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|Patrizia and Luca, an art critic and old friend, spoke in the boardroom at the Foundation's Center for Contemporary Art in Turin.
LUCA: You established the Foundation Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in 1995. Since then it's grown into an internationally recognized institution for the support of contemporary art. How did it all start?
PATRIZIA: Back in 1992, I took my two sons to the Kunstmuseum in Bonn, Germany. It was such a joy to see families enjoying the arts mothers and fathers pushing their babies in strollers around the exhibition halls. At the time, Italy didn't have anything quite like that. I thought we needed a public exhibition center, where art could be seen by everyone.
LUCA: You envisioned a kind of cultural hub?
PATRIZIA: Yes. I wanted more than just a
museum or collection with my name on it. The Foundation should not only be a place where you can see an exhibition and stroll around the building, it should also be a place where you can buy a magazine, see a play or a film, look at design pieces, or maybe have a drink.
LUCA: Italy has many private contemporary art
collections, but very few that are open to the public. In Turin, especially, there is an extensive community of private art collectors.
PATRIZIA: My friends thought I was crazy to want to show my collection to the world. But I've always been convinced that art should not be shut inside a warehouse for investment's sake.
LUCA: You had a whole other life before you became a patron of the arts.
PATRIZIA: As a teenager, I thought I was going to join my family's industrial manufacturing business, so I studied economics in college. Then I got married and raised my two sons, Eugenio and Emilio. As the boys grew older,
I started to consider what to do next.
LUCA: Your first show, English Art Today, opened in May 1995 at the Palazzina dei Giardini in Modena. It featured British artists like Damien Hirst and Douglas Gordon. You were really hooked into the British art scene of the '90s.
PATRIZIA: Actually, it was after my trip to London in 1992, when I first met the artists of my generation, like Julian Opie and Anish Kapoor, that I seriously considered starting a public collection. I remember visiting Anish's studio. The way he talked about his sculptures took my breath away.
LUCA: The color in Kapoor's work is striking. He often uses just one pigment, usually red.
PATRIZIA: Yes. It pulls you in it makes you want to touch his work. He evokes an intense sense of spirituality that is still very
present in Indian culture, but has been lost in the Western world.
LUCA: Your early collection was primarily comprised of thematic groupings of Italian, British, and American artists with an emphasis on women.
PATRIZIA: And photography for which I developed an interest very early on. It's true that I initially based my collection around certain themes. That's not the case anymore. Now I'm more focused on responding to artists' needs by participating financially in the production of new works.
LUCA: What were the first pieces you ever bought?
PATRIZIA: You know, I was convinced I would mainly buy paintings, because at the time I thought I could relate to them more. But the very first works I purchased were by the Italian sculptors Mario Merz and Piero Manzoni. Oddly enough, all of the works I bought at the start were made in 1959, the year I was born.
LUCA: You opened the Foundation's first exhibition space in 1997 at your family's eighteenth-century palazzo in Guarene d'Alba, a village outside Turin.
PATRIZIA: Yes, at Guarene we also inaugurated an annual prize, the Premio Regione Piemonte. Tobias Rehberger and Mark Dion won the first year. Prizes make sense to me they're such an effective way to launch an unknown artist.
LUCA: Guarene is a tiny village. What was the response when the international art world arrived?
PATRIZIA: I have great memories of Guarene. The artist Robert Fischer stayed in a studio there while he was creating a site-specific piece. He made an installation using my father's old motorboat. At first, the locals didn't take to him. But after a few days, they were bringing him fresh fruit and wine.
LUCA: Over the years, you've worked extensively with the California video artist Doug Aitken. The Foundation has helped him produce major video pieces like Electric Earth and New Ocean.
PATRIZIA: I am always riveted by Doug's work. He uses music, sound, and imagery to spin a narrative that seduces the viewer. He transforms vignettes of everyday people into larger stories about the contemporary world.
LUCA: How did you meet him?
