Benjamin Senior, Pink Interior, 2013. Benjamin Senior, Pink Interior, 2013. Courtesy of Monica De Cardenas, Milan

Discovering Italy's new 'young masters'

Italy's art scene was once the greatest in the world, but in recent years the country has failed to produce new skills. We meet the curators discovering the talent of tomorrow

Let’s face it, gilts and shares are not exactly conversation-stoppers, and there is even a limit to the fascination of gold. Contemporary art, on the other hand, offers lots of advantages. You and your guests can admire it on the wall while it gradually accumulates value, which it will, particularly if you have succeeded in putting your money on a superstar artist before he or she became so. The problem is, how do you find the right artist?

Less of a problem if your surname is something like Prada or Bertelli. Their Fondazione Prada in Milan is arguably the most significant contemporary art opening in Italy this year, a superb refurbishment of what was previously a distillery in the southern suburbs, with design by the OMA studio led by Rem Koolhaas. It incorporates part of the Prada Collection but goes much further, with a whole series of fascinating exhibitions. The spacious premises, superb design and attractive facilities, including Cinema, the Bar Luce and the Library, make this unmissable for anyone with an interest in contemporary art.

PradaFondazione Prada in Milan

Some collectors have a long history behind them. The Antinori family, famous for their Chianti wines, have been collecting art from 1385, and today a part of their collection can be seen in the magnificent new winery inaugurated in 2012, together with temporary exhibitions. The restaurant Rinuccio 1180 and the wine shop make this a full-bodied excursion into the world of taste.

If you’d like to develop your own collection, in Italy you’re spoilt for choice. There are many contemporary art galleries who make it their mission to hunt out the big names of tomorrow. It’s an effervescent market: as Clara Sofia Rosenberg (Alberto Peola Arte Contemporanea, Turin) says, “The contemporary art market is still lively and dynamic, as demonstrated by auction results. Unfortunately, many collectors seem to be more interested in the investment opportunities rather than in the cultural value of works.”

AntironiAntinori family Collection

All of the galleries that we spoke to could provide examples of artists who have progressed from ‘new’ to ‘celebrated.’ For example, Monica De Cardenas of the like-named gallery in Milan says, “From the start, I presented young, emerging artists, who have gone on to become world-famous, reaching very high prices, such as Thomas Struth, Stephan Balkenhol and Alex Katz.” Lorenzo Poggiali, of Galleria Poggiali e Forconi, Florence, highlights “Fabio Viale, a sculptor not yet 40, who has reached fame as a result of the quality and surprise offered by his works, that seem to be in wood, rubber tyres, polystyrene or paper, but that are actually all made from marble. Some of his latest works include imposing pieces with classical subjects tattooed with motifs used by Russian criminal organizations.” And Raffaella Cortese, whose gallery is in Milan, said “I can mention Zoe Leonard, to whom the New York MoMA is dedicating an important exhibition this year, inaugurated on 27 June.”

Luca-Pignatelli

Galleria Poggiali e Forconi

And what about the safety of your investment? Without doubt, established galleries provide a degree of reassurance. Lorenzo Poggiali says, “I think that the security and profitability of investment in the contemporary art market are increasing considerably at the present time, and they are much higher than a few years ago.” The directors of Rome-based gallery T293 provide some useful guidelines: “Even though it can be dangerous to launch into a complex market such as that of contemporary art, working with consolidated galleries provides an assurance of making a good investment. You just have to remember that in art, you have to be patient and invest in the long term, looking at the most experimental areas and seeking advice from experts.”

1 Fondazione Prada
2 Antinori nel Chianti Classico
3 Alberto Peola Arte Contemporanea
4 Monica De Cardenas
5 Galleria Poggiali e Forconi
6 Raffaella Cortese
7 T293