Monica De Cardenas

Monica De Cardenas

Barbara Probst, Monica De Cardenas, Milan, 2019. Photo Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy Monica De Cardenas

Monica De Cardenas opened her gallery in Milan’s Corso Como district in 1992, between two very green courtyards in the heart of the city. While the area was considered suburban at the time, over the years it has evolved into a new, ever-changing urban center in its own right, surrounded by the high-rises of Piazza Gae Aulenti, Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale, and the Feltrinelli Foundation designed by Herzog & De Meuron.

The gallery gained a reputation for bringing international artists to Italy, presenting a clear program oriented towards photography and figurative painting. In 1993, in Italy, it exhibited the large-format photographs of Thomas Struth. In 1994, the Swiss artist Markus Raetz presented his sculptures, which change according to point of view. In 1996, it exhibited the German minimalist figurative sculptor Stephan Balkenhol. In 1998, it was one of the first galleries in Europe to present the American painter Alex Katz, and later it organized exhibitions of Katz’s work in Italian and European institutions. The relationship with these artists has consolidated and strengthened over the years; in 2022, Katz exhibited at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Trento and Rovereto – in May, at MART, in June, at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and in October, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The 2000s brought a deeper, more complex focus on figurative painting, with solo or group exhibitions by Peter Doig, Chantal Joffe, Jules de Balincourt, Ali Banisadr, Serban Savu, and Gideon Rubin. In parallel, the gallery represents and promotes young Italian artists who share this vision, such as Claudia Losi, Gianluca Di Pasquale, Rä di Martino, Linda Fregni Nagler and Federico Tosi.

Alex Katz and Stephan Balkenhol, Monica De Cardenas, Zuoz, 2021. Photo: Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy Monica De Cardenas

In 2007, Monica De Cardenas opened a second branch in Switzerland, steeped in the light of the upper Engadin Valley in Zuoz near Saint Moritz. The new gallery is located inside an old 14th-century Engadin house, restored by the architect Hans-Jörg Ruch who preserved its original structure and features. In this unique setting, international artists are alternated with Italian artists, to transform the gallery into a platform for promoting Italian art in Switzerland. Over the years, the gallery has also presented work by major artists such as Marisa Merz (2012), Gianni Colombo (2013) and Fausto Melotti (2018).

Federico Tosi, “Baby (fossil)”, 2017. Photo: Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy Monica De Cardenas

Exhibitions

City Exhibition Date
Milano Perspectives, Wangari Mathenge Until 22.12.2022
“In Italy the galleries function as a nationwide multi-venue museum, an opportunity to explore and learn more about the art of our time.”
Monica De Cardenas
Monica De Cardenas. Photo: F. Bamberghi. Courtesy Monica De Cardenas

In conversation with Monica De Cardenas

What is the value for contemporary society of art on display in galleries? What is the role of the gallerist in Italy today?

Contemporary art galleries play a very important cultural role: they exhibit and promote living artists, acquainting the world with their work and supporting their careers, as well as selling their works, of course. Galleries are often the artists’ first intermediaries, the connection between them and the public, consisting of enthusiasts, collectors, critics, curators and journalists. In Italy in particular, where the state – primarily committed to preserving the great historical heritage – provides few openings for contemporary art, the galleries function as a nationwide multi-venue museum, an opportunity to explore and learn more about the art of our time in all its variations and nuances.

How did your career in art begin?

Since I was a girl, art has been at the center of my interests. This passion led me to graduate in Art History at the University of Zurich, where I had already begun to work with a gallery while attending university. From that first “field work”, I understood that this was the best profession for me, because it allows me to follow the artists closely, to become familiar with their ideas and capacities, to collaborate consistently on their careers, to curate exhibitions that enhance their works in the best and most independent ways.

Chantal Joffe, Monica De Cardenas, Milan, 2022. Photo: Andrea Rossetti. Courtesy Monica De Cardenas
When and how did you open your gallery?

After working first in Zurich and then for two years with Lia Rumma in Naples, I moved to a new apartment in Milan, the city where I was born. While working for Artforum, I started organizing exhibitions at home. Later I moved house, but the heart of the gallery always remained in the same place. I’ve been involved with it for years, gradually enlarging and buying adjacent premises.

Tell us about the space you’ve chosen for your gallery and the context in which it is set.

The space I chose is a large ground floor apartment between two courtyards full of trees in Milan’s Corso Como district. It has parquet floors, high ceilings, stucco and large windows. I like to live with art and I think this emotion is easier to perceive and convey in residential environments on a human scale, pleasant settings of daily life with a well-defined architectural character, rather than the large former industrial spaces that most American galleries are today.

Read the full interview

Artists

  • Stephan Balkenhol
  • Valerio Carrubba
  • Eun-Mo Chung
  • Rä di Martino
  • Gianluca Di Pasquale
  • Linda Fregni Nagler
  • Franz Gertsch
  • Silvia Gertsch
  • Craigie Horsfield
  • Chantal Joffe
  • Alex Katz
  • Juul Kraijer
  • Zilla Leutenegger
  • Claudia Losi
  • Lutz & Guggisberg
  • Marisa Merz
  • Barbara Probst
  • Markus Raetz
  • Gideon Rubin
  • Ivan Seal
  • Benjamin Senior
  • Thomas Struth
  • Federico Tosi