Words, voice and dialogue – vis à vis Patrizia Sandretto

In this second part of WoMA’s exclusive interview with Patrizia Sandretto, President of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, you may indeed deepen and further understand the role of Contemporary Art in today’s society, and how the work and commitment of key personalities like Patrizia Sandretto, have contributed to the art system, and above all to the creation of paths of growth, reflection and learning that enrich the invaluable human and symbolic capital.

(You can find the first part of the interview here.)

WoMA: What are the main difficulties in managing a Contemporary Art Foundation?

I would not use the word difficulties, but rather challenges, which relate to the quality of our activities and thus to the exhibition planning and to all that concerns the latter: the educational offer, with labs dedicated to children, schools, teachers, families and youth; accessibility as a right of everyone; cultural mediation as an instrument to approach artworks together with our adult and elder audience. The challenge for a Foundation like ours also concerns the innovation, experimentation and the research spirit that I wish to define all of our proposals. Of course there are also economic issues, which have been particularly urgent in these years of strong reduction in public and private resources. Also in this case, we look for answers by taking new paths, looking for new partnerships and betting on the ability of the Foundation of acting as a model to increase patronage of the contemporary culture.

WoMA: In an ideal world we can think of “Art for Art’s Sake”. In the reality however, museums and art galleries find it difficult to cover management costs. How do you reconcile the economic needs of the Foundation with its cultural aspects?

The Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation is a not-for-profit institution. The main part of our resources have a private origin, mostly from my family. We do not have any type of commercial business and the revenues from the entrance fees of our visitors amounts to a very small part of our comprehensive needs, as is common in every museum of the world, with a few famous exceptions like the Louvre, the Metropolitan and the Vatican Museums.

The Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation is an independent institution: its statutory goals have a cultural, and I would also say “ethic”, nature and they concern the support to young artistic generations and attention to public needs. In order to share these objectives we have started important collaborations with Piedmont Region, CRT Foundation and Compagnia San Paolo, especially as far as education and development are concerned. A high quality cultural offer has always been my primary objective.

WoMA: How do you choose which are the artists to be exhibited and which artworks to be produced?

For the Collection, I buy in art galleries but often the choice originates even earlier, through the dialogue with the artist. A collection is like a tale, that moves through episodes, meetings, a red thread that connects the biography of the collector to that of the artists, in their studies, in their cities. Collecting is somehow like exploring, drawing one’s own map of the world.

For the choices regarding the Foundation and its cultural and exhibitive program I take advantage of my team: curators firstly but also a wide range of professional figures in the fields of communication, mobilisation of artworks, exhibition setup and education planning.

Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation
Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation

WoMA: Turin is a city rich in cultural stimuli. For instance, it is the birthplace of the Arte Povera movement. Does this affect the choice of the artists exhibited in the Foundation?

Not directly. The Arte Povera belongs with full rights to the history of art of the last decades and naturally affected my development, as a specific inclination, as well as in the field of art collection. The collections of Marcello Levi and Marco Rivetti’s (with famous artworks by Mario Merz, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Giulio Paolini, Giuseppe Penone, which were bought right in the years when the artists were making them) have represented for me an important model. I had the honour of partecipating with them to the Collezionismo a Torino. Le opere di sei collezionisti d’Arte Contemporanea (Art Collecting in Turin. The artworks of six collectors of Contemporary Art), which was curated by Ida Gianelli in 1996 at the Castle of Rivoli. It is also thanks to their guidance that I managed to focus from the very beginning on the direction that I wanted my Collection to take: being in direct contact with artists, as well as the ability of gambling on young generations rather than on historically accomplished names and values.

WoMA: The Foundation invites three curators from abroad every year. What are the motivations behind this choice?

Ten years ago the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation opened a residence for young foreign curators, thought of both as a moment of development and as a journey lasting four months, during which the curators travel all around Italy, visiting artists’ studios, museums and private collections. It is a way to create a direct link between young professional figures from all over the world with the latest artistic generations working in our country. The program ends with an exhibition dedicated to Italian art, so that in a decade of time we can speak of a proper cycle of exhibitions and thus of a large archive of artworks and artists. The motivations underlying the program have a double aim. On one hand, to provide specialised training to the curator, who is a key figure in the system of Contemporary Art; on the other, to increase the opportunities of knowledge, detailed study and movement of young Italian art.

WoMA: What is the role of the cultural mediators in the Foundation? What led you in creating this character?

Cultural mediation is a free service, always available in the exhibition rooms, thought of to help visitors in understanding the artworks and artistic researches through dialogue and confrontation. The mediators provide information in a discursive way, at the same time informal but extremely competent, thanks to the specific training to which they constantly undergo.

One of the key concepts of the Foundation is that of cultural citizenship; meant not as an abstraction, rather as the mission of an institution that fully trusts the ability of Contemporary Art in creating paths of growth, reflection and learning that go beyond its merely visual and aesthetic qualities. A vis à visrelationship with the individual visitor or with a small group, thanks to the methodology of the mediation, transforms our exhibition in a space of words, voice and dialogue. 

Anna Aglietta