Home Magazine A conversation with Carolina Pasti, an internationally recognized curator, tells us about her exhibition "Breasts" at Palazzo Franchetti

After completing her studies in Milan, Carolina Pasti moved to New York to work for a Private Collector. After twelve years, she returned to her origins in Europe, full of energy and a strong desire to explore and create. This year, Pasti inaugurated the exhibition “Breasts” at Palazzo Franchetti in Venice.

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Kooness: Tell us about your job. How did you become a curator? 

Carolina Pasti: I am an independent curator and have always worked with private collections. Before coming back to Milan, I’ve lived in London, too. I am originally from Milan, however I was away for twelve years. After university, I spent six years in New York, where I worked for the American private collection Schulhof, whose pieces then went to the Guggenheim in Venice, 80 works, and to other international museums, such as the Whitney, too. After six years, I moved to London, where I worked as an Art Advisor and Art Curator, always for private collections and individuals. For a few years, I had the idea of making the “Breasts” exhibition, which I developed in the last year. The artist Laura Panno was a fundamental inspiration for the exhibition and has four works in it, as well. She is a friend of my father's. I visited her studio and saw these spinning glass breasts in her studio. That is when I thought to myself “Should I make an exhibition about breasts?” It's an idea that, as I told many publications, may seem obvious, yet has never been developed nor treated enough.

K: Where does your passion for art come from?

CP: I studied art history, my passion has been prominent since I was little. My father was a photographer and I worked a lot with him, so I approached the world of art right away. Since I was a child, I saw how he saw women: as muses, and from those memories, women’s bodies have always fascinated me a lot. 

Laura Panno. Courtesy of Carolina Pasti.

K: What does it mean to be a curator for you?

CP: For me, curating means binding, selecting. Everything starts from research, just like for this exhibition, which is the fruit of a lengthy research which I have deepened. Curating means having a passion for art and for artists, where these very intense dialogues arise. The relationship with the artist becomes almost an obsession, it becomes a very intimate relationship, almost like family. Even the artworks are pieces that I research and become passionate about, and gradually I select them. I like to work with different artists, I like to change. For the "Breasts" exhibition, I started working with artists and some became friends, others were already. I specialize in art from the 1950s onwards, but, for instance, I brought a Madonna from the 1500s to “Breasts”. I’ve carried out another kind of research, while rediscovering ancient art that reminisced the times when I used to study in university. Every person I meet and every exhibition or collector has a different taste, that’s why the selection isn’t according to me only, yet according to the collectors or audience’s taste. 

K: What are the fundamental elements and steps in your work? Which ones do you like the most and which ones do you always have to pay attention to?

CP: Every now and then you have to reconcile with the taste of the collector, which can be complicated, and also with that of the artist. Sometimes aligning, even in terms of tastes, is not simple. Especially when it comes to group exhibitions, like "Breasts'', which brought 31 artists together..it was challenging! From a production standpoint too. Yesterday I was talking to a participating artist and I was telling her how difficult it is to be a curator. It became a 360º job - it is no longer “just” a selection job, but a production, too. It is challenging to select a team who is able to assist you in the details. It starts with research, then every little detail is fundamental. The care of the little things makes the exhibition, in my opinion, a success or not.

Buchanan Studio, Body Trap, Installation View,18 Apr – 24 Nov 2024, ACP Palazzo Franchetti, Venice. Courtesy Carolina Pasti. Photo: Eva Herzog.

K: What is the exhibition you curated that you are most proud of?

CP: I have mainly curated private collections of collectors, so this was my first major exhibition. This is definitely the exhibition that is currently giving me a lot of gratification. In terms of communication, it is an exhibition whose message is very important, and the fact that it is linked to awareness on breast cancer, makes it a project that I care a lot about.

K: You said that there are 31 different artists, how were they selected and how did you choose to place them in certain rooms within Palazzo Franchetti?

