Interview with Luigi Mazzoleni

Giovanni and Anna Olimpia began collecting art 50 years ago. They started with 20th century Italian works by artists like de Chirico, Savinio, Afro, Dorazio, Capogrossi, and Post-War artists. They sold works in order to buy others to both further enhancing their collection, and to support other innovative artists at early to mid stages in their careers. The couple then decided to turn their passion into an official business and became art dealers. They opened up a gallery in Turin in 1986. Today Giovanni and Anna are joined by their sons, Luigi and Davide. Together they have recently expanded their business to London where Luigi Mazzoleni is currently running the family’s newest gallery.

In an interview with Tharawat magazine, Luigi Mazzoleni spoke of Modern Italian art, his reasons for moving to London, and his family’s vision.

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Did you always know that you wanted to join the family business?

I’ve always been interested in art. I started working with my parents at the age of 27 and knew quickly on that being a gallerist was the career to pursue. My father was very passionate about his work and he taught me his approach to the art world with dedication and professionalism. In my line of work you need to love art above all. You must have a passion within because not even your family can transmit that to you.

What makes you passionate about art?

The Mazzoleni family is passionate about art! It’s always important to contextualize the artist and their art work in the era they lived in. The artists we work with – Post-War Italian and Arte Povera artists – fought for their passion beyond commercial and business reasons. It is now time that I try to give something back to them through museum-calibre gallery exhibitions and great projects and installations in global art fairs. Even though these artists were producing over 50 years ago, their work continues to appear incredibly contemporary, which goes to show how innovative they were for their time.

What was the reason for opening the new gallery in London? How do you expect this to impact your family business?

Having locations in both London and Turin has allowed us to expand our business. London is at the cutting edge of culture. In the last three decades it has become synonymous with both modern and contemporary art. London’s role in the art world is now well established. The art market is just one element in a highly developed infrastructure that incorporates leading institutions and a rich cultural landscape, which is greatly appealing to collectors and curators alike. A gallery here also allows us to reach collectors from further afield, such as the USA and Asia, who pass through the city for art fairs like Frieze and Masterpiece. At the same time, our gallery in Italy continues to reach southern European and Italian audiences. My family is completely committed to Italian art and we want an international public to be able to experience it.

What types of changes did you and you’re your brother make to business strategy when you joined your parents? Did you want to innovate or preserve the legacy?

Initially, our gallery was well known for Modern Italian art. My brother Davide and I played a role in enhancing our reputation for Post-War Italian artists. Certain artists, such as Piero Manzoni and Paolo Scheggi, died in their early 30s, and their production was consequently limited. It was therefore quite challenging to find the right works. My parents were able to acquire works by Agostino Bonalumi, Alberto Burri, Enrico Castellani, and Lucio Fontana, amongst others. They supported them through exhibitions in our gallery and developed important relationships with each artist, which has enabled us to continue exhibiting them abroad. Davide and I also expanded the gallery programme to include Arte Povera, with key exhibitions by artists such as Alighero Boetti and Mario Merz. We have strengthened the gallery’s presence on the international market and have reached out to new collectors by participating in important arts fairs in New York, Hong Kong and Switzerland.

What are your work dynamics in the business? Who does what? How do you communicate across countries?

I am now based in London and direct the London gallery with a team here. My parents and Davide continue to live in Turin. Together, all four of us develop a curatorial programme of exhibitions and oversee sales, and liaise with artists and their foundations. Turin is a short flight away from London, so I regularly travel back so we can meet in person, as a family, to discuss our business. Technology also keeps us connected – email, Skype, WhatsApp, etc.

Do you believe that you achieved your good reputation in the art industry partly due to the fact that you are a family business?

Our good reputation has developed throughout the years because we have always been attentive to the state of the art we offer. The excellent condition and rarity of the works has always been outstanding, therefore our clients have continued to support us.

What are your plans for Mazzoleni? Are you planning to spread the family further around the world?

We are doing more global art fairs than ever before. For now we are focussing on Post-War Italian art, but I am also interested in contemporary art and hope to eventually develop a Contemporary Italian art programme at the London gallery.

Tharawat Magazine, Issue 25, 2015