“HO HO HO” at Frutta, Rome

Lauren Keeley, October Leaves, 2015
Enrico Benassi, Sasso 1, sasso 2, sasso 3, sasso 4, sasso 5, 1982-194
Courtesy the Artist and Frutta, Photo by Roberto Apa


HO HO HO, Christmas in July, a group show curated by Alek O., Gabriele De Santis, Santo Tolone and Spring is currently on view at Frutta gallery, in Rome. The exhibition features works by Ditte Gantriis, Elisabetta Benassi, Enrico Benassi, Gundam Air, Holly Hendry, Jacopo Miliani, Jonathan Monk, Jeremy Hutchison, Lauren Keeley, Marco Giordano, Roberto Coda Zabetta, Ryan Gander and Sol Calero.

The artists have made of the gallery a “Free Store,” where visitors are invited to bring in belongings that they wish to leave behind, and they can take away anything that they like. Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss writes “During both Christmas and the Saturnalia, society functions according to a double rhythm of heightened solidarity and exaggerated antagonism, two aspects acting together in balanced opposition.” Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival celebrated in December entailing reversed societal roles, rich celebrations, and devoid laws. Commonly theorized as the historical basis for several traditions associated with Christmas, the Saturnalia included revelry, gifts exchange, and friendly gatherings. The works in this exhibition reflect on the dualities underlying the Christmas spirit, while highlighting the resulting tensions between the religious and the secular, celebration and angst, as well as makeshift gift economy and permanent market economy. The phrase Christmas in July became widely known due to Preston Sturges’ Hollywood comedy Christmas in July (1940), in which the protagonist engages in careless spending after his colleagues trick him into believing he won $25,000. Christmas in July quickly became a popular celebration, an unofficial holiday referring to various festivities, notably in the Southern hemisphere where July is the coldest month. Most commonly, the term is used as a marketing ploy by retail stores to make up for the lack of sales opportunities in the summertime. Advertisements promoting Christmas in July sales have been popular since the mid-twentieth century, and continue flourishing today. Celebrating Christmas on the opposite time of year further emphasizes the polarities inherent to the Saturnalia and Christmas traditions, and underscores the contradictory nature of a contemporary ritual in the making.

The HO HO HO exhibition includes a wide variety of objects and fabrics selected from the comprehensive design exhibition, FOR MODERN LIVING, assembled by Alek O., Gabriele De Santis, Santo Tolone and Spring for Frutta. The gallery limited its selection to objects which have never been displayed there before. The exhibition is on view throughout the whole Christmas season when public attention is usually closely focused on the quality of items available for purchase. It contains approximately 100 items including children’s toys, a sewing machine, typewrites, a window ventilating fan, lamps, cooking pots and kites. Furniture has not been included since most of the examples present in Rome may be seen often in Italian showrooms. The show installation juxtaposes such objects as clippers and dog leashes to point out the one quality they have in common: their excellent design. Articles will be displayed on low table benches and open shelves backed with tracing paper through which the light is diffused from behind. Designs come from many countries as well as from the United States. Examples of glassware will be shown from Italy, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. Other countries represented in the exhibition are Germany with a set of porcelain dinnerware, and China with traditionally simple handwoven baskets. Among many outstanding designers represented are Lauren Keeley, Holly Hendry, Jonathan Monk and Ryan Gander, in addition to a large number of unknown peasant craftsmen of Europe and the East and anonymous company designers in American factories. Items from ten-cents stores priced as low as 25 cents for a plastic egg tray are shown along with expensive items such as inlaid marble box from Italy for 150 cents to indicate the equally high standard of design of many products at all prices. The exhibition will contain a number of fabric pieces, including a print of “Trains” in fresh colours on white by Sol Calero, a linen from Scotland and a handwoven silk from Siam.

The neutrality of the works in HO HO HO is just an idea. An abstract, yet fixed idea. As a strategy, a plane that cannot negate nor neglect any side of an opposition or contradiction. The elements in use are both the partial and the whole, improvisation and concentration. The colours used by the artists as a sign of their presence are bright and blazed, they are that optimistic side of their own unmistakable compositional rhythm. The artworks inserted in the space are coming from previous exhibitions. Still, as a whole, they create a compact homogenous series within their supports, underlining their different aesthetic phases conformed to the collective imaginary of all the involved artists. The exhibition stems from the idea of the Christmas Party, a spectacular event that each artist organises since ten years in their hometown, where they invite celebrities and influential personalities from both the art and the business world. The central theme is indeed Christmas. Two site-specific installations will be for sale until January 31st, including a Christmas three decorated with fake snow, some canvases enriched by Christmas decorations, and some more classical and bombastic pour paintings. Who comes visit shall be ready to absorb these overabundant hyper-decorativism and opulence: lights, glazes, glitters lie as truth over the artist-made supports. It is difficult to say whether sculptures, paintings and installations are either emblems reflecting truth or simply a well-orchestrated scenography. Some years ago, in a long interview, the artists declared to be so truly optimistic, to the point they would result completely a-moral. The different construction of each work is a condensation of contemporary culture, reflecting a pragmatic reading of a wider social morality. As soon as one stops to believe in what one sees, the loquacious side of the works starts to convey their mechanical privilege. Despite the fact that some of the artists are painters, they are still able to transmit the symptoms of that mechanism that makes of an idea a clear visual modularity. All the artists involved, well-known for their heterogeneous practice, are finding a balance between the conceptual approach of the Fluxus and abstract painting, sculpture and ready-made, performance and installation, withdrawing from any defining form of stasis. Painting, sculpture, installation, collage, wall painting and even synthesized music are languages used as codes to read the world, filtered through each artwork present in the space of the gallery.

The titles of these three press releases are fictional, inasmuch as the texts, they belong to other exhibitions, yet have been appropriated by the artists, for they somehow paraphrase the project intent.


Holly Hendry, Nasothek, 2017
Courtesy of the Artist and Frutta, Photo by Roberto Apa


HOHOHO, 2017, Installation View at Frutta, Rome
Courtesy of Frutta, Photo by Roberto Apa


Marco Giordano, Cigarettesanddietcoke, 2014
Courtesy the Artist and Frutta, Photo by Roberto Apa


Jacopo Miliani, Shades, 2017
Courtesy of The Artist and Frutta, Photo by Roberto Apa


Roberto Coda Zabetta, Nextfilm, 2016
Courtesy the Artist and Frutta, Photo by Roberto Apa


A project by Alek O., Gabriele De Santis,
Santo Tolone and Spring
With Ditte Gantriis, Elisabetta Benassi, Enrico Benassi,
Gundam Air, Holly Hendry, Jacopo Miliani, Jonathan Monk,
Jeremy Hutchison, Lauren Keeley, Marco Giordano,
Roberto Coda Zabetta, Ryan Gander and Sol Calero.
25 November 2017–13 January 2018

Frutta | Via dei Salumi 53, Rome
Opening times: Tuesday–Saturday, 1–7pm or by appointment
The gallery will be closed from 23 December 2017 to 9 January 2018
+39 06 45508934