Viafarini was established in 1991 as a non profit organization, taking the American examples and the European Kunstverein as models. This concept was new to Italy at that time, and among the most innovatory ideas were the exhibition space conceived as a project room, the building up of international relationships and its management based on collaboration between private and public bodies.
The first two events, Immagini proiettate and Membership Viafarini, correspond respectively with the foundation of the Artists Archive and the starting of a membership program.
Viafarini has an exhibition space conceived as a “project room”, devoted to promoting Italy’s emerging art scene, as well as offering a view on the international art scene.
Through the years Viafarini has become a point of reference for young and emerging artists, many of them eventually became internationally acclaimed, among them: Rebecca Agnes, Simone Berti, Pierluigi Calignano, Pierpaolo Campanini, Gianni Caravaggio, Letizia Cariello, Maggie Cardelùs, Valerio Carrubba, Maurizio Cattelan, Gea Casolaro, Paolo Chiasera, Roberto Cuoghi, Paola Di Bello, Elisabetta Di Maggio, Lara Favaretto, Piero Golia, Massimo Grimaldi, Giuseppe Gabellone, Stefania Galegati, Giovanni Kronenberg, Luisa Lambri, Claudia Losi, Margherita Manzelli, Margherita Morgantin, Eva Marisaldi, Laura Matei, Sabrina Mezzaqui, Liliana Moro, Marco Papa, Alessandro Pessoli, Cesare Pietroiusti, Paola Pivi, Gabriele Picco, Alex Pinna, Pietro Roccasalva, Lorenzo Scotto di Luzio, Alberto Tadiello, Alessandra Tesi, Luca Trevisani, Patrick Tuttofuoco, Enzo Umbaca, Nico Vascellari, Vedovamazzei, Italo Zuffi.
Viafarini works at international level producing site-specific projects by artists such as: Marina Abramovic, Vito Acconci, Maja Bajevic, Valentin Carron, Martin Creed, Jimmie Durham, Katharina Grosse, Mona Hatoum, Mathilde ter Heijne, Federico Herrero, Nic Hess, Runa Islam, Hans Op de Beeck, Tobias Rehberger, David Renggli, Rosemarie Trockel, Gillian Wearing.
In 1994 started the close collaboration with Careof, the only other non profit space in the Milanese area, located in Cusano Milanino, in the city’s outskirts.
The following year the Youth Department of the Milan City Council starts an agreement, according to which Viafarini would provide a series of promotion and documentation services addressed to young visual artists. From 1995 to 2005 the agreement has been renewed for seven times. This made the Careof & Viafarini Documentation Center for Visual Arts come to life, with an Artists Archive with a portfolio service, a specialized Library and video library, an information service about study and job opportunities called ArtBox, all services accessible from the web.
Careof & Viafarini’s activities received funding also from the Region Lombardy and the Province of Milan, which makes the Documentation Center the most advanced in Italy for its information technology and the most extensive source of information about Italian contemporary art in the web.
In 1997 Viafarini undertook a new project called Viafarini Fund, a program aiming at awakening public interest in the need for fundraising to support art projects. The committee included Angela Vettese, Pierluigi Sacco and Patrizia Brusarosco.
In 2001 Italian Area was launched, an online database of Italian emerging artists. It is a first step towards the idea to create a “Museum without Centre”, a network of Italian art organizations dedicated to the promotion of young contemporary artists. In the year 2000 the project had been awarded the Premio Cenacolo-Editoria e Innovazione issued by Assolombarda (entrepreneurial association), and the publishing companies Il Sole-24 Ore, Mediaset, Mondadori and Rcs Editori.
Since 2003, thanks to agreements with foundations and organizations based in other Italian cities, the Careof & Viafarini Documentation Centre gathers portfolios by artists from all over Italy, making the Milanese Archive more and more a point of reference at national level.
Since 2004, the Artists Archive and Italian Area receive the support of the Chambers of Commerce of Milan and of Turin, a strong impulse to the project as it increased both the amount of information and the accessibility to the international public through its English translation.
After more than fifteen years of activity, Viafarini was awarded the American Center Foundation Grant and – together with Careof – is recognized to be the most important independent contemporary art space in Italy, as came out of the research “Non di sola arte”, commissioned by the Giovanni Agnelli Foundation and Unicredit in 2007.
In 2007 starts also the first collaboration with a private institutional sponsor, the company Gemmo, leader in the fields of technological plants and Facility Management.
In April 2008 Viafarini and Careof open their new premises at the Fabbrica del Vapore, where they were awarded a new space through an international open competition launched in the year 2000 by the Municipality of Milan, Youth Department. Here they also inaugurate the DoCVA Documentation Center for Visual Arts.
In 2008, in its original premises in via Farini 35, Viafarini starts VIR Viafarini-in-residence, a program for artists and curators who wish to spend a period of research in Milan.
In 2013 at Fabbrica del Vapore, Viafarini began collaborating with Sunugal / Mascherenere, an organization that deals with interculture and cooperation and with which Viafarini shares a creative incubation process to develop its programs over time. In 2017, on the occasion of the new Spazi al Talento call to reconsider the Fabbrica del Vapore complex, a transformation takes place: Careof concentrates its activities on 440 square meters on the ground floor, with its activities occupying the 840 square meters on the first floor, where develops the Archive / Library, from start to a creative coworking space with architecture, graphics, photography and volunteering professionals and finally begins the collaboration with Le Belle Arti / Artepassante. Artepassante is a container of projects and events produced by more than 25 cultural and artistic realities linked to the network, some of which are also located at the Fabbrica del Vapore: theater, music, art and therapy, social projects.