The Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is a Turin-based contemporary art institution renowned for discovering The Next Big Thing through a unique commissioning programme that gives artists carte blanche.
There are many collectors in this world who have opened private foundations in which to exhibit their art but few are as dedicated to the actual artists as is Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. Having begun collecting contemporary art in the early nineties, Patrizia opened the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in 1995 with, “the desire to do more for the artists themselves - not only to buy works of art but to help artists produce new work and have a space in which to show it.” In 2002, the Foundation moved to its current headquarters, a flexible space in Turin where even the cafeteria was created by the artist Rudolf Stingel.
An ambitious programme of commissioning artworks underpins the work of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, but always with utmost respect given to the original idea. As Patrizia notes: “Whenever we invite an artist to work with us, we never interfere with the creative process.” Even more uniquely, the Foundation is a staunch supporter of the often-criticised art world hierarchy. “I always strictly purchase works through the artist’s gallery, as I am a firm believer in the fact that we are all essential parts of a system that should be respected,” says Patrizia.
It might be unusual to give artists carte blanche while also supporting their galleries but it is a system that works. Not only is the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo well known for its impressive collection that it lends to institutions around the world, but it is also renowned as a body that uncovers The Next Big Thing. Maurizio Cattelan is just one of the talents that the Foundation nurtured before he become the blue chip artist he is today. Patrizia explains the success of her strategy: “I think that getting the best out of an artist means putting your trust in his or her work and leaving him or her totally free to create their work.”
What is your definition of luxury?
Luxury is having the freedom to just be.
If luxury were an object, what would it be?
A watch without hands.
If luxury were a place, where would it be?
A place as white as snow and as blue as the sea.
If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
A moment of mental and physical harmony.
If luxury were a person, who would it be?
Peggy Guggenheim, a woman who thought and acted so freely.
How does your work at the Foundation differ from your occupation as a private collector or are they one and the same?
My work at the Foundation is different to my activity as a collector. I started collecting contemporary art in the early nineties and it was my growing passion for art and especially the desire to do more for the artists themselves - not only to buy works of art but to help artists produce new work and have a space in which to show it - that led me to set up Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in 1995.
My Foundation has three main aims: to support the work of emerging artists from all over the world by helping them produce and show their work in Italy and abroad; to bring people closer to contemporary art and culture through a calendar of international exhibitions and events and to develop collaborations with other art institutions worldwide. My activity as a collector means that I continue to develop my collection and my main objective here is to share it with the public by regularly loaning works for exhibitions around the world and by presenting exhibitions of works from the collection in collaboration with other institutions, most recently in Monte Carlo and Evian, France. Also, in November 2010 a large-scale exhibition of works from my collection will be presented at the MACRO museum of contemporary art in Rome.
One of the aims of the Foundation is to support the production of new work by artists. How much do you commission and what is that process like?
The way in which I contribute to the production of new work comes about in three different ways:
The first is when artists, curators or galleries approach me personally or my foundation with an idea or project, which we will fund if it interests us.
In 1999, the American artist Doug Aitken approached me for funding for his video installation work ‘Electric Earth’, which was presented at the Venice Biennale that year and which went on to win the ‘Judges Prize’. In that same year, I also funded another project presented at the Venice Biennale for the artist Luisa Lambri, for which she won the ‘Golden Lion Award’ (Italian Pavilion). I rarely hesitate with projects like this, as Venice is such an important platform for presenting art to the rest of the world.
Some time later, Doug Aitken came to me again with a project to present at the Serpentine Gallery. We saw great potential in that project and so ‘New Ocean’ was produced by Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. The exhibition opened at the Serpentine Gallery in London then travelled to the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in Tokyo and the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Bregenz before it was finally shown at my foundation in Turin.
Another example is a few years ago when Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno approached me about a film they wanted to make about the footballer Zinadine Zidane. I found their idea to create a 21st century portrait, not with a paintbrush and canvas, but with video, most intriguing and was immediately convinced of the importance of co-producing this film.
The second way is when we invite artists to produce new works for our exhibition programme.
In 1996, for example, we produced some works for a group exhibition curated by Francesco Bonami, entitled Campo 6. For this show, I produced a work by Tobias Rehberger – 16 vases that he interpreted as portraits of the other artists in the exhibition.
While we were building the Fondazione’s new exhibition space in Turin, I invited the artist Lina Bertucci to develop a project with the local community. The exhibition space is situated in an ex-industrial area of the city, which used to be made up of small factories connected to the Lancia car industry. I think that Lina expected to still find some of these factories but she didn’t and her project became more of a study of the area’s new inhabitants and communities. This made the locals feel connected with the space and won their ongoing support for our activities at the centre.
