Home Art Magazine When private businesses meet Contemporary Art | The case of Italy

Art collecting is mainly imagined as a private activity, based on an intimate relationship between the collector and his works. And in the past, things were actually like that. Today, however, there are more and more collectors who decide to publicize their collections. Collectors can make their collections accessible in various ways: by lending some works for an exhibition, giving part or all of their collection to a museum or giving life to a non-profit organization and, specifically, to a foundation that, most of the times, carries their name.

Art Foundations play a central role in Italy alongside the institutional museum reality with a business model that has significantly changed over the years. If you are curious about private foundations don't miss the article by Anna Mutti When private businesses meet Contemporary Art | The case of Switzerland​​. 

The evolution has involved the transition from simple forms of patronage to a well-defined legal structure capable of sharing private resources for public purposes. In a period of financial crisis like the present one, the projects are supported above all by the good relations that a foundation has been able to entertain with its stakeholders over the years. With regard to fundraising, in recent years there has been an increase in the relationships of mutual interest with companies and private individuals, in which it is no longer just the foundation to benefit, in this case of economic resources, but with formulas such as membership, corporate membership and partnerships, companies and individuals can benefit in a privileged and personalized way of ad hoc projects and foundations' cultural services.

All foundations have a characteristic in common: the high communication capacity of their artistic programs. 


Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation. Courtesy Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo
Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation. Turin


There are many reasons that determine the establishment of a foundation. For some, it responds to a desire to promote contemporary art and create spaces for young artists. For others, it is the desire to share their art collections with the public. Obviously, there are also foundations created by an artist who, in addition to collecting his most significant works, documenting the entire expressive range of his career (e.g. Pomodoro and Merz Foundations), also want to be a centre of development for art. In addition to carrying out an important activity in the field of cultural diffusion - organizing exhibitions and programs dedicated to the general public - and supporting the arts, there are many foundations that, even in our country, organize competitions for artists or give them residencies in Italy or abroad, thus contributing to their growth.

The role of private foundations in the dissemination and promotion of Contemporary Art has been recently discussed at the MuseoCity event, held in Milan in March. The conference highlighted how the role of public museums is fundamental to the diffusion of Contemporary Art and private collecting essential for the collection of works. In this same occasion, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (President of the homonymous Foundation) pointed out that although the role of public bodies is essential to enrich the cultural panorama of the cities, private foundations still play a very useful role, financing in first person the production of works of art, sharing it with the public through lendings to museums, and, in the case of more structured foundations, becoming places where, through educational activities, the new generations are educated to understand Contemporary Art. After all, as was expressed poetically by Astrid Welter (Head of Prada Foundation Programs), “the strength of the private foundation is to allow the public to share the happiness that comes from the use of art”.


1. Antonio Morra Greco Foundation (Naples)

Unique structure that involves very young artists, in a very less official context compared to others. The project is developed starting from a central nucleus of contemporary artworks collected by Maurizio Morra and subsequently donated to the structure and constituting its permanent exhibition. 

2. Brodbeck Foundation (Catania)

The Brodbeck Foundation hosts a permanent collection with the artworks collected by Paolo Brodbeck, residencies for artists, offering them the opportunity to live and work in the same place by getting in full contact with the society, and various cultural projects such as “Unfinished Culture” curated by Giovanni Iovine. 


Brodbeck Foundation. Courtesy Fondazione Bordbeck
Brodbeck Foundation. Catania


3. Ermanno Casoli Foundation (Jesi, Ancona)

The Ermanno Casoli Foundation promotes initiatives in which contemporary art becomes an educational and methodological tool capable of improving work environments and triggering innovative processes, with the objective of promoting the relationship between the art world and the business world. A pioneer in investigating the potential for dialogue between art and industry, FEC has established itself in Italy as a leading model in the field of corporate training through contemporary art, proposing increasingly structured and specialized activities.

4. Giuliani Foundation (Rome)

The Giuliani Foundation is located in a space of about 500 square metres under a popular building. The core of the structure is the 400 works belonging to the founder, the notary Giovanni Giuliani. With particular attention attuned to the practices and methodologies of the newest generations of Italian and international artists, the Foundation produces three on-site exhibitions each year.

