Mario Mazzoleni ranks as one of the most renowned gallerists in Italy and the greatest collector of Andy Warhol’s works. But he would still save his family first in a house fire. “I am not materialistic.”, claims Mazzoleni. At what point he considers a picture to be too expensive, what makes Warhol such an exceptional artist and why his passion for art collection does not replace a lack of motherly love.
Mr Mazzoleni, do you remember the first work of art that you purchased?
I remember it very well. It was a beautiful drawing on wood from Gianfranco Ferroni, a prominent Italian painter. I bought it directly from him, with my savings; I was fifteen at the time.
Sotheby’s grossed a record price of 157 million dollars last year for the painting „Nu couché “(to the left) from Amedeo Modigliani. Is that not absurd?
The art market is evolving more and more in this direction. I would not say absurd but certainly exaggerated. As long as there are interested parties willing to pay that sort of money for a painting, there will be prices of this magnitude. I like the fact that there are people who would rather pay these amounts of money for a piece of art than for a yacht.
When does a picture become too expensive?
When the price exceeds the quality. Unfortunately these days art is more about marketing and less about technique. I see an abundance of improvisation, in particular in the case of young artists. Major galleries are encouraging critics, who feel an affinity to works that have little substance. A good balance is important. The quality should justify the price.
Have you ever paid too much for a picture?
No, my foundation is extremely vigilant with regards to price and quality.
Which piece of art shaped your understanding of art in the long term?
I was born in Caravaggio’s country. Even as a child I was fascinated by his sculptures. In my opinion Caravaggio is the greatest artist of all.
Another artist who you hold in high regard: Andy Warhol. What makes his work so special?
Warhol was a genius. Eccentric and talented. I had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions. His works have become increasingly popular for collectors over the years. More than anyone else he understood how to make marketing work for his creations. But that required a lot of skill. He strongly influenced the contemporary art scene. The idea of the factory was simply brilliant and led to a series of similar projects throughout the whole world. It is unfortunate that he was a one-off. The world needs a thousand Andy Warhols.
Is there still one piece of his art that you simply have to have?
I would claim to already have his most interesting works and relicts. Starting with Michael Jackson‘s guitar, signed by the pop star and Warhol personally, to the invitation sent to Marilyn Monroe for the exhibition at Castelli’s gallery, through to Mao. My last acquisition was a purple coloured electric chair, the 85th from a total of 250 copies. A beautiful, historical work.
Is it objectionable to collect art for purely financial interests, without understanding its beauty?
Yes, absolutely. I cannot understand how someone can view art as merely a commodity. I only purchase and collect art works that thrill me and that tell a story. I would never exhibit a painting in my gallery, which I don’t like or that does not convey a message.
What do you say to Sigmund Freud‘s theory: Collectors are compensating for the deprivation they suffered as a child due to a lack of maternal love?
I admire Sigmund Freud, a great thinker, and of course he was right. For my part I can only say that it is pure passion. I grew up with pictures under my bed. I always lived and breathed art, it has been implanted in me, do you understand? And for this reason my foundation means so much to me, it is about creating my own museum to give the younger generation an understanding of art, to make it available to them free-of-charge.
It has been proven that creative people are less aggressive. If we give young people an understanding of art, can we impel them to create art themselves?
I constantly see so many pieces of art and buildings that have been destroyed by vandals without any respect for our past and culture. Young people are often distracted by the wrong things, they prefer a tablet to a book, would rather go to the shopping centre than to a museum. That’s exactly why museums should be free-of-charge for all those under 21 years of age.
Because if you understand art, you affirm life, at least its beauty?
Exactly. Art is emotion, it is life. It is our duty to love it.
Photos Copyrights: Mario Mazzoleni LDS