Home Magazine MeetMe#21 | In conversation con Lorenzo Perini Natali

Luckily the Contemporary art system is based also on a new young generation that decided to dedicate its efforts to artists of their time, and not only. We had the chance to have a dialogue with Lorenzo Perini Natali, an emergent collector who made his life choice of being engaged to the art system and to sustain it.

We chatted about emergent and historical artists; about the reasons why, according to him, people should buy art and, to pick another important topic, why the US market is working better than ours...


Portrait of Lorenzo Perini Natali


To follow the art system with passion and accuracy could really become a job. This is, in a certain way, becoming your case: contemporary art for you is a job, Lorenzo. Do you think this sentence could well define your life in the last years?
It is more than a job, it’s a life choice. I notice this also in my friends who are collectors too: the passion for art is so overwhelming that becomes part of my free time and working time. These two sides become one. Most of the people I hang out with are related to the art system, and art became the main topic during dinners. People I know waited for 20 years to finally have the chance to dedicate themselves entirely to art and collecting, my choice was to dedicate myself to art now, as my everyday job and, I hope, my future.
Once, during a sort of video dialogue/interview, you stated that you – and a collector in general – buy art because it represents a status. When you started to build your collection, you have been motivated by the idea of creating your status as a collector?
I remember that interview. I did not say that I collect for my status, but that people collect mainly for three reasons: for the pleasure to own something that gives you pleasure and that spreads something good; for status, to demonstrate to your guests, clients or friends that you have a certain wealth and culture or for investment. People collect often for one or more of these reasons. In that interview I said that I buy what I like and that I think could have a certain value, possibly if it is driven to the artist research that I found interesting and a serious artistic path.


Peter Dreher, Tag um tag guter tag no.2444 (day) and no.2612 (night). Courtesy Lorenzo Perini Natali's Collection


Lorenzo, you come from a family where art was part of your roots: being related to Amedeo Modigliani could represent a sign even if your family does not collect contemporary art. How did your passion for art start?

As you said, my parents or grandparents didn’t collect art. My parents have different passions that do not include Modern or, especially, Contemporary art. When the famous presumed Modigliani heads were found inside Arno river, the art critic Giulio Carlo Argan called my grand-father in Livorno, Angiolo Mordecai Modigliani, to ask him to say something about the late discovery – a lot of people already wrote news about it -. He replied that he didn’t know what to say, because he didn’t know or care about Modern art! I started to look at the art system and art itself when my cousin, who is an architect and, in that period was working in New York, took me to the Whitney Museum. I was working for the mechanical industry at the time and I was 22 years old. From that moment on, since I have always been a curious person, I started to read and to get involved more and more, until leaving the company and go back to study.
After a working period for your family business you decided to leave it behind and to start studying again. And you choose to do it at NABA in Milano. Do you think that - together with the knowledge in the art markets, and following the trends by private galleries, museums, institutions, art fairs, artist studios etc – to know the history of art is useful for the choice you made?
To know the history of art is fundamental, for two reasons, mainly: a scientific one, because you can learn to appreciate more an artist who works today since you already know what has been done yesterday; and for an aesthetic reason: this knowledge make you more sensitive towards beauty. A person can’t recognize a good painting if he/she doesn’t know about the greatness of Antonello da Messina. As a consequence, one of the basic to collect is: good taste.


Wolfgang Tillmans, Leaving St Petersburg, 2014. Courtesy Lorenzo Perini Natali's Collection

Discover more about Wolfgang Tillmans...


Which was the first art piece that you bought by yourself and when?
My first purchase was a diptych by Andrei Molodkin, a Russian artist that showed at the Russian Pavillon during the Venice Biennale in 2009. The work is a diptych that represents a 100 US dollar bill that he drew, recto verso, with a green ball point pen. He has an amazing technique. I bought other works by him later. 

And the last one?
I bought two paintings by Peter Dreher from his series “Tag um tag guter tag”, a nocturnal and a diurnal, at Art Basel fair this year. The artist painted a glass per day for more than 30 years, one a day and one a night. That reminded me a lot of On Kawara “date paintings” or the conceptual works by Roman Opalka. This series has been so precisely painted that seems almost hyperrealistic. He is one of the greatest living German painters, in my opinion. He had a big solo show at Whitecube gallery in London this year right after I got them.

