A Fair of Possibilities

The 1985 Milan Fair Through the Eyes of Gabriele Basilico and Gianni Berengo Gardin

Salone dell'informatica e della telematica alla Fiera di Milano del 1985 Salone dell'informatica e della telematica alla Fiera di Milano del 1985 (19/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

In 1985, sixty-five years after the first show, the Milan Fair entered a new era.

Visitatori alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Visitatori alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Cerimonia d'inaugurazione della Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Cerimonia d'inaugurazione della Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (4/14/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

The story of the Milan Fair is the story of Italy.

From the moment it first opened its doors in 1920, the fair moved in lockstep with the economy, showcasing its expansion and the development of key, strategic sectors with events of great national, and later international, resonance.

Giovane coppia alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Giovane coppia alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

In 1985, the Milan Fair entered a new era.

It was a coming of age for the Fair Board. Reorganized under a new strategic approach to its role and purpose, the Fair Board was gearing up for a new series of events, keeping apace with changes in in the national and international panorama.

Visitatori su scala mobile alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Visitatori su scala mobile alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

The objective was to tap into new opportunities for growth by promoting Made in Italy exports through a two-pronged approach involving the organization of events beyond Italy’s border and the expansion of the fair to encompass the world.

Preparativi per l'apertura della Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Preparativi per l'apertura della Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (01/04/1985 - 14/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

To do so, a special new operating division was set up—Milanfair Overseas Exhibitions.

Padiglione SIP alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Padiglione SIP alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 31/12/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

1985: Bridging the past and future

The 1985 Milan Fair was in many ways a bridge between the past and the future.
The transformation was total, leaving no aspect untouched. Thus the Milan Fair became the Great April Fair, with new dates, a new duration, a new image, and a new name.

Visitatori alla cerimonia di chiusura della Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (4/23/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

A few months before the grand opening, the daily Corriere della Sera ran an editorial on 18th December, 1984, announcing a competitive tender for a new logo and corporate identity.

Visitatrici alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Visitatrici alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Over ten thousand proposals were submitted from fifty-two countries around the world.

Giovani tifosi alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Giovani tifosi alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

In practice, the initiative was just one of the many projects the Fair Board was developing, or planning to develop, in the future,

Visitatori su scala mobile alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Visitatori su scala mobile alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

“to shape its role increasingly around the modern needs of the international economy. […] all the functions of Italy’s biggest fair organizer are coming under review, as part of a development process that will […] profoundly change the very nature of the fair.”

Grande folla alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Grande folla alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

As Alberto Trivulzio wrote in the Corriere della Sera on 19th December that same year, the 1985 Milan Fair would go down in history as “the last event to be organized along classical lines, and the first to be (timidly) conceived according to a new plan.”

Serata di gala Gold Italia alla Fiera di Milano del 1985 Serata di gala Gold Italia alla Fiera di Milano del 1985 (30/03/1985 - 03/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Two photographers, two perspectives, one new world

It was a turning point for the fair. A change that marked the beginning of a new era for the institution and event itself. A watershed that would be captured in pictures by two leading Italian photographers of the time—Gabriele Basilico and Gianni Berengo Gardin.

Visitatori alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Visitatori alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Over the years, hundreds of thousands of images had chronicled each season of the fair, and with it the fortunes of Italy in the background—from the aftermath of the First World War and the rise and fall of Fascism,

Serata di gala Gold Italia alla Fiera di Milano del 1985 Serata di gala Gold Italia alla Fiera di Milano del 1985 (30/03/1985 - 31/12/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

to the post-war reconstruction, Italy’s economic miracle, the protest movement, and the post-industrial world.

Stabilimento Alfa Romeo del Portello (1995) by Basilico, GabrieleFondazione Fiera Milano

Now, however, new perspectives were needed to mark the change of paradigm, slants unburdened by formal categories and able to grasp not just the rational aspect of the world, but also the emotional substratum of reality.

Piazza S. Agostino (1995) by Basilico, GabrieleFondazione Fiera Milano

Perspectives able to capture the potentiality in the air, in the instant before people and things come to occupy a space—points of view prepared to observe people as agents of “imminent and natural action.”

Visitatori su una panchina alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Visitatori su una panchina alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

The vision Gabriele Basilico and Gianni Berengo Gardin give us of the fair is, of course, as later commentators would note, just one of the many possible, but it is filtered by their own experience of the world and their own cultural and social sensibilities.

Giovani visitatori nel padiglione SIP alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Giovani visitatori nel padiglione SIP alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

A picture made up of pictures that come from their interaction with a public, known, and delimited space, through the lens of their personal conceptions of the real world.
It was more than just a job; it was an exercise of free will.

Ingresso del CISI alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Basilico, GabrieleFondazione Fiera Milano

Alberto Trivulzio, again in the Corriere della Sera, captured the sense of it all well, when he wrote,
“Is it just the memory that remains of the old Milan Fair? No, there are also remains a picture. Or rather, a series of pictures, of great artistry.”

Benne a polipo alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Benne a polipo alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Reading the signs: Gabriele Basilico

Born in Milan in 1944, until his early death in 2013 Basilico was a leading master of Italian and European photography.

