Photo by Philip Sinden
Art World Forum catches up with Valeria Napoleone, renowned collector of many of Contemporary Art’s most exciting female artists. Having shared in an interview with Christie’s ‘I think contemporary art is about communication. It’s essential to share it, and it’s also part of the journey to support the artist,’ we find out more about her collection, her ambitions and hopes moving forward.
“If we are looking to change art history and include the talents who deserve it, regardless of gender, it is necessary we focus more seriously and to move further into critical thinking and analytical writing on the practices of female artists.I often still feel alone.”
1. With new patronage structures in place to support the Contemporary Art market, including alternative financial avenues, fractional ownership schemes, and private institutions, what does patronage mean to you and how does your collection play a role?
Patronage to me is a personal journey with a very distinct agenda in mind, supporting the practices of talented female artists and advocating gender balance.
This is the focus of Valeria Napoleone XX, an umbrella platform for initiatives and projects working towards increasing the recognition and validation of art practices by female artists through partnerships and collaborations with institutions and individuals in the world of Contemporary Art.
2. In a past interview with House and Garden you have described yourself as 50% collector, 50% patron. What do you mean by this?
Since the very beginning of my collecting activity in the late 1990’s I understood how important the relationships with artists are. The artworks are only the beginning of my journey, they open the door to then establishing a connection and dialogue with the artists. I am a very ambitious and passionate collector but not only. My passion goes beyond the works and extends to the artist and the relationships I establish with talented individuals. My activity as a patron is as exciting as the that of a collector. XX supports artists’ exhibitions, publications, donations to museums, and so many other creative initiatives which endorse female practices.
3. What are your thoughts on blockchain and the nature of owning fractions of an artwork? Is ownership a key part of collecting?
I am an adventurous and experimental collector. Collecting and curating my collection (since I do not hire art consultants) is a creative process – a personal way to express my creativity and a journey of growth. Collecting is not just about possession or ownership, it goes beyond that into visions and creative thinking. What I do, the way I do it is not applicable to blockchain or other such schemes.
4. In your various Valeria Napoleone XX ventures to increase awareness of female artists – including a collaboration with Contemporary Art Society (UK) which purchases and donates a notable artwork by a living female artist to a different UK-based museum each year, and Sculpture Center (USA) where you will financially sponsor a major commission every 12 to 18 months – what are the main challenges still facing female artists today?
To be taken seriously, to find gallery representation after school, to have institutional shows and finally, market recognition. The market is the most discriminatory agent in the art world ecosystem as it does not trust women mainly because of motherhood and family. Women artists are considered a gamble and not reliable as they may have children and hence slow down or take a break. The market wants a fast return and a quick production and turnover of works.
Age also comes as a factor, one of the most challenging moments in a woman artist’s path is the middle moment – also called a mid-life crisis. Not young enough anymore to be considered a discovery and not old enough to be rediscovered.
5. In an attempt to rightfully re-introduce female artists into art history, promote their talent and their contribution of great works, what would your advice be to emerging female artists, or indeed, women in the arts overall?
What is important is to not give up, to continue working with dedication, integrity and resilience. Also important is to connect to each other and like-minded individuals, and work towards being part of strong supportive community.
6. Supporting artists, non-profit organisations, museums, and more in your private capacity, and being part of the greater discussion – the imbalance of artist representation on the basis of sex, do you think a proactive effort is being made to correct the inequality?
I believe things are slowly changing but there aren’t enough proactive efforts doing that on a deeper and more impactful level – yet! I often still feel alone. Real change needs real commitment that goes deep into education as well. If we are looking to change art history and include the talents who deserve it, regardless of gender, it is necessary we focus more seriously and to move further into critical thinking and analytical writing on the practices of female artists.
7. Who is the latest female artist you have your eye on at the moment?
Interestingly enough there are two artists I am so super excited about and who were the very first ones to enter my collection in 1997 – Margherita Manzelli and Ghada Amer.