Does your collection have some recognizable details? Which is the trend/medium or subject you like the most?
During the years I have been working in the mechanics industry after high school, and growing inside a family that is related to that, my taste was educated, shaped. You can see that from many pieces of my collection, from the monochrome paintings to the aeronautic topic. I think about Vincenzo Castella photograph of Malpensa Airport, the “hard edge” paintings by Paul Kremer, Andrea Galvani’s “llevando una pepita de oro a la velocidad del sonido” or “Indoor Flora” sculpture by Alice Ronchi that has been made with hydraulic pipes that she painted with industrial coating.


Vincenzo Castella, Men in Orange (Malpensa), 2002. Courtesy Lorenzo Perini Natali's Collection


Tony Lewis, White, 2018. Courtesy Lorenzo Perini Natali's Collection


You are trying, even if led by the market art scene, to balance your collection between foreign international artists with emergent Italian ones. Why?

If my collection was driven by the market I would not have bought works by Italian emergent artists. In fact the Italian production by young artists of my age is not supported by the International Contemporary art system. It doesn’t have the right weight. This situation is completely different in the United States where young emergent artists that are just coming out of Art Schools and Academies, show inside important Museums or galleries. As I buy works from emergent American artists, I do the same for Italian ones that I support and believe in. I collect art from my life-time period and from whom creates pieces that speak to me the most. I also own works by more important artists, but I hope that the young artists that I bought today will be, one day, on that same level. 

I noticed that you often go on studio visits. I assure you that is not that common for all collectors to go and visit the place where artists create. What brings you there? And which are your other means for looking for artists? (Instagram? Auctions? Galleries?)

Yes. I try to do at least one studio visit a week. I like to have dialogues with artists, to follow their production, and to talk about their work. It may seem a commonplace, but I discovered many artists and galleries thanks to Instagram. I believe that this social network is fundamental today for Contemporary art. I remember that, during a lunch together with Mark Spiegler, he said that if we would ask to a gallerist which “app” he would never delete from his smartphone, he would reply for sure “Instagram”. I think that it’s very useful and I use it a lot. At the same time, I visit galleries, art fairs and museums in Italy and abroad during my trips. I read a lot, trying to be as much well- informed as possible.

Do you think that the high differences between, for instance, the USA market and the Italian one, could be leveled out one day? I mean, do you think that the Italian market could have some good chances in the future, as, maybe, it was in the past?
The American market is on a very different level in comparison with the Italian one. As it was for more than half of the 20th century.  I believe that - if it will keep going on like this - the difference will be even worse. And I am talking also about the art system in general, not only about the market. Let’s think about museums, for instance: Milano doesn’t have a Contemporary art museum yet and this is unreasonable. A big help for the Italian market would be if collectors started acquiring works by Italian artists under 40, by believing in them, in their works and not only for philanthropic reasons. The major and medium level galleries should represent more Italian artists: at least 1 Italian every 4 artists.

Being a collector requires various values: passion, knowledge, a certain sensitivity and, of course, money. Do you agree? What advice would you give to a new collector?
I would put money on one side of the balance and knowledge, passion and sensibility on the other. Many collectors spend their money for famous artists on auction sales or for works of artists that collaborate with important galleries. A collectors talent is recognizable when he likes an artist that he has discovered in a small (serious) gallery, or in his/her studio. By looking at big Chinese collectors that open private museums after buying important pieces of art of historical artists from famous auction houses, or they buy whole shows during major galleries previews, I wonder if they are true collectors, or just big art spenders. It is clear that, without a minimum money capacity, it’s not easy to build a collection, but we often notice wealthy people who spend money on a very bad level of works of art. So, I think that, at the same time, with a serious research and study, you could buy interesting works without huge financial efforts. The important thing is to dedicate time to this research, to study and to understand and to know artists work and their path and, above all, to preserve a good taste!


Cover image: Portrait of Lorenzo Perini Natali

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