Interview on ArtsLife | March 2022

The connection between art and the market is paramount for analyzing and understanding the intricate system of contemporary art. The market includes of course the auction market and the small number of big names who share the largest piece of the cake; moreover, it also counts several collectors who maintain a direct relationship with galleries, curators and artists or companies. Their aim is not merely speculation, but rather building a cultural and research fabric that would prove essential for the development of a wide and multidisciplinary entrepreneurial vision.

In this regard, here is an interesting discussion with Nicola Ronchetti, Founder & CEO of FINER Finance Explorer, a financial research institute and think tank that, since its foundation in 2018, observes with an attentive eye the art market and the system that gravitates around it.

Why is a company like yours interested in contemporary art and thus in widening its cultural perspectives to seemingly different worlds?

The interplay between money and art has very old roots. From 1500 onwards, the financial dimension of art has been modulated depending on the times and habits, with patronage, commissions, collecting and speculation. Today, such interplay has become particularly dense and complex, part and parcel of a world driven by globalization and monetization.

What happens then to the notion of ‘value’ when the aesthetic or cultural quality of an art object is linked to its price? What is the role of big collectors (Arnaud, Pinault, etc.) and international finance in determining the itineraries of art and its legitimization?

In addition to its emotional and cultural value and it being the highest means of communication, art has always had a material value which connects it inextricably to finance.

Art has become an asset class characterized by noteworthy performances. However, contrarily to other asset classes, art is the only one to combine objective and subjective factors, such as taste, experience, and emotion. In fact, most great collections are the result of a long process of research, selection and study and were not born out of a speculative intent.

The art market used to feature an important barrier to entry represented by its illiquidity/absence of a structured quotation system. Such barrier has been gradually reduced by digitalization and the advent of marketplaces that today represent 25% of the market.

Does investing in art amount to only acquiring artworks? Or does it also include the promotion of cultural events such as exhibitions, meetings, workshops etc.? What initiatives and artists have you been investing in lately?

As researchers and explorers of the market, we wish primarily to promote occasions of study and research. Two years ago, we organized a roundtable in which academics, experts of US culture and professionals working for bank foundations and the auction market discussed together, yet from different perspectives, about some of the most meaningful issues characterizing the connection between art and the market, beginning with the iconic figure of finance and collecting, J. Pierpont Morgan.

Last year, we devoted our efforts to the study of the interactions between art, finance, solidarity, and sustainability. We once again dwelled on the ancient bond between the world of economy and art, a bond that includes philanthropy and solidarity. A notable example are the two specular experiences of the Foundling Hospital in 18th-century London and the establishment in the 16th century of Orfanotrofi Martinitt e Stelline, both conceived as a way to offer a home and a community to orphans. In time, both venues have become a place of dialogue between art, enterprise, and solidarity.

Of course, we could not resist the temptation to invest in art, if in quite an eclectic way. We have invested in sculptures created by renown Italian artists like Pietro Consagra, Giò Pomodoro and Fausta Squatriti, contemporary artists like the Belgian Mishka Henner, the Serbian Sanja Milenkovic, but also the Italians Beatrice Gelmetti, Gianna Moise, Daniele Fortuna, Raffaele Barbuto and Severino Salvemini. The latter launched the degree in Economics and Management of Arts, Culture and Communication at Università Bocconi and embodies, with his watercolors, the conversation between art and economy.

Does your relationship with art follow a planned strategy? Or do you consider different ventures each time?

Our relationship with art is fully unstructured. We tend to follow our passion and curiosity in the search for manifest or hidden treasures. We have recently paid a fascinating visit to the Maramotti collection. The family embodies three passions at once: art, fashion (Max Mara) and finance (Gruppo Credem).

We have also been pleasantly surprised by our visit to a studio in the outskirts of Milan which hosts a group of thirty-year-old artists. Among them, Adelisa Selimbasic, Lucia Cristiani, Francesco Pacelli, Lorenzo Lunghi and Bislacchi (a.k.a. Matteo Santacroce).

Moreover, in Casalbeltrame in the province of Novara we have recently found an unexpected venue where Nicola Loi, a solitary and kind art merchant and patron, collects with love and passion hundreds of sculptures by Floriano Bodini, Marino Marini, Giacomo Manzù, Augusto Perez, Arnaldo and Giò Pomodoro, Giuliano Vangi, Piergiorgio Colombara, Francesco Messina and many others, the result of over forty years of research.

Moreover, we engage almost daily in conversations with curators, gallerists, collectors, bankers and startuppers.

Ongoing projects? Future projects?

From 25 March to 24 April, the space Scalo Lambrate (Milan) is going to host “Il meglio della fotografia italiana contemporanea,” the first exhibition by Galleria Indice, a startup and benefit company. The exhibition, curated by Andrea Tinterri and Luca Zuccala, organized by STATE OF and supported by FINER Finance Explorer and Istituto Italiano di Fotografia, explores the world of the contemporary image through the works of sixteen artists: Mattia Balsamini, Fabio Barile, Fabrizio Bellomo, Silvia Bigi, Alessandro Calabrese, Marina Caneve, Nicolò Cecchella, Giorgio Di Noto, Rachele Maistrello, Silvia Mariotti, Allegra Martin, Jacopo Rinaldi, Alessandro Sambini, Caterina Erica Shanta, Jacopo Valentini, Emilio Vavarella.

We don’t know what the future holds, after all you never know if you will find art or if art will find you.