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Viafarini is a creative incubator and a hub for visual arts located at Fabbrica del Vapore. Viafarini has been founded in 1991 as non profit organization for contemporary art. Nowadays Viafarini is renovating its mission that is shifting toward the idea of an agency for the creation of networks of collaboration between artistic research, private commission, entrepreneurship and the social environment.

Viafarini’s know-how about documentation, art consultancy, production, residency, education, communication and exhibition services are put at disposal for interdisciplinary collaboration projects. Thanks to this hybrid, participative and multidisciplinary approach Viafarini innovates its cultural offer in order to understand the implications of the great change under way: from an artistic as well as social, political and anthropological point of view.

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During the early ‘90s artists in Milan felt the need to exhibit and discuss their own work in places other than galleries, where they could be heard and promote themselves through a dialogue with critics and other professionals in the field. The non-profit organisations Careof and Viafarini were thus created in response to these issues within the emerging Italian arts scene by filing the artists’ portfolios, videos and catalogues, and then inviting curators to base their research on this material for exhibitions.

The foundation of the archive in 1991 was Viafarini’s opening project, inspired by organisations such as the Artists Space in New York. Careof had already been operative near Milan since 1987, and housed documentation such as port- folios, catalogues, videos and other ma- terial of the artists they worked with. In 1994 Careof and Viafarini, in the light of their common goals, joined forces to create a single common archive that was to become the DOCVA Documentation Centre for Visual Arts.

Over the years, the gathering of documentation increased and was split up into the Artist Portfolio Archive, the Video Archive, the Specialist Library, and the ArtBox opportunities database. All materials were then also documented in an offline database which soon developed into the current online versions: www.italianarea.it, www.bibliobit.it, www.bancadatiartbox.it, thanks to which the archive has become an efficient tool for artists’ promotion both in Italy and abroad.

In particular, Italian Area publishes a comprehensive selection of more than 400 artists who emerged from the ‘80s onwards, chosen by a group of independent curators. All the materials are updated directly by artists themselves.

Italian Area and the Portfolio Archive are an invaluable starting point for curatorial projects or for selecting candidates for awards, contests and workshops. Its use is facilitated by the internet, which allows immediate access and the opportunity to make enquiries on the ba- sis of various different criteria, such as media used, personal data and the main themes of the artwork. The most vital part of the archive is meeting the artists, which begins with the reception of the materials, followed by the “advice guide” to preparing portfolios and applications. The key moment is represented by the Portfolio Viewing Program, a formative encounter during which artists are invited to present their work to the Archive curators.

Another Viafarini key educational project related to the Archive is “Academy Awards” a workshop-based educational program that Viafarini started in 2012 in dialog with the most relevant Italian art academies. The project involves a selected group of artists and emerging curators who follow a series of workshops and conceive a final group show in form of visual restitution. The curators make suggestions on how the artists can develop their research, emphasising the strong points and discussing the weaker points… Together with the curator, the young artists thus have the chance to put their awareness of their own work to the test.

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Authors:
Giulio Verago (1980), art professional collaborates with Viafarini as project manager and fundraiser since 2008, he curates the column about DOCVA archive for Artribune magazine.

Giulia Brivio (1981), independent art critic and curator, has been Viafarini project and archive manager from 2005 until 2011. She is co-Founder and co-director of Boite magazine.