never be able to open your own store, it is too expensive!
I finally realized that being a journalist is what suits me best. In 2007/2010, when I started, we are taking of another time already, one would get to travel so much. I was very lucky, I worked on the main fairs (Hong-Kong, South Africa, Brazil), in short, I saw many things.


You are an expert when it comes to the art market, you often talk about it during your broadcasts

I just do that, we are only in ten dealing with this in Italy. It is something that is hardly scientific, a deregulated market. It’s very much a product of friendships, perceptions, It goes far to friends, feelings, different knowledge. You can study all you want but one must really apply oneself otherwise you won’t really get it.


Would you change professions? If so, what would you do?

I believe that the only jobs worth living for are either that of a painter, a writer a rock star or an astronaut: in short, all those you dream of as a child.
I would like to be a full-time musician, that is being able to get by with just that. Unfortunately this is no longer possible, if not for a handful of artists. So I put that thought aside.
I once did an interview and they asked me what was my life-time dream. I replied, ‘to live by renting out places while cultivating my passion: playing the guitar’. So they laughed and asked again. To which I, again, repeated slowly: ‘to live by renting out places while cultivating my passion: playing the guitar’.
I never heard back from them.


Often your journalistic passion overflows, and you deal with matters other than broadcasting that you curate for TV. Especially from people and from your facebook profile. You begin by something that concerns you and you morph it into something quite universal, at the same time with an ironic and edgy spirit. Social networking becomes somewhat complementary to your content source.

Social networks aren’t necessarily trivial, when used tough-fully in my opinion they can be rather useful. They were useful to me for work: to get contacts, generally to do things (both in music and in art). I have chosen this course, which is to ‘drop your pants’ and to perform complete honesty. And I don’t know whether it is the outright winner. Maybe it works in some areas, less in others: for sure, however, you get hits. I meet so many people who I never received a like from, but then I meet them in the street and they ask me ‘whatever happened to that dog in your story…?’. You know for sure that anyway everyone knows what you’re doing – if you post from your personal profile and not from a fan page – you must be careful. For example, I have among my personal contacts, the director I work for and other friends I collaborate with: but I don’t care, I chose to be very true. Maybe with some shrewdness…
Either way they are powerful and critical tools. Also beautiful, because before there were blogs (2000-2005) and I remember I had my two / three blogs of reference, but they only had two or three thousand followers. Whereas I posted a funny article on Facebook a couple of years ago that received one and a half million hits and 37,000 likes. This is a more powerful audience than the television audience where I work, the magazines where I write…


If you were to choose where you would be in ten years time, where would that be and what would you be doing?

I’m very happy to live in Milan. My girlfriend though isn’t really because she loves nature and she would like to be somewhere else. I’ve lived a lot on Lake Como and I would go on saying that ‘living away from the city, away from it all’ was wonderful, so that I would like it.
Here in Milan I don’t go out a lot, but just knowing that if I want something I can, because you have everything, it’s a nice option to have in mind. It is a sick place from many points of view, above all having the salaries you get in Greece but the prices of London, but I still find myself liking it. I’m fine here, although…well…sure…
I believe that once the publishing industry as we know it will come to an end I don’t know whether in ten years I will still write the way I do now.
Either my field is spared in some way that is yet to be found, or I believe that my next job will be to produce content but not for a publisher. Companies will have their magazines, those who can afford it. It is already happening… And it will be increasingly so. And I assume I’m going to work with someone who likes what I write.


What music are you listening to (not yours)? And what book you are reading?

Music: I don’t listen too much to mainstream, but I could start naming a few that no one – or almost no one – knows. I recommend you to listen to Delta Sleep, an English band, who has just toured in Italy, not very famous. They evolved from mat rock: just plain guitars, many of the songs are intertwined with such a taste and grace… They are extraordinary. And very young.

Books: I’m a little more ordinary here, I like the great American novels, I read Jonathan Franzen, Philip Roth, writers of that sort…


Because you write songs, do you also ready poetry?

I don’t read poetry. At least not contemporary poetry. I read it at school, but I don’t anymore. I used to like Dylan Thomas as a kid. Oh, wait, wait, that’s not true: nowadays I read (and like) Guido Catalano.


A talent you have and one that you are missing?

That I have, I don’t know. That I’m missing, so many: I would like to know how to sing better, how to get better at playing the guitar, I would like to run one hundred meters in 9 seconds (without drugs, we wish him). There are so many things that I would like but I don’t complain. It’s a period in my life where I feel very lucky, anyway.


What do you get from Milan? And what do you give back? You told me already that you love it but I’m asking you to define your relationship in term of quid pro quo.

I honor the city and above all I honor above its years, those milanese years that no longer exist. The one of Renato Pozzetto, Giorgio Gaber… I love that everytime I go for a coffee at Gattullo’s and I can see a picture of Pozzetto, Cochi and Renato. Those films are not actually my cup of tea, but I have acquired them all by osmosis, you know, so you end up feeling part of it. Milan, however, has changed a lot over the past five years. It has become super technological, very modern. I don’t care much about fashion and nightlife (the trendy new spots, the parties…) This is perhaps what is most banal about it but then there is a whole underworld that Milan has… For example I I always go to drink at Le Trottoir, where you can always find this writer, Andrea Pinketts, who I became friends with… at the bar. With him and Giuseppe Veneziano, who by the way always shows in Venice because he’s represented by Contini. I didn’t particularly like his paintings but we became good friends. At the bar. As a matter of fact, Pinketts’ last book is entitled ‘I like the bar’, and it obviously refers to Le Trottoir. That’s just our place, which is in Piazza XXIV Maggio, where the docks are.


I liked the previous one better…

Yes, but, by now, it’s been there already for ten years…
I also like it because it’s close to Trattoria da Giulio, which is in Corso San Gottardo, we go there with the band every Friday night. I eat there, I play, I go for drinks at Le Trottoir. This is the perimeter of my mundane life.


What’s a dish you go crazy about? And what do you drink?

My northern origins call for pizzoccheri valtellinesi and Sassella, the wine of Valtellina. 100% Nebbiolo, since it is cold there, the grapes don’t fully ripen, they do not develop enough tannin, reason why it is not as strong as the Tuscan wine… delicious. Sassella or Inferno, the winery is called Nino Negri, it is the only one producing it. I’m not trying to promote it, yet there is only one!


What have you learned from life so far?

I messed up a lot. I got divorced after only one and half years of marriage. I made a lot of mistakes.
Not sure what I’ve learned… maybe I’ve learned to be more relaxed, a little happier. Well, yes. I learned how to be happy.


Translation by Michelangelo Miccolis


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