How did your vocation for collecting come into being??
My passion for art dates back to many years ago, even before my studies at the Brera Academy in Milan, which further fueled it. I love being immersed in beauty and, as I have always done, as soon as I had some money aside, I invested it in art pieces that match my personal taste.
Do you remember the first work that you acquired?
My collection is international both in terms of the artists I choose and their active period. It covers representations of the sacred from Ancient Egypt to contemporary art. Religious, sacred, primarily Christian, but touching on other cultures too – Indian, Buddhist, pre-Colombian…
The first piece to become part of my collection is an icon of St. Nicholas, which I bought 25 years ago at a beautiful market in Moscow that unfortunately no longer exists today. I keep this work in my bedroom, and never part with it.
Was the passion of art what led you to discover the world of glassmaking, and to purchase the oldest glasshouse in Murano?
I am half Venetian, since I spent long summers in Venice as a child, so the alchemy of glass has always fascinated me, it lives in me.
Barovier & Toso is one of the oldest firms in the world, it was established in 1300. It mainly produces lighting fixtures and lamps in traditional Venetian style, alongside remarkably contemporary pieces by collaborating with designers like Marcel Wanders.
While I respect Barovier & Toso’s brand and DNA, my goal is to broaden our collections with modern elements.
Just next to your artistic glasshouse in Murano, in Via dei Vetrai, you have opened a showroom with several lighting pieces that tell Barovier & Toso’s history. What is your goal?
Art should be shared as much as possible. Besides works that have made the history of glassmaking, the showroom hosts a selection of pieces from my own international contemporary art collection.
A straightforward message accessible to anyone, bridging the past and present.
What works did you include, and how did you select them?
I tried to create a visual path that would recall our company’s colors: white, black, gold, and blue.
The first piece is a commissioned work made by Brigitte Kowanz, an Austrian artist that was showcased at the second to last Venice Biennale.
Brigitte works with light, creating bright messages reflected in mirrors.
Her all-white work reproduces a key statement of our manifesto: ENLIGHTENING UNIQUENESS.
English artist Jason Martin is featured with two large total-black paintings, standing out for their heavy and tactile brush strokes.
From Danish artist Astrid Krogh, who is really close to design, I purchased My Golden Horizon, which I define as being on the verge between painting and sculpture. Completely coated in gold leaf, it recalls the mosaics of San Marco, and the gold leaf that traditionally decorates Venetian chandeliers.
One of my latest purchases is a gold-leaf work by Stefan Bruggemann, an intriguing Mexican artist.
How do you approach contemporary art?
When I take an interest in artists, I usually consider their whole body of work. I need to know their path well, and sometimes, even if I really like a piece, I will not purchase it if the artistic cycle does not match my choice criteria.
What artists do you appreciate the most at present?
There are contemporary artists that I particularly appreciate – a Chinese young man from Hong Kong, Mattheu Wong, a splendid artist who sadly committed suicide last year; and Ghanaian Amoako Boafo, whom I find incredibly skillful – I would even call him the new Egon Schiele, for his powerful portraits.
There is also Lucas Arruda, a Brazilian artist who paints small landscapes bordering on abstraction. Unfortunately, they have sky-high prices, so for now, I will only admire them from afar.
Collecting for oneself, or to share?
As I mentioned, art should always be shared. I always try to create opportunities to showcase my collection in shared spaces, and the Murano showroom clearly shows this calling of mine.
What makes the language of contemporary art, in your opinion?
I am personally not interested in much of contemporary art, such as political art. I believe the languages of theater or literature are more suitable to deal with politics. Similarly, I do not like works that express anguish, anxiety, or sadness.
I look for pieces that inspire peace, calm, hope, and that express beauty.
Your latest purchase?
Some stunning watercolors by Hermann Hesse, who spent the last ten years of his life in Montagnola, near Lugano, where a house museum can also be found. They are beautiful, serene, idyllic works that convey the strength of his powerful writing too.