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“Arts and culture make our experience of the world more complex”. An interview with Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

EIKON Magazine #88/2014

Sábado 13 de diciembre de 2014, por Montse Badia

Patrizia Sandretto is an outstanding collector. She began her collection in the 90s and soon her interests focused on photography and media art. President of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, in the following interview she speaks about her interest in media art, her relationship with artists and her active and committed role in the art world not only as a collector but also a promoter of projects.

Montse Badia: You are one of the most active persons in the art world nowadays, would you define yourself as a collector or do you think your role in the arts is much broader than this?

Patrizia Sandretto: From the start of my activity as a collector, I felt the need to reach a wider audience and to be more actively involved in processes in the contemporary art world—not only to make my collection accessible to the public but to create a platform for the creation and development of contemporary art—a place, or better still, an institution that could be of service to both the artists and the general public.

MB: The mission of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is to become “an observatory for research and production of the most exciting avant-garde art”. How do you think this is possible in our global world? What are the guidelines of the Foundation to do its research and to identify and highlight the artistic discourses that are shown in their venues?

PS: Since the Foundation was established, which is now going on 20 years, the art world has changed a great deal. It has expanded to include many different and new geographical and cultural contexts. We have aimed to address this with our exhibition program, with exhibitions such as Alllooksame. Contemporary art from China, Korea and Japan and with Modernikon, which showcased contemporary art from Russia. In cases like this, it is important for us to work with local art institutions like ours, who help and lead us in our research for the shows.

MB: You have been collecting since the 90s, and at an early stage your interests went in the direction of photography and media art. How do you think these media are related to and defining our present?

PS: My collection was born at a time when photography, video and installation were big and I spontaneously became very interested in all three media in relation to art production. Compared to more traditional methods such as painting and sculpture, video and photography are not only means of expression that exist in art but also most definitely the means of communication used on a daily basis by the masses. In this sense, they are more connected, more in touch with the contemporary world and in some cases more able to analyze and understand it.

MB: You not only collect but also commission and produce art works and projects as well, most of them using video and new media. What does it mean for you to produce a new work?

PS: Producing new works is always challenging, surprising and an exciting way of being actively involved in artistic processes. This can come about in different ways. Sometimes, we produce works for artists who are taking part in our exhibitions. At other times, artists will come to us with their ideas and proposals for new ambitious projects. In cases like this, I work with my curators to decide which projects are worth supporting.

MB: These productions sometimes take part in international events, such as the Venice Biennale or Documenta, do you think this is the natural evolution of the role of the patron?

PS: I believe that as patrons of the arts we have a duty to do as much as we can for artists and also for the major art shows. Often, in fact, internationally acclaimed exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale have small production budgets, but it is important that new work is introduced into these major events. For the latest documenta, for example, Carolyn Christov Bakargiev asked me to support the production of a new film by the artist Wael Shawky, so he could produce his second film in the Cabaret Crusades series, a proposal that I accepted with great enthusiasm!

MB: Fondazione Sandretto also supports young international curators. I would like you to explain this program a little bit as well as its relation to Italian art.

PS: Every year three young foreign curators are invited to Italy in order to organize an exhibition. Participants are selected by an international jury from the best international schools for curators. The three curators spend four months travelling in Italy; they meet with artists and visit galleries, museums and private collections in Milan, Venice, Rome, Bologna, Naples and Palermo. The program culminates in an exhibition of Italian artists at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin. The residency aims to favour research into the Italian artistic scene.

MB: You are also a partner of the Torino Film Festival. How do you see the two-way relation between art and film, the interest and influence of cinema o n contemporary artists or even the special case of Steve McQueen, with whom you have been working, who is developing a double career as an artist and a film-maker?

PS: Artists who use video have always seen film as a font of inspiration, an expressive example of different ways of looking at the world. The thing that is interesting today is the fact that artists have decided to make films themselves, investigating the language of cinema. Steve McQueen’s case is special, as he, unlike other artists, seems to have found his own cinematographic aesthetic, which still has ties with his work as an artist but which also stands alone as a great example of contemporary film.

MB: You also organize exhibitions for other venues outside Torino, as you did recently in Barcelona, at the Foundation Godia, where you presented a total of eight videos and video installations under the title La mirada comprometida (the compromised gaze). From this exhibition, your collection could be defined as engaged, media-based and related to social and political issues. Do you think these three aspects are at the core of your collection?

PS: Yes, there are certain aspects which are central to the policies behind our acquisition, production and presentation of works and artists. The aforementioned Steve McQueen and Wael Shawky are examples of the kind of artistic practice that we are interested in following and promoting, an experimental and innovative visual point of view that raises important issues about the social and political aspects of today’s world.

MB: What do you think is the role of art and culture in society nowadays?

PS: Today, as in the past, arts and culture make our experience of the world more complex. Art does not offer any answers or easy ways to interpret, but it does highlight and discuss serious issues affecting out world today, offering alternative ways of looking at the world and the ways we live.