The Wick - Marisa Bellani, 2021
Yulia Lebedeva The Wick - Marisa Bellani, 2021
Yulia Lebedeva
Monday Muse

Interview Roman Road’s Founder, Marisa Bellani

Interview
Marisa Bellani
Photograph
Yulia Lebedeva
02 August 2021
Interview
Marisa Bellani
Photograph
Yulia Lebedeva
02 August 2021
After initially studying law, Marisa Bellani’s keen interest in art led to her completing two master’s degrees, first at the Institut d’Études Supérieures des Arts and subsequently at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. After completing her second MA and falling for a warehouse space in Bethnal Green, she inaugurated Roman Road, a contemporary art gallery in East London, to share her passions with other art enthusiasts. Established in 2013, the gallery conceives innovative solo and group shows with a focus on process based art and new developments in photography. It has represented artists worldwide including Antony Cairns, Thomas Mailaender and Aida Silvestri, and participated at art fairs including START and Photo London.

In the same year she founded the gallery, Marisa joined The Photographers’ Gallery Young Patron Steering Committee. She also became the youngest member of the Tate Photography Acquisitions Committee, and regularly participates in panel discussions and gives talks at universities and to private collectors. Here she shares her plans for the future.

THE WICK:   Talk us through a typical Monday.

Marisa Bellani:   If possible, I like to start the week slowly. I like to work from home and generally do not take meetings. I focus on planning the week and doing some admin work.

TW:   What drove you to create Roman Road, and what sets it apart?

MB:   I started Roman Road as a project space in 2013 but really established it in 2015 as a gallery with a programme. The architecture of the space (one small but tall room) drove me to focus on solo shows more than group shows. This was mainly because the artists had to create works that worked in relation to the space.

TW:   In 2019, Roman Road became a platform for more collaborative exhibitions. What led to this shift?

MB:   Since 2017, I’ve seen that there was little possibility to grow vertically as a gallery. I started to think about the ways I could focus on what I like doing, what I am good at and where there is space for growth. I’ve decided that becoming more fluid and not trying to conform within the system of shows and fairs makes more sense. Also with social media platforms, artists are becoming more and more independent. Although they need guidance, they also want more freedom and that was something that I had in mind when shifting the operations.

TW:   What have you learned from the pandemic, both on a professional and personal level?

MB:   Patience.

“It is a very exciting time to be in the art world at my age and with my experience.”

TW:   What difference would you like to make in the art world?

MB:   It is a very exciting time to be in the art world at my age and with my experience. There are a lot of opportunities for change, especially in the backend of its structure. I would love to contribute by simplifying art world functionalities to make it more accessible by using new technologies.

TW:   Your study of neuro-aesthetics and how neuroscience can unlock our understanding of the perception of art is fascinating. Have you continued this research?

MB:   I did the neuro-aesthetics research with Anna Souter back in 2018, and then took some neuroscience classes in 2019. I didn’t continue the research much in 2020 as I was busy with new collaborations that required most of my attention. However, I am looking forward to dive into it again soon. The research led me to think that art and aesthetics are more objective than people think they are, which is something that I wish to investigate more. I think it is especially relevant in the context of art promoted online and how much of it is distributed every day to everyone.

TW:   How do you think millennials and Gen Z are shaping the art market?

MB:   They contribute to accelerating the use of digital means to distribute art. It is a very curious generation. They are fluid and adaptable. They allow artists to experiment, I think.

TW:   What’s coming up for Roman Road, and for you?

MB:   We have just finished a second art residency at The Columbia hotel and the end of the residency show is coming up on 9 September. The week after, I am very excited to announce ‘Paradise Is Not Just a Place’ at Roman Road in Bethnal Green. It is our first show back in our space since 2020. It will include works by Anna Skladmann and Yulia Iosilzon ­– they have been working closely to create the works mixing ceramics, paintings and photography. It is going to be a very immersive experience.

TW:   Desert island quarantine. Which artwork, album and book do you take with you?

MB:   If I can choose from any artworks, Claude Monet ‘Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge’, 1899. Lana del Rey, any album but if I have to choose one, it is Norman F***ing Rockwell, 2019. Codependent No More by Melody Beattie, so I can learn to live on my own – hahaha! Jokes aside, it is a very good book with a lot of fascinating insights.

TW:   Who is your ultimate Monday Muse?

MB:   My bills.


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