The sun is out in Copenhagen and brings a touch of the warmer south into the winter in the north. What a perfect day to visit the office of South into North, the curatorial and art-advisory agency founded by Francesca Astesani and Julia Rodrigues. Francesca welcomes us to her beautiful home/office and the colors on the walls, plants and sculptures decorating the room complimented by kids’ toys adds a warm and inspiring vibe to the house. She introduces herself in English with her charming Italian accent and we cannot wait to hear how this Italian curator built a career and settled in Copenhagen.
Astesanis general advice “work hard and take education seriously” corresponds to how she has made her way through her career. According to herself she has always wondered “what do I want to do now?” without necessarily having a clear vision of where to go next. At first her father wanted her to study economics, but she figured Philosophy could be of her interest since it would give a broad understanding of how we talk and think. She attained a master’s degree in Philosophy after five years at a university in Milan where she majored in aesthetics; “philosophy of images”. Consequently, she built the foundation of a career within art.
Once again Astesani had to ask herself where to go next. Looking back at her career she realizes that she did not always make active choices, sometimes coincidences, and fate if you may, shaped her career progression. In contrary to this, she made the spontaneous decision to move to London. Without knowing the English language properly, she took a leap of faith and went to London to study contemporary art theory for a year. London meant hard work, living under poor conditions and essentially “learning by doing”. In addition, classes in a new language confused her and she wondered if it was her not agreeing to or her not understanding the various subjects in class. Accordingly, she was determined to stay in London and approach all the opportunities offered. “I guess I got stubborn” she admits to herself. Therefor she signed up for unpaid internships and trusted that creating a network within the art industry would lead to greater things.
Astesani has a desire to carry through with her projects no matter what type of a job she has. Her internships led her to jobs at gallerys such as Max Wigram Gallery where she obtained relevant experiences. Moreover, with courage and independent visions, she and her friend created a blog and a pop-up restaurant in London. Once every two weeks their living room transformed into a restaurant where they served about 35 people at the most. As a freelancer Astesani started working on a project with a Danish artist. They worked on developing and introducing a concept from Copenhagen to Venice. The story of their professional partnership evolved into a love story and Astesani started to spend time in Copenhagen. When she was offered to work for Andersen’s Contemporary in Copenhagen and had a Danish partner, moving to Copenhagen was a natural decision.
We are about to move on in the story when a woman walks into the room with a warm smile on her face. Her Brazilian accent indicates that this must be Astesanis partner, Julia Rodrigues, and they continue the story of their cooperation with great enthusiasm. Creating a company together was natural due to their similar interests and background within art. Their work revolves around creating exhibitions by finding artists who can respond to the specific content they request. For instance, they have worked on curating a hospital, where they searched content that combined art and healthcare. One project can be in process for years and it can be challenging to maintain a clear vision of the final product. However, Julia’s patience compliments Francesca’s ability to keep an overview of their projects, and this balance is a key to their success.