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Matteo Rubbi, 'Kan Ya Ma Kan' (2017); Light Sign, 300 cm x 50 cm approx | © Matteo Rubbi / Zeyn Joukhadar Montalvo Art Center, Saratoga, CA / Photo: Leonardo Chiappini
Matteo Rubbi, 'Kan Ya Ma Kan' (2017); Light Sign, 300 cm x 50 cm approx | © Matteo Rubbi / Zeyn Joukhadar Montalvo Art Center, Saratoga, CA / Photo: Leonardo Chiappini | © Matteo Rubbi / Zeyn Joukhadar Montalvo Art Center, Saratoga, CA / Photo: Leonardo Chiappini
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5 Emerging Contemporary Artists From Milan to Know

Picture of Raphaele Varley
Updated: 14 May 2018
Milan is home to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, it’s where Futurism was conceived and it boasts numerous world-renowned classical and modern art collections. The contemporary art scene is also thriving, with many innovative commercial gallery spaces championing new talent and graduates of the prestigious Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, choosing to continue to live and practice in the city. The following five artists spent their early careers in Milan and have now established themselves as ones to watch.

Michele Gabriele

Michele Gabriele was born near Naples in 1983 but studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, and his studio is now in the city. His practice is inspired by the relationship between the physical form of an artwork and the digital image that documents it, or what he refers to as the ‘fictionalised reality’. How a form will appear in a photograph dictates Gabriele’s handling of his material. The artist works predominantly in sculpture and installation, and is highly experimental with his choice of material, from rocks to household appliances. He is somewhat of an alchemist, mixing things such as resin with soil and sugar to create new substances. Aesthetically, there is something 1980s-science-fiction about Gabriele’s work; lurid, other-worldly matter encases and drips over seemingly abandoned objects and machines. They map time, appearing as remnants of a previous moment of fear or anticipation. In early 2018, Gabriele founded ‘Something Muse Break’, an ongoing research and curatorial project with other artists, based between Istanbul and Milan.

Michele Gabriele, 'Posey-Purply-L' (2016) from 'My Idea of Peter's Idea of my Work': solo exhibition at FutureDome, Milan, Italy | © Michele Gabriele
Michele Gabriele, ‘Posey-Purply-L’ (2016) from ‘My Idea of Peter’s Idea of my Work’: solo exhibition at FutureDome, Milan, Italy | © Michele Gabriele
Milan-based artist Michele Gabriele | © and courtesy Michele G
Milan-based artist Michele Gabriele | © Michele Gabriele

Matteo Negri

In Milan, Matteo Negri is represented by Lorenzelli Arte, a prominent gallery specializing in modern masters including greats such as Alberto Magnelli, Serge Poliakoff, William Scott and Lee Ufan, and in 2017 it dedicated its entire gallery space to a major solo presentation of Negri’s wall sculptures and installations. Negri’s practice focuses on the relationship between colour and form, often experimenting with the reflective possibilities of materials. A 2017 series (utilising galvanized iron, liquid chrome, tempered glass and film), which Negri brilliantly describes as ‘open gems’, call to mind Larry Bell’s minimalist, glass installations of the 1960s and 1970s. Negri manipulates the iridescent material to create perceptual effects of illusion and the sensuality of light. The angular, geometric glass compositions are coloured in such a way that the sculptures are simultaneously antagonistic yet mystical and quietly beautiful. In other series, the influence of American Pop and De Stijl are distinct, particularly in his L’Ego series, for which he is best known. The artist was born in 1982 in the southeast of Milan and continues to live and work in the city.

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Installation view ‘Matteo Negri. Piano Piano’, ABC Arte, Genova, Italy, 2016 | © Matteo Negri
Matteo Negri, 2017, A crazy candy shop, 97,5x97,5x20cm, chromed and lacquered iron (2)
Matteo Negri, ‘A crazy candy shop, 97’ (2017), 5 x 97, 5 x 20 cm, chromed and lacquered iron | © Matteo Negri

Maria Teresa Ortoleva

Milan native (b. 1990), Maria Teresa Ortoleva now splits her time between Milan and London. Her research-based practice explores how our experience of objects and places is influenced by imagination and imaginative processes. Ortoleva collates and organises found images and items, often delving into historical archives and databases that document a particular history, culture or location. The material is then recalibrated via digital projection or in print to create spectacular, immersive installations. Ortoleva pairs her installation work with an in-depth drawing practice, which considers the capacity of drawing as an analytical language for facilitating and channelling imaginative thinking and memory. The artist’s editioned prints and drawings function as lasting, tangible manifestations of the installation experience. In Milan, Ortoleva is represented by Luca Tommasi Arte Contemporanea; the gallery will stage a solo presentation of the artist between 19 June and the end of July 2018.