CP: The exhibition starts with this site-specific project, a corridor with 35 lights that was commissioned to the Buchanan studio in London. Here I wanted people, visitors to emerge, as if they were immersing themselves in a breast, so on a very intimate level. Then the exhibition is divided into 5 rooms on the noble floor of the palace. The first room examines the historical representation, where a Madonna from the 1500s is exhibited. The dialogue from one room to the next was very important for me. The Madonna, for example, in dialogue with Cindy Sherman and also Anna Weiyan. I start from historical works that refer to classicism in gestures and color tones. The second room instead resembles a wunderkammer, the breast as inspiration for sculptural practices. The third room examines photographs, both fashion, like the photo by Oliviero Toscani that I wanted to present again at the exhibition to see the reaction of the public. I wanted to understand if even today it is really a taboo or not to show this type of images and I am still noticing that viewers are always a bit shocked. Then I chose more classical photographs from Penn to Mapplethorpe. The fourth room is more pop, a more colorful, fragmented, and abstract breast. There is also a mannequin by Allen Jones, I wanted to create a slightly lighter room that represents the evolution of the breast in art. The last room shows a video by Lory Provost, in which she tells the birth of her daughter, linked to the theme of motherhood. I selected the artists based on the rooms, it is a very intimate environment, on the windows there are these red films to distance themselves from the outside, to distance themselves from a chaotic Venice, from tourists to immerse themselves in a more intimate space. There are many artists, but with not too large works, to create an exhibition that was not overwhelming, but that could create comfort.

K: How are the main themes of sexuality, breastfeeding, freedom, and illness very important to you?

CP: They are very important and I want to continue to convey them through new projects. Now I am developing a podcast that will be released in September and will address precisely the themes of the exhibition. My idea is to bring this message in a light way, without using crude images, but to curate the exhibition in a way that has a positive connotation, so that people leave thinking about the breast, about what it means today to expose the breast, in a light but impactful way. The concept of freedom is also very important, so the valorization of the female body, the woman who believes in herself, who does not need to prove her body. This is still a theme of debate for me, especially breastfeeding and motherhood, breastfeeding in public. Recently, I happened to participate in a zoom call with a girl who was breastfeeding and I was very impressed. I hope that soon there will be no more taboos and prejudices of this kind for women.

Oliviero Toscani, 1989, United Colors of Benetton Advertising Campaign. Courtesy of Oliviero Toscani.

K: Tell us about the curation of the apartment in Milan featured on Livingetc. How did this project come about and do you often deal with projects like this?

CP: I worked with a friend named Tessa Horwitz. In her apartment, there are works by Laura Panno, who is part of the exhibition in Venice. I had a lot of fun working on this project. Now I am working with another designer in London, Holly Bauden. I have recently started in this field, but I really like working with interior designers. It's another kind of journey, it's teamwork. I always try to make collaborations, even with the exhibition I curated, I wouldn't mind starting collaborations with interested designers or even with fashion brands. An interesting thing that has been asked of me is to bring the exhibition to America. I would like to create it in a different space: in a Museum or a more industrial space. Always bring the same message, but bring different artists, perhaps related to videos or installations. There are so many facets and messages through "Breasts". By the way, in this same period, Sarah Thornton's new book came out called "Tits Up," related to the breast, it seems made on purpose!

K: What role does art play within interior design?

CP: It has a fundamental role. I worked with a friend of mine in Milan who is an interior designer. We selected the pieces for her apartment together. She already had many design pieces, however the apartment became complete through art, as we said before, taste comes together. I am deepening this aspect because I would really like to work with interior designers. I see that there are many different realities around. All these worlds are connected, from art to fashion to design. They are different cultural languages ​​that have beauty and aesthetics in common.

K: Considering all these intertwined worlds, what is your thought about the direction of the art world today?

CP: Certainly at the beginning of many collaborations. There weren't any before. While photography is an increasingly independent language compared to art and painting, I have always liked these languages ​​and their union.

Installation view, ‘Breasts’, 18 Apr – 24 Nov 2024, ACP Palazzo Franchetti, Venice. Courtesy Carolina Pasti. Photo: Eva Herzog.

K: Does your figure try to act as a connection between these different worlds?

CP: I always try to do it. It was imperative to include all the different media in the exhibition, from painting to sculpture to installations. Then, working with a design studio in London I wanted to create harmony, expanding the exhibition through different media.

K: Do you count on leaving a mark through this exhibition?

CP: Yes, I hope so. I hope that this exhibition continues and that it will always be a point of discussion, also through the podcasts that will be released in the coming months. It will not be limited to itself, I hope it continues through collaborations, too. I received very positive feedback, and I am very happy about it. Now the aim is to keep it alive, addressing these themes constantly. I also want to do many interviews with the artists in the exhibition to deepen through their personality the themes I have addressed.

K: Did you know all of the participating artists beforehand or did you meet some of them during the process?

CP: No, I didn’t know all the artists. I met many during my research and many contacted me to join the exhibition, so surely through the works that are now present they have managed to leave a mark on others, too. I want to try to take it around the world, in America and in Mexico!

Written by Kooness

Cover Image: Breasts. Courtesy of Carolina Pasti.