Every year, the Fondazione works with a concept on which exhibitions and events are based. One year, for example, we looked at art in Asia, then another year we looked at issues surrounding the environment. For many of our exhibitions we invite artists to participate and fund the production of their work for the exhibition, which was the case with artists from China, Japan and Korea for our 2006 exhibition Alllooksame, for example…
We always dedicate part of our annual exhibitions’ calendar to Italian artists and we almost always produce all the work for these exhibitions. Artists who have been included in this programme are: Giuseppe Gabellone, Luisa Lambri, Patrick Tuttofuoco, Cristian Frosi and Flavio Favelli, just to name some…
The third way in which I fund production is by commissioning special projects and works for the collection. Two example are in my home: an installation work by the artist Marzia Migliora and a site specific neon installation by the artist Patrick Tuttofuoco for the ceiling above the swimming pool.
Also, when I opened the Fondazione’s Turin space, we commissioned artist Rudolf Stingel to design the cafeteria area.
I would like to add that whenever we invite an artist to work with us, we never interfere with the creative process and the fact that we produce or contribute to the production of a work doesn’t mean that it goes into the collection. I always strictly purchase works through the artist’s gallery, as I am a firm believer in the fact that we are all essential parts of a system that should be respected.
It is clear that the notion of nurturing talent is important to you. In your personal experience, in what ways can you work to get the best out of an artist?
I think that getting the best out of an artist means putting your trust in his or her work and leaving him or her totally free to create their work.
You are well known for spotting talent early, exhibiting works by the likes of Maurizio Cattelan before they were the internationally acclaimed artists they are now. What distinguishes talent in your eyes?
A work of art, be it photographic, pictorial, video, sculptural or digital, must be of quality; it must have its own precision and be in sync with the times in which we live, because art is a means of expression and is a reflection of the social and political climate to which the artist him/herself is connected.
Another of the aims of the Foundation is to engage in partnerships with other cultural intuitions around the world. Why is this? What have been your most successful partnerships?
We have enjoyed many partnerships over the years with institutions such as the Hara Museum in Tokyo (Chain of Visions, 2001), the Serpentine Gallery in London (Doug Aitken, New Ocean, 2003), the Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis (How Latitudes become Forms, 2003), the Baltic Mill in Gateshead (Carol Rama, 2004) and Tate Liverpool (Glenn Brown, 2009).
Our most recent partnership, formed with four other European art foundations is FACE, Foundation of Arts for a Contemporary Europe. The FACE group was first presented in 2008 and is formed of five foundations, who are: Deste Foundation, Athens, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, La Maison Rouge, Paris, Magasin 3 Kunsthalle, Sweden and Ellipse Foundation, Portugal. We have just collectively organised and curated our first exhibition of works from all five collections, entitled Investigations of Dog. This exhibition was first presented here at the Fondazione in Turin from October 2009 to March 2010 then at Ellipse Foundation in Portugal from May to September 2010 and will very soon open in Paris at the La Maison Rouge around the time of FIAC in October. The show will then continue to travel to the other FACE partner foundations in 2011.
In working with new artists, you are careful to respect both their galleries and agents. Where does this respect for the art system come from?
I have always said that I believe the art world is like a chain, made up of many fundamental links. My background is in economics and I knew little about contemporary art when I first started as a collector, so I learned very much from the many different people involved in the art world. I believe that we all do different jobs to develop and promote contemporary art and each and everyone who contributes should be respected in the same way.
One of your desires of the Foundation was that it would be free of commercial or political influence. Do you feel that public art intuitions in general are too controlled by external bodies?
Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is a private non-profit exercise, which works to give contemporary art a free space, not bound by commercial or political dynamics, free to select artists from all over the world based on their qualities and potential. In my personal experience, I have met and collaborated with many professionals and institutions, both Italian and foreign, and all of them who work in the cultural sector do so with independence and seriousness.
How have you seen contemporary Italian art develop since you become involved in the art world?
Following the international acclaim of Arte Povera and Transavanguardia, Italian art went through a period of scarce visibility to then come back just recently with a whole new generation of artists who are putting themselves out there internationally as well as critics and gallerists who are working to promote Italian art around the world.
Who are your favourite artists? Why?
I do not have ‘favourite’ artists. I love all the works of art that are in my collection. It is more about the work, not the artist.
And who are the unknown names that you are currently excited about?
There are some artists who I have recently or am currently working with who I believe will go a long way, such as Italian artist Alberto Tadiello, who was just featured in the group show 21x21 at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. We are about to open an exhibition of Russian artists and so we have been looking at artists from Eastern Europe. Andrey Kuzkin is an artist who I am interested in particularly from this show. Instead, next year will be the 150th anniversary of Italian Unification and to celebrate this, the Fondazione will present a huge-scale exhibition entitled Espressione Geografica and many works will be produced especially for this. The exhibition will explore various geographical areas of Italy and I very much like the project by Israeli artists Ruti Sela & Maayan Amir for this show.