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Maria Teresa Ortoleva, ‘Glossary for the Script of an Electric Thought’ (2017), Installation view and detail, fluorescent acrylic, 175 x 300 x 10 cm, private collection | © Maria Teresa Ortoleva
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Maria Teresa Ortoleva, ‘Handtrack of an Electric Thought I, II, III, IV, V and V’ (2017), mixed media on wood pulp finnboard, 35 x 25cm each | © Maria Teresa Ortoleva
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Italian, London-based artist Maria Maria Teresa Ortoleva | © Maria Teresa Ortoleva

Matteo Rubbi

Born in nearby Bergamo (1980), Matteo Rubbi now lives and works in Milan. He has completed residencies with major European institutions including Palais de Tokyo in Paris and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome and was cited by Frieze magazine as ‘one of the most interesting Italian artists of recent years’. His work explores the cosmic and the earthly, macro and micro, fusing prosaic realism with the surreal. His sculptures and installations often diffuse things of colossal scale or historic magnitude into something tangible, for example, recreating the peaks of the Alps or Arizona mountains, the skies of Navajo, or mythical rivers. If you visit Milan, make a trip to Piazza Burri to admire his work; in 2017, the artist completed a public art project that brought a little magic to the Tre Torri area of the city. The permanent installation (titled ‘Cieli di Belloveso’) comprises more than 100 stone stars, which differ in dimension, shape and colours set in the pavement of the piazza. The stars map the sky of Spring 600, the legendary foundation of Milan by Prince Belloveso. An unusual dimension of Rubbi’s practice is that he often galvanises local people to realise an artwork in the location of his exhibition or project. He draws on their individual insights, skills and identities, whether that be crafts such as ceramics or carpentry, using the local printing store or children simply helping to assemble an installation. In Milan, he is represented by Studio Guenzani where his name sits among the likes of Yayoi Kusama, Catherine Opie, Cindy Sherman and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Kan Ya Makan
Matteo Rubbi, ‘Kan Ya Ma Kan’ (2017); Light Sign, 300 cm x 50 cm approx | © Matteo Rubbi / Zeyn Joukhadar Montalvo Art Center, Saratoga, CA / Photo: Leonardo Chiappini
Matteo Rubbi, 'Cieli di Belloveso' (2017), detail of the permanent installation | © and courtesy the artist Photo: the artist
Matteo Rubbi, ‘Cieli di Belloveso’ (2017), detail of the permanent installation in Piazza Burri | © Matteo Rubbi

Manuel Scano Larrazábal

Argentinian-Italian artist Manuel Scano Larrazábal was born in Padua in 1981 but grew up in Caracas before returning to Italy in 1992 following the coup d’etat by Hugo Chavez. After attending the prestigious Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, he spent many years working and living in the city. He has since relocated to Padua. Scano Larraźabal’s work encompasses installation, sculpture and painting, but he is best known for his large-format ink drawings: the vast, unframed canvases are alive with beautiful, biomorphic shapes and cosmic universes to get lost in, created from coloured cellulose and inks seeping into the cloth. Often the artist throws the cellulose at the canvas so that it explodes on the surface. Gesture and movement are at the core of the artist’s practice, which is concerned with the limits of control within the creative process. Typically the ink drawings are suspended from the ceiling rather than pinned against the wall, creating an otherworldly space to traverse. He has representation with Galerie Pact in Paris and MaRS (Museum as Retail Space) in the downtown arts district of Los Angeles, CA.

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Manuel Scano, ‘Acefalo’, Ink and water on paper, 400 x 300 cm, Installation view, ‘Inexorable Acephalous Magnificence or How the Shit Hits the Fan’, Mars, Los Angeles CA | © Manuel Scano / MaRS
Manuel Scano, 'Untitled', Washable inks dyed mashed cellulose on paper and water on paper, 150 x 210 cm | © and courtesy the artist
Manuel Scano, ‘Untitled’, Washable inks dyed mashed cellulose on paper and water on paper, 150 x 210 cm | © Manuel Scano
Italian-Venezuelan artist Manuel Scano | © and courtesy the artist
Italian-Venezuelan artist Manuel Scano | © and courtesy the artist