Interview with the patron of arts and philanthropist, protagonist of important gestures of solidarity during the COVID-19 crisis, in view of restarting exhibition activities
- How is Fondazione Arte e Cultura restarting after lockdown? Which exhibition projects are you preparing?
The Foundation practically never stopped during the lockdown period, because people’s needs – no longer at a cultural, artistic and educational level and so on– mainly turned out to be relief to survive and to feed the disadvantaged and their families. Therefore, during the famous 70 days of lockdown I, supported by two excellent members of staff, constantly provided solutions to the needs of the less fortunate.
Notwithstanding this absolute priority, I did not forget that culture and art activities allowed me to keep my existential commitment balance, therefore I never stopped imagining a great exhibition following the one on Alsoudani, which we had to postpone last March and hope to open it next spring, and I am organising an Exhibition by Manolo Valdès for whom, thanks to the cooperation of the Vice Mayor of Rome, I managed to obtain permission to populate the main city squares with statutes by this great Spanish artist. The exhibition, curated by Gabriele Simongini in association with the Contini Gallery in Venice, is due to open on the 15th of October and we hope that COVID will allow us to hold it and does not prevent visitors from enjoying it.
- Culture, like many other sectors, had to bear the severe consequences of the pandemic. How do you believe it could be helped to recover?
I have always believed that the splendours of our country, that has the most beautiful and harmonious aesthetics of nature and man-made aesthetics, is absolutely a place in the world of unique beauty. I believe politics should take heed of what I am saying and massively intervene to support not-for-profit entrepreneurs, as in our case, thus strengthening this activity. This was not the case and amongst the many promises made to the Italians, they failed to deliver on the one that I probably expected most, a gratifying solution for citizens at least from an aesthetical in intellectual point of view.
- From an economic and social point of view, do you believe that, as well as many problems, this pandemic has given us some food for thought for the future?
Everyone is convinced that the world will be better and that we all will be better when the pandemic ends. I do not believe so. The world will be just as it was before: a world of conflicts, where globalisation has played an enormous part in devastating national identities and the results are not as positive as everybody, including yours truly, expected. I am firmly convinced that we will not be better, kinder and more harmonious.
- With your foundations you have shown deep sympathy for the problems of the Country. In particular through two important donations, one to the Spallazani Hospital and the other to Caritas. What prompted your important gestures?
As I said in the introduction, people need to eat to survive and we gave a heartfelt response by donating € 1.000.000 to the City of Rome, which Caritas will distribute to the parishes. Moreover, as the Mediterranean man that I am, I thought to distribute € 700.000 throughout Southern Italy in the cities of Naples, Cosenza, Reggio Calabria, Trapani, Palermo, Enna and Agrigento to meet the elementary needs for survival of those populations.
Lastly, we decided to donate € 500.000 to the Spalanzani Hospital for research on Covid-19 which, we must well understand is a mutating virus and as such, once a solution has been found for it, Covid-20 could appear in a while, ready to continue the massacre of the innocent.
- Unfortunately, the deaths caused by the virus have left an indelible mark. The whole country, especially the artistic community, has mourned the loss of two artists in particular: Christo and Germano Celant. You met Celant and cooperated with him for the Arman exhibition held in Palazzo Cipolla. Would you like to share your memories?
Absolutely. An unforgettable art critic and curator, a prominent man of culture and intellectual stature who contributed with his vision to the Armani exhibition which I strongly desired and that had the success that it had thanks to him.
- During the weeks of lockdown Italy greatly accelerated the process of digital transformation, at least at the cultural and educational level. Admittedly, you have insisted on the importance of digital technologies for some time. This is a world that has piqued your curiosity for many years, isn’t it?
I could say that I am the creator of a museum, the Muse del Corso, which includes masterpieces and works ranging from the fifteenth century to date, convinced as I am that art is timeless, a steady stream that starts from the mind and heart of man, which must be admired in its entirety.
I am proud to say that I have gathered in one museum works of art from the fifteenth century to those by world famous street artists whose works have brightened suburbs such as Tor Marancia. However, I regret to say that due to the bureaucracy of this country and particularly of this city which, for over five years has denied me the possibility to open to the public, free of charge, this exhibition space and even if I am paying all the expenses to restore it and make it accessible, this project has still not seen the light of day. Therefore, I included digitalisation in this museum project, which allows visitors to discover the contents and the history of the work of art by reading the app. I am convinced that digital technology is increasingly becoming a need.
I was born in an age when we dipped a nib pen in an inkwell yet today, I read the newspapers on a tablet; I teach Public Finance via telematics for the Università Telematica San Raffaele, having taught directly or, as they say, frontally, at the LUISS, Link Campus and the Università Europea of Rome and I attend Board Meeting and conferences via Zoom and Cisco Web Meeting platforms.
- Going back to art, do you have a project in mind that you would like to accomplish in the next few months?
Yes. I have been working intensely on a project that I would like to bring into being and give visibility to it, possibly before Alsoudani’s exhibition which I intend to hold next spring. The project I have in mind is to exhibit the works by Italian and international artists who were confined to their homes during lockdown and gave vent to their despair in an artistic way. I would really like this project and the title would be ‘Art does not stop even in the face of the pandemic’.