When Art Poses Us Questions – vis à vis Patrizia Sandretto

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo can be truly considered an art lover. Arts became her life, first when she started her own collection, now one of the richest in Italy, and then from 1995 with the opening of the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation. Its mission is to promote a deeper understanding of contemporary art and to help young artists in developing their own vision.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Patrizia Sandretto, who offered us a key insight into the complexities and challenges that she, in her role of President of such an institution, faces every day.

WoMA: Why have you decided to dedicate yourself to Contemporary Art? Having a degree in Business, becoming an art collector is not the most obvious choice…

Collecting is part of my DNA. As a child, I used to accumulate pillboxes which I patiently recorded one by one on a small notebook.

My great passion for Contemporary Art was born in 1992 thanks to a trip to London. There I began visiting artists’ studios and art galleries, in a moment during which the city was living a season of great artistic dynamism. I still remember fondly the meeting with Anish Kapoor and the time spent in his studio, in front of his series of unforgettable sculptures with pigments: the reds, yellows and blues, they were all very intense. Experiences like that one put me at ease with the emotions, the thoughts, the life experiences which were expressed in the artworks of those artists I was continuously spending time with. The desire to know Contemporary Art is what led me to start the Collection and, shortly later, in 1995, to found the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo.

WoMA: If you had to convince someone of the need of promoting arts and culture, of educating Italian audiences on something that may be perceived as irrelevant, which arguments would you use?

Contemporary Art is an important instrument to understand the current culture and the time in which we live. The artworks of the artists induce us to reflect and help us live with more awareness our present time. Today as well as in the past, arts and culture make our experience of the world much more complex and rich. They do not give us ready answers or easily understandable frameworks, rather they pose us fundamental questions, they destroy prejudices and stereotypes, offering us alternative ways of observing reality.

Our country has to mature a greater awareness of the value of art – not only that of the past -, of the need of considering it as heritage of our national identity, an element that is necessary for the growth of our individual life and civil coexistence.

WoMA: You also organise many educational programs. What do you want to communicate to today’s children? How can you put them in contact with Contemporary Art, which is often hard to understand even for educated adults?

Children are definitely more open than adults. In this case the level of education does not affect comprehension and, most importantly, the harmony which allows them to get in touch with the artworks. In the mornings I often observe classes during the laboratories that, in the Foundation, take place directly in the exhibition rooms. Children, even the youngest ones, are able to “get into” the images, to travel through a photography, to move between the surfaces of paints. They are extremely ready and “agile”. They are not slowed down by prejudices and rigidities.

Education to contemporary art is one of the values of the Foundation, which, since its birth in 1995, has an internal education department that plans and offers differentiated programs depending on the age segment of its beneficiaries. Schools in the first place (over 3000 classes have been in the Foundation to take part to lab activities since 2002, including teachers, students and educators all together), from the primary one to the university level, but also families. The program “Domeniche al museo” (Sundays at the museum) for families takes place once a month, it is a chance to live the exhibition, the artworks, the space in an interactive and playful way. It brings to our rooms groups of parents, children, grandparents and friends, all of whom are invited to spend an afternoon in shared activities, created to improve the dialogue between the child and the adult. 

WoMA: The Foundation was born over twenty years ago. How did the artistic environment and the way people relate to art change since then, both from the perspective of the public and of the artists?

When I created the Foundation twenty years ago the art world was definitely smaller, concentrated in few important cities, especially European and North American ones. Today, arts live the phenomenon of globalisation intensively: the system has changed scale, and the number of artists, museums, galleries and operators have increased exponentially. Above all, there has been an increase in the number of large exhibitions like the Biennale, which perfectly reflect an extended geography, including areas that were considered before as peripheral and marginal. It is a bigger world, more democratic and complex, with many branches, that requires from those who work within it to constantly update and study, as well as the willingness to be always ready to travel. I cannot afford to be nostalgic of the past and thus I am open to changes, to novelties. The Foundation requires me to be able to project myself in the future and this is what I try to do every day.

Anna Aglietta