A chat with ARTCaffe’s founder, Raffaella Gallo

ARTCaffè is a monthly event run by Raffaella Gallo, and is offered free of charge, to anyone with an interest in the arts. Each month her living room becomes an arena in which a guest artist gives a talk to a multicultural and diverse crowd. The speakers share career stories, advice, works, and inspiration, ultimately giving the artists a chance to connect with the audience. It also allows the audience – which includes both experts and amateur art lovers – an opportunity to hear directly from artists in an informal and relaxed setting.

Siobhan Brown was lucky enough to meet with Rafaella and find out more about how she came to organize these events:

How long have you lived in Shanghai and how did you come to establish the ARTCaffè?

I moved with my family from Dalian to Shanghai four years ago. Together with all my stuff, I brought with me a concept I developed there: the ARTCAFFÈ. I started organizing this event because I wanted to gather people who shared a passion for art, and that was not easy in a city that didn’t offer much regarding Contemporary Art – compared to Beijing, where we used to live before. In addition to that, I wanted to create an informal and intimate environment where people could feel comfortable enough to engage in an art talk, no matter their specific background.

After moving to Shanghai, I was tempted to stop organizing it. There is so much going on in this city that I thought people wouldn’t be interested in coming to my living room to attend an event. It happened by chance that I met a Dutch photographer who was promoting her book, and I invited her to select three pictures from that book which were particularly meaningful to her and to give a speech about them.

There I was, back on track: after that first meeting, I kept on organizing the ARTCaffè monthly, hosting 30 appointments and 36 artists up to now. It is a very international community: so far, people from more than 50 different countries have been attended the event.


What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about the art scene in Shanghai?

I would rather pick one, that is in fact common and recurrent all over the world. Just because they don’t have any specific background, many people think they cannot get Contemporary Art. Because of that, it happens they self-censor themselves: for instance, they don’t go and visit galleries and museum. And it happens that when they do go and visit shows, they think they need someone helping them in understanding the show itself.

Here in Shanghai, as everywhere in the world, contemporary art exhibitions can be challenging. But, even though without specific preparation, people can have their own experiences and make intelligent judgments with works of art.


What are some of the most exciting developments to happen to the art scene in the city during your time living in Shanghai?

Since we moved here, I was amazed to see how the West Bund area developed. In just a couple of years, they really managed to build up an amazing art district, with outstanding Galleries and Museums.

Aside from West Bund and M50, Shanghai is not just about art districts, though. There are very interesting galleries scattered all over the city. Beautiful, small galleries nested in old lanes, such as those in the French Concession Area or close to the Bund, galleries that are far from the usual “white box” setting. In the last four years, we also saw many new Museums coming to life, with very good programs.


For someone who is new to art, what is your recommendation to given them a proper introduction to the art scene here?

Since, as I said, Shanghai art scene is very scattered around the city, the best way to start looking at art is to get an overall idea about the main Galleries and Museums. To have always up to date information about the shows and events, I indeed suggest to join our ARTCaffè|ARTSeeing Community chat, that I started about a year ago with this purpose. Spots are limited, though, since we are now close to the 500 people threshold.


With two children under the age of 6, how do you make the balance between family and your art related activities?

First of all, I have a very supportive husband, who truly believed in me and my passion since I first started the ARTCaffè. Then, a methodic routine really helps in managing my time between family and art related activities.

Mornings are usually for my studies, my researches, art trips and public relations, call it so. From 3pm, the shift with my kids starts, and it ends when they go to bed. After, I go back to the preparation of my programs and the management of the ARTCaffè|ARTSeeing community chat. Weekends are usually 100% dedicated to the family.


In your opinion, what is the best part about being an active mom in Shanghai?

The cultural offer in this city is amazing, together with a huge number of artists and galleries and museums and art events. Indeed, here I have tons of material for both my researches and art activities I do organize. I would not have been able to do the same back to my country, or at least here it is much easier. I had to move all the way to China to finally be able to really develop my passion for Art.


Shanghai Mamas is excited to partner with Raffaella to host a series of private events early in 2019. Watch this space!


About Raffaella Gallo, founder of ARTCaffè

Italian, Engineer, born in 1976, she has been nurturing her passion for Art since an early age, starting her own collection at 16.

After 10 years’ experience as Program Manager and Strategic Consultant, life brought her to Beijing, where she eventually had the opportunity to apply her engineering, rigorous and “squared” approach to the Art sector and to open a new chapter in her studies, focusing on Chinese Contemporary Art.

After moving to Dalian in 2012, she started a new concept of meeting, aiming to create a multicultural platform, to activate a debate between people not strictly related to the Art World, but sharing a passion or even a mere curiosity for Art. She named this appointment the ARTCaffè, both to underline the informal features of the meetings and her own cultural Italian roots.