THE PHILIPPINES and Italy share the same dilemma when it comes to art: their governments doesn’t care much about it. But our shared problem stops here, because as an Italian art critic and curator who recently visited the county said, Italian politicians are only apprehensive to fully embrace contemporary art because they don’t understand it. Here, meanwhile, politicians aren’t very keen in prioritizing arts and culture at all.
“The politicians are very conservative and not aware [of contemporary arts] so politicians resist funding contemporary arts,” said Italian curator and art critic Ludovico Pratesi during a lecture about museums of contemporary art (a category which covers works from the 1960s until the present) and modern art (a category which covers works from the 1880s to the 1960s) in Italy.
Mr. Pratesi delivered his talk at the Artinformal gallery in Makati on Nov. 7. He was in the country upon the invitation of Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Giorgio Guglielmino.
The director of the Guastalla Foundation for Contemporary Art in Italy, Mr. Pratesi said there are 26 public contemporary art museums in Italy, which is one considerable difference with the art scene in the Philippines where the public art museums — the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Gallery, and the National Museum — are not dedicated solely to contemporary art.
One of Italy’s public contemporary art museums is the Maxxi Museum in Rome, which is the first Italian national institution devoted to contemporary creativity. It receives financial assistance from the state and from private sponsors.
With 300 art collections of works from the 1960s onwards, the Maxxi receives 300,000 visitors a year.
Meanwhile, the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome is home to more than 20,000 art works from 1850 to 2000. Like the Maxxi, it is financed by the Italian State.
“Some millennials go here to take selfies in some unrestricted areas, and it’s okay,” said Mr. Pratesi.
He added that there’s a “great and growing interest for contemporary art in young people.”
The contemporary and modern art museums are not only found in big cities like Milan and Venice, but also in the provinces.
Home to the largest collection of Italian Futurist art, the MART is located in Rovereto, a city in Northern Italy. It opened in 2002 and has 20,000 art works dating back to the 1800. It’s financed by sponsors and the regional government.
As in the Philippines, Mr. Pratesi said the subjects of contemporary art in Italy are include cultural criticism, terrorism, and fascism, among others. “But they’re never direct. I think, probably, the last generation [of artists] is never direct, but [they work] in a lateral way.”
Also, like what’s happening locally, the grassroots galleries run by Italian artists and curators share the same financial problems when it comes to sustaining their small spaces. Mr. Pratesi said they usually close after five years of operation because of lack of funding.
While these galleries are financially challenged, there’s a growing number of foundations or privately owned museums in Italy. Their owners could be lawyers, collectors, people in the art industry, or aristocratic families, said Mr. Pratesi.
Since 2000, more than 20 (and counting) foundations have started up in Italy, including Fondazione Prada in Venice and in Milan. Owned by the Prada corporation, Fondazione Prada opened in 2015 and has more than 3,000 works from 1945 until the present.
“Culture has always been public for decades and centuries, and private things are very new. Private museums are young, but foundations are more aware of contemporary art,” said Mr. Pratesi, emphasizing again, that “politicians aren’t aware [of what contemporary art is] and are conservatives.”
The Italian guest told the Filipino audience to “invest and promote your culture, starting from museums, [and] it doesn’t matter if they’re small or big… Establish artistic culture.”
He added: “Museums are best way to promote the art of a country. They have to teach people what art is… The Philippines has to create more museums, and immediately when you do, you’re in the map.” — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman