Like a virulent virus that spreads like wildfire, art collecting can lead those infected to authentic excesses like clearing out their homes to make room for works and spending entire fortunes through a longing for possession so strong as to become irresistible. What strikes the spark? A bent for financial speculation, pure intellectual delight or the desire to become someone by building up social prestige on the foundations of art. While there are many possible reasons and approaches, from militancy to passion, putting together a collection is in any case a pathway of self-knowledge and discovery.
Il piacere dell’arte offers an overview of contemporary collecting in Italy, which has become an increasingly authoritative undertaking in recent times by virtue not only of the enterprise and initiative involved but also of the ever-greater planning that characterizes many collections. Starting from the fundamental historical background and an examination of the fertile terrain out of which outstanding figures like Giorgio Franchetti, Giuseppe Panza and Marcello Levi emerged and arriving at their contemporary counterparts, the book also seeks to identify the causes of the “lack of modernity” of Italian collecting, hampered by heritage restrictions and one of Europe’s highest rates of VAT. While these bureaucratic and fiscal impediments work on the one hand to obstruct dialogue with the institutions (unlike what happens across the Atlantic, where donations to museums are incentivized by tax relief), on the other they give rise to the strong development of private initiative and foster the opening of numerous foundations to the public. This is the most peculiar feature of the Italian panorama, a complex and multifaceted reality whose potential proves all the more interesting to examine by virtue of its social aspects and organic character.