A key word, but also a password, the summary of an idea that’s difficult to put in words, a starting point for an exploration journey. From web fanzine, to startup/agency up to an art gallery, the word “opera” has been the focus of titles and beliefs, plaques and business cards, brainstorming and endless Skype calls. These were the steps of the career and life paths of Erika Grupillo and Federica Ciuci Priori, the cultural operators who transformed their SoapOpera Fanzine about art in all its forms into Opera Ilustration, an agency supporting and promoting art in all its form, and particularly illustration, but also a consultation network for artists, companies and brands.
The pivotal year? 2019, when Opera Illustration gave birth to Da Opera, a “magical place” in via Mario Pichi 9, Milan, where artists meet and clash, an independent art gallery hosting exhibitions, workshops, art classes and talks.
Da Opera connects the world of creatives with the one of collectors, the world of visual arts with the art market: because communication is key and dialogue is art.
What was your personal and shared journey that brought you to launch Da Opera?
Our friendship – and basically our journey together – started back in 2009 at NABA, Milan’s Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, where in 2013 we got our BA in Fashion Design & Communication. We were very lucky because we immediately started working in the field, Erika at independent magazines and subsequently as a fashion producer and I, Federica, in Condé Nast, and a couple of years later as a casting assistant between Milan, London, Paris, and NYC. Anyway, we’ve always felt the need to start a project of our own in parallel with the careers we were embracing, a world that could be tailor-made for us and that would have kept fueling, over the years, all the creativity we had inside. So, in 2014, we launched SoapOpera Fanzine, an independent webzine targeting a female audience of lovers of arts, photography, and fashion. Erika was in London, back then, while I’d literally moved into Glamour’s workplace, and we remember having endless nights and hours of Skype calls brainstorming and building the first issues of SoapOpera!
2019 was the year of the twist: after 6 years of webzine and after having achieved great results and satisfaction with each of our personal careers, we decided – during a weird but epiphanic vacation in Greece – to turn our magazine into an agency.
We’d always curated a section that was completely dedicated to the world of illustration and, over the years, it had become our strong point and, for some clients, a way to scout new artists. So, by the end of 2019, SoapOpera had given birth to Opera, an agency of artists and illustrators but also an advisory studio for companies and brands.
The opening of a space that would have also been available to the public was only the next step and natural evolution of it – to be able to host clients within the physical artworks and give anyone the opportunity to start their own art collection was undoubtedly the final touch of life for the project, what makes it fully breathe.
That’s how Da Opera was born.
“A world that could be tailor-made for us.”
For you, Da Opera and Opera Illustration are a “manifesto”: what do you want to communicate through this manifesto?
We launched Opera Illustration because we noticed a “hole” in the market in Milan’s panorama: it looked like there were no agencies exclusively devoted to illustrators. The best contemporary Italian artists were all represented by foreign agencies or agencies which also managed other types of artistries (photographers, stylists, etc.) or rather, traditional Art Galleries. It looked like there was a lack of dynamic and current connections that could act as a bridge between brands, companies, marketing agencies, and illustrators. A reality preserving both parties, which is so widespread in the rest of Europe, instead!