Collector’s Diary: Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Reflects on Her Grand Tour of Europe This Past Summer

The arrival of spring brought back the possibility to start traveling again and mapping out new paths and itineraries on the routes of contemporary art.

Reuniting with new artworks and old friends—artists, collectors, curators, and gallerists—from all over the world was hugely emotional for me, like picking up the thread after the fragmentary experiences of the past almost three years.

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April was the month of Venice, with the opening of the 59th Biennale, which curator Cecilia Alemani placed under the poetic title “The Milk of Dreams.” This precise and intense exhibition takes us into a surreal space, dense with visions, outlining an imagery that associates art with Earth and metamorphoses. I came across artists on whom I started building my collection 30 years ago: Rosemarie Trockel, Louise Lawler, Barbara Kruger, Katharina Fritsch. Along the way, I immersed myself in time capsules, similar to historic wunderkammern, meeting my beloved Carol Rama in the “Witch’s Cradle” section. From there, I passed under dead dance, a nearly 150-foot-long overhead installation by Giulia Cenci at the Arsenale, to whose production I contributed. I found works by a number of artists that I have been following for years with love and interest: Andra Ursuța, Jana Euler, Christina Quarles, Marguerite Humeau, June Crespo, Sandra Mujinga, and Louise Bonnet. In the Giardini, I admired Simone Leigh’s precious sculptures in the US Pavilion; in the French Pavilion, I found myself immersed in Zineb Sedira’s film sets; in the British Pavilion, entrusted to Sonia Boyce, I walked through a large multimedia installation, comprising videos, sounds, and sculptural objects.

This Biennale in particular was important to me because on April 21 I realized my own dream of launching a new location for the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo on the island of San Giacomo, a small strip of land in the Venetian lagoon. For their performance in the tired watering, Jota Mombaça laid the foundation stone in a place for the new venue which I intend to dedicate to the production of artistic projects, designed to host research and discourse on art, music, cinema, theater, and contemporary culture.

A few weeks later, Frieze New York was a wonderful opportunity to finally fly overseas and catch up with friends and visit galleries and museums. Among others, I visited this year’s Whitney Biennial, “Quiet as It’s Kept.” I took the exhibition’s title as an invitation—and a warning. Quiet, silence, and, at the same time, the sense of the secret and the repressed that this colloquial expression carries. The exhibition opens up a reflective dimension and questions the current meaning of “American.” Among the works that struck me most were 06.01.2020 18.39 by Alfredo Jaar; A Day Is a Day, Yto Barrada’s film installation on the ideas of motherhood, inheritance, and subjectivity; Alex Da Corte’s video ROY G BIV, which tells a story of love, loss, and transformation; Little Island, an interesting green monolithic sculpture by the very young Aria Dean; and the beautiful painting The Guiding Light by Harold Ancart. Artists of different generations explore stories and geographies in all their layers and complexities.

Three images collaged onto a sunset photo mountains, showing a greenish painting of the moon reflected on the sea, three people posing for a photo, and a group assembled in a old plaza as someone reads from a microphone.
Clockwise from top: Harold Ancart’s The Guiding Light (2021) featured in the 2022 Whitney Biennial; Hans Ulrich Obrist, Michael Armitage, and Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo at the Fondazione Beyeler, Basel; and Jota Mombaça (front left) performing in the tired watering on San Giacomo island in Venice, future site of the new location of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo.

With the beginning of June, two exhibitions of works from my collection took me to my beloved Spain, to the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Seville and the Patio Herreriano in Valladolid, with around 60 artists, 30 of them women, exhibited in each museum. I took the opportunity to pass by the Prado to see Philippe Parreno’s new work, a film about the last works of Francisco Goya. The film is introduced by specially composed music by Juan Manuel Artero that gives it a ghostly and intimate feeling.

Before heading to Kassel, Germany, for Documenta 15, I dedicated a few days to Art Basel, with a careful visit to the stands of major international galleries, to breathe in the latest trends. Despite the current complexity of the geopolitical scenario, this year’s exhibition was once again exceptional and successful. As a collector, I look forward to Art Basel all year and experience it as a truly essential time to discover.

The fair offers a detailed map of 289 international galleries—an incredible number—giving visibility to their work, which is indispensable to the art ecosystem. Art Basel is huge, and there is a good energy, with a lot of painting on offer and great installations.

As always, I visited the Unlimited section of Art Basel on Monday with great pleasure: here, I lingered over Andrea Zittel’s A-Z Uniforms presented by Regen Projects; Isa Genzken’s installation presented by Neugerriemschneider and also shown at Skulptur Projekte Münster in 2007; and Ursuţa’s Vandal Lust presented by David Zwirner, an impressive installation that I decided to acquire for the collection. Later that day, I visited the Liste fair with great interest. I missed the chaotic energy of previous editions at the fair’s former home in a disused brewery, but appreciated the proximity to the Messe, where Art Basel takes place, and the linearity of the layout.

Two images collaged onto a sunset photo mountains, showing an installation view of a large museum with dozens of mannequins installed in rows with clothes and a black-and-white photo of Black Lives Matter protesters standing in front of a police line wearing riot gear.
Top, Andrea Zittel’s A-Z Personal Uniforms, 2nd Decade: Fall/Winter 2003–Spring/Summer 2013 on view at Regen Projects’s
booth at Art Basel Unlimited. Bottom, a still from Alfredo Jaar’s video 06.01.2020 18.39, 2022, in the Whitney Biennial.

Tuesday morning is the time for the main section of Art Basel. I started on the first floor: among the highlights were a new abstract work by Tauba Auerbach from Standard (Oslo); Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler’s booth featuring new works by Ambera Wellmann, Klára Hosnedlová, and Katja Novitskova, whose new site-specific sculpture will be inaugurated in the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Art Park in the fall; and Daniela Ortiz’s puppet show performance about European bureaucracy, courtesy Laveronica arte contemporanea, in the fair’s Statements section.

As always, the city is full of great exhibitions, among which I visit the exhibition of Michael Armitage, an artist I have been collecting and following since 2015, at the Kunsthalle. His exhibition occupies the Kunsthalle’s entire ground floor with works created in the last two years, undoubtedly an exhibition not to be missed. The extraordinary Mondrian solo exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler, which traces the evolution of the artist’s work and celebrates the 150th anniversary of his birth, deserves a special mention.

Upon arriving in Kassel, I immediately had the feeling that I had entered another world. Recently opened, Documenta 15, curated by the Jakarta-based collective ruangrupa, is a radical exhibition, a platform for experimentation from which I expected a reflection on the very idea of the biennial format and large-scale exhibitions. Based on the link between art and activism, Documenta 15 takes a stance, touching on open and sensitive issues, some of them unresolved and divisive. The very heated debate over allegations of anti-Semitism that it has raised should be followed closely because it concerns the relationship between art and politics, art and history, reflecting in a certain sense the dramatic and conflicting times we are living through.

Finally, I arrived in Athens where I visited an exhibition of beautiful works from the collection of Dimitris Daskalopoulos, and an exhibition devoted to the work of Kaari Upson at the Deste Foundation that really moved me. I reached the island of Hydra aboard the marvelous yacht Guilty, designed by Jeff Koons for collector Dakis Joannou. Here, in the evocative spaces of the Slaughterhouse, framed by the sea, I visited Apollo, Jeff Koons’s latest incredible project. Thanks to Dakis Joannou, among friends, collectors, artists, and gallery owners, we celebrated the summer solstice in these magical places, before we all meet again at the next occasion. 

A version of this article appears in the 2022 edition of ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors issue, under the title “Surreal Reunions.”


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