FNM. Stazione Bullona, facciata posteriore. Milano, via fratelli Salvioni (1995) by Basilico, GabrieleFondazione Fiera Milano

An architect by training, he dedicated much of his photography work to capturing the transformation of urban space, “immortalized” in the passage from the industrial to the post-industrial era.

Piazza S. Agostino (1995) by Basilico, GabrieleFondazione Fiera Milano

In a certain way, his photographs of the fair seem to fit in with his work on Milan’s industrial complexes and factories, begun at the end of the previous decade.

Largo Carabinieri d'Italia (1995) by Basilico, GabrieleFondazione Fiera Milano

Driven by a great interest in architecture and the vestiges of human civilization, in his work Basilico was a “reader of signs,” as the French reporter and photographer Christian Caujolle aptly described him in 1984,

Viale Renato Serra Viale Renato Serra (1995) by Basilico, GabrieleFondazione Fiera Milano

characterized by a rigorous, documentary style that pierced deep into the folds of the relationship between humans and space in transformation.

Padiglione SIP-RAI alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Basilico, GabrieleFondazione Fiera Milano

The fair that emerges from Basilico’s photographs is a “world of possibilities,” where everything is a potentiality, everything is in the making. The spaces he depicts are the stage of a world bound to happen, the imminent setting of waits, encounters, dealings, and gestures.

Il fotografo Gabriele Basilico alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Il fotografo Gabriele Basilico alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Basilico immortalized the silence that comes before voices, life before it happens. A narrative left suspended, a tale that relies on the syntax of light, without disdaining the evocativeness of colour.

Allestitori alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Allestitori alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (01/04/1985 - 14/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Berengo Gardin craftsman’s struggle for “true photography"

Venetian by descendance and in character, Berengo Gardin was born in 1930 in the Hotel Imperiale in Santa Margherita Ligure, a nomadic soul for life.

Giovani alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Giovani alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Having started out as a professional photographer in the early 1960s, his long and enriching career is studded with hundreds of photographic projects steeped in the investigative style of social reportage.

Ragazzi in posa alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Ragazzi in posa alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

With over 2 million photos and over 250 books to his name, Berengo Gardin is a living and breathing archive, a photographer who has chronicled Italian history since the post-war era with great stylistic consistency and a “craftsman’s” approach to photography in practice.

Visitatrice con macchina fotografica alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Visitatrice con macchina fotografica alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

A master of black and white photography, his pictures tell the story of humans in their social dimension.

Addetto al servizio di sgombero rifiuti alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Addetto al servizio di sgombero rifiuti alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (01/04/1985 - 30/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

His raw, unedited photographs are a statement of a participatory vision of reality, anchored in a conception of photography as documentation—“true photography,” as he himself calls it.

Cerimonia d'inaugurazione della Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Cerimonia d'inaugurazione della Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (4/14/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

In his own words, “If you are patient enough to wait, somebody or something will always pass by. It is wonderful when it happens. The photo is not your work, it is the work of the people who pass by.”

Addetto in bicicletta alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Addetto in bicicletta alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Berengo Gardin’s reportage of the fair is made up of a sequence of instants, suspension dots, and stolen gestures that come before and after the business deals and encounters, evoking what did in fact happen, but without ever placing it at the centre of the scene.

Area di sosta alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Area di sosta alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

The photographer’s eye lingers on details, depicting people in relation to the environment. It captures times of wait and rest, conspiring with the workers and audience and spotlighting faces in the sea of bodies swarming around the pavilions, bringing to life the fairgrounds.

Ritratto di addetti alla ristorazione alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Ritratto di addetti alla ristorazione alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

By opening up “different perspectives,” Berengo Gardin leads us “off the beaten track among uncustomary glances,” announcing “one world among possible worlds,”

Visitatori su scala mobile alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Visitatori su scala mobile alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

as rightly said in the introduction to the monograph specially released the following year, featuring the pictures taken by the two photographers (La Grande Fiera, 1985).

Visitatori su scala mobile alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Visitatori su scala mobile alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Basilico and Berengo Gardin in the Fondazione Fiera archives

If this precious collection of photographs is all we have of the 1985 Milan Fair, much more remains of Basilico and Berengo Gardin’s work in the archives of the Fondazione Fiera Milano.

Vigili urbani alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 Vigili urbani alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Berengo Gardin, GianniFondazione Fiera Milano

Precisely 51 black and white prints, 103 slides, and 35 contact proofs stamped by Gabriele Basilico, plus another 113 black and white prints, 65 contact proofs, and 178 35mm-slides by Gianni Berengo Gardin.

Ingresso di porta Elettrotecnica alla Fiera Campionaria di Milano del 1985 (14/04/1985 - 23/04/1985) by Basilico, GabrieleFondazione Fiera Milano

Documents constantly and perpetually intertwined with each other in the tale they tell us, capturing the final hurrah of a fair in its twilight years, at the dawning of a new age clearly on the horizon, which could no longer be ignored.

Credits: Story

This virtual path has been created in collaboration with Promemoria Group.
www.promemoriagroup.com
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Fondazione Fiera Milano Historical Archive:
archiviostorico.fondazionefiera.it

Credits: All media
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