Massimo Scrocca opened Galleria Varsi in May 2013, alongside curator Marta Gargiulo, with an exhibition by the underground New York street artist Skeme. In the two and a half years since then, Varsi has firmly established itself as a dynamic and well-organised gallery that hosts regular exhibitions by noted Italian and international street artists. Located near Campo de’ Fiori, the initimate art space is completely transformed for each show, giving artists the freedom to create unique installations.
Scrocca, from Rome, says the gallery’s mission is to create a space where people can learn about street culture, “a movement that today has finally gained recognition.” Describing himself as a “passionate lover of graffiti and street art”, Scrocca says it was always his dream to open a gallery that could act as a platform for the street art movement.
An important aspect of Varsi is Street Heart, a outreach programme to make art more accessible by linking it to public spaces. To date it has seen the creation of six murals in the east Rome suburbs of Pigneto and Tor Pignattara, by street artists Etam Cru, Solo, M-City, Etnik, Dulk and Herakut. City authorities have piggy-backed on the popularity of the street art movement, seeing it as both cost-effective and a way of regenerating neglected urban areas. However Scrocca says: “Unfortunately the Rome administration changes constantly so we don’t know what will happen in the future.”
With the increasing involvement of the city, however, comes the inevitable threat that authorities could compromise the autonomy or direction of the movement. An example of this occurred last year when the city intervened over the controversial mural by Blu in the S. Basilio area. The mural featured the local patron St Basilio, but it also included pigs dressed in police uniforms. City hall ordered the removal of the mural, which was dedicated to a 19-year-old shot dead in 1974 during clashes with police following the evictions of 150 families. In the end the city only ordered that the offending lower right section be white-washed. “For me, covering up the work of Blu was a scandal, he is one of the greatest Italian artists of the last 20 years, his works contain very specific messages and should be respected”, says Scrocca.
Varsi continues to bring international street artists to Rome and attracts a steady stream of foreign visitors, helped largely by the gallery’s recent inclusion as a “must-see” by the New York Times travel section. Scrocca says the gallery’s 2016 programme is already full. The line-up includes, among others, one of Italy’s biggest street artists Pixel Phanco, Australia’s Fintan Magee, and Venezuelan-Roman artist Gomez. The current show, Electric Breeze by Philadelphia artist Nosego, runs until 10 January.
Tues-Sat 12.00-20.00, Sun 15.00-20.00, Mon closed.
AddressGalleria Varsi, Via di S. Salvatore in Campo 51, tel. 06 68309410.