PATRIZIA: Francesco Bonami, who has been the artistic director of the Foundation since its inception, invited Doug to take part in Campo 6, a show we produced in 1996. Campo 6 included works by Doug, as well as William Kentridge and Thomas Demand, who were all virtually unknown at the time. It demonstrated what the Foundation was all about the development of young artists. Three years later, in 1999, the Foundation participated in the production of Electric Earth, a multiple projection using eight screens.
LUCA: Electric Earth won the International Prize when it was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1999.
PATRIZIA: Yes, I was so proud! Then, in 2001, the Foundation coproduced Doug's multimedia installation New Ocean with the Serpentine Gallery in London. In that piece, you go on a journey through fantastic spaces filmed by the artist on five continents. You're suspended between reality and imagination, between
liquid universes and deserted suburban landscapes. I remember how excited I was to go to the opening at the Serpentine Gallery.
LUCA: In 2001, the Foundation also produced Maurizio Cattelan's Hollywood in Sicily. Cattelan
created a replica of the Hollywood sign on a Sicilian hillside. He's another favorite of yours.
PATRIZIA: Yes. We organized a great trip for collectors and museum directors to see the piece. It was built on a hill outside Palermo. I remember returning there a short time later and asking a taxi driver, "What's the huge Hollywood sign doing on the side of that hill?" He told me a long story about how Sylvester Stallone had been shooting a film in Palermo, but it was supposed look as if he were in Hollywood! [laughs]
LUCA: This year, you've dedicated the whole program at the Foundation to female artists. Why is that?
PATRIZIA: Many female artists still don't get the attention they deserve. As part of this year's program, Francesco just curated a group show at the Foundation of nineteen women from around the world, entitled Don't Touch the White Woman!
LUCA: The title is borrowed from the Italian film by Marco Ferreri.
PATRIZIA: Most of the artists in the show come from deeply troubled nations, and their works are very political. The Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum, for example, made a huge billboard featuring her profile in the foreground, with a tiny soldier perched on her nose. The words "Over My Dead Body" are inscribed to the left of her profile.
LUCA: The Foundation's new exhibition space and headquarters here in Turin is ideally suited for mounting such large ambitious shows. You commissioned Claudio Silvestrin to design the building,
which was completed two years ago.
PATRIZIA: That's right. I relate to the minimalism of Claudio's work. He's also designed the Armani shops in Paris, Milan, and Shanghai. I wanted the new space to be really modern and flexible. Running Guarene is great, but I now realize that the space in Turin is much easier to manage. It is more complex to install works in an old building like Guarene. The beauty of the new building is that it's almost a neutral container.
LUCA: Your home in Turin is also quite minimalist. When you did the renovation in 2000, it caused quite a stir locally a modern interior in a 1901 palazzo.
PATRIZIA: I grew up in a house full of antiques, which I really disliked. The moment I had a chance to decorate my own home, I went for it. I took down all the ornate tapestries and curtains, painted the walls white, and brought in contemporary design pieces that I could personally relate to.
LUCA: Your family must have been taken aback.
PATRIZIA: They were worried, to say the least. [laughs] I remember my father saying, "If you want to do it, just make sure you do it well." And then there were the nervous looks
I got from my friends who watched me turn the house upside down. But my husband, Agostino, supported me from the beginning.
LUCA: You and Agostino were the hot young collector couple in the art world at one time.
PATRIZIA: Agostino has always shared my love for contemporary art. When I was first building the collection, we would often visit artists together. But what was initially a hobby evolved into my full-time job. Although Agostino and I don't travel together as much as we used to, he's still very supportive.
LUCA: Are your sons interested in art?
PATRIZIA: My youngest son, Emilio, loves design. Actually, I think both of them are secretly drawn to art, but they're teenagers, so they'd rather play football.
LUCA: Do you sometimes move the art and furniture around in your home?
PATRIZIA: Certain pieces, like the Allan McCollum installation in the dining room, the Kosuth neon on the ceiling in the main hallway, and the Ron Arad sofa in the living room, always remain in the same spots. But I do loan out pieces for shows around the world. It's really hard to do. It's like watching your children leave home.