5. Memmo Foundation (Rome)

Since 2012 the Foundation is entirely dedicated to contemporary art.  The aim is to contribute to the development of a local cultural texture from a global perspective, connecting international realities and promoting the interaction between the artists and the city of Rome. 

 6. Pastificio Cerere Foundation (Rome) 

The Pastificio Cerere Foundation was founded in Rome in 2004 by the will of its president, Flavio Misciattelli, with the aim of promoting contemporary art. The spaces of the former industrial plant are now used as artist studios, fashion atelier, graphic and communication studios, a photography school (ISFCI - Superior Institute of Photography and Integrated Communication) and an academy of visual arts (RUFA - Rome University of Fine Arts).

 7. Volume Foundation (Rome)

The director of Volume Foundation says: "The main purpose of the foundation is to support the public idea of culture, to promote a constant dialogue with art, to maintain fertile relations with the different fields of knowledge." The invited artists are hosted by the Foundation for the time of the realization of their project and of the exhibition. Their stay becomes an opportunity for talks, meetings with students and enthusiasts of contemporary art. 

8. François Pinault Foundation (Venice, Palazzo Grassi)

The collection of François Pinault brings together a corpus of more than three thousand works ranging from the 20th to the 21st century. His vision is nurtured with the desire to share his passion with the greatest number of people and is accompanied by a lasting commitment to the artists and a permanent exploration of the new areas of creation.  

François Pinault Foundation, Palazzo Grassi, Damien Hirst,
François Pinault Foundation, Palazzo Grassi. Venice


9. Pistoletto Foundation (Biella)

The spaces of the Pistoletto Foundation open up all year to welcome the new stimuli in the contemporary art creation and to show what was created in the previous year. In particular, every year, in June, Cittadellarte Pistoletto Foundation becomes the centre of those who make art and feed on art, an art at the centre of a responsible social transformation. 

10. Antonio Mazzotta Foundation (Milan)

FAM owns a collection of painting, drawing, graphics and applied arts, which it exhibits in itinerant exhibitions. The Foundation also organizes exhibitions and cultural initiatives in collaboration with museums all over the world, cultural institutions, publishers, galleries and private collectors. The Foundation owns around 800 artworks. 

11. Arnaldo Pomodoro Foundation (Milan)

The Arnaldo Pomodoro Foundation aims to preserve, enhance and promote the work of Arnaldo Pomodoro and the knowledge of sculpture and contemporary art. In particular, the Foundation's objectives include the promotion of historical-critical studies on sculpture and contemporary art, organizing events, debates and conferences in the field of culture, art and literature, publication of books, catalogs and magazines, the establishment of a prize dedicated to young artists, the conservation of Arnaldo Pomodoro’s collection, the creation of a network of contacts with national and international institutions and museums, the organization and implementation of guided tours.

12. Pirelli HangarBicocca Foundation (Milan)

Pirelli HangarBicocca is a non-profit foundation established in Milan in 2004 by the reconversion of an industrial plant into an institution dedicated to the production and promotion of contemporary art. It is a dynamic place characterized by great experimentation in art and research. Every year the Foundation presents important personal exhibitions of Italian and international artists. Its most famous permanent work is I Sette Palazzi Celesti 2004-2015 by Anselm Kiefer.

13. Nicola Trussardi Foundation (Milan)

The Nicola Trussardi Foundation is a non-profit institution for the dissemination of contemporary culture, a nomadic museum for the production and dissemination of contemporary art in multiple contexts and through the most diverse channels, which was established in Milan in 1996. The Foundation works to create flexible, fast and temporary events: art can give a new identity to the city, entering into our daily and public life. The itinerant character of the Foundation drives it to reopen, and restore historic buildings in Milan such as Palazzo Litta, Palazzo Dugnani and Palazzo Citterio inviting international artists to create new and ambitious works especially designed. 


Nicola Trussardi Foundation. Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, installation view, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, 2003. Courtesy Fondazione Nicola Trussardi
Nicola Trussardi Foundation. Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, installation view, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, 2003. Courtesy Fondazione Nicola Trussardi


14. Prada Foundation (Milan)

The idea of culture developed by the Prada Foundation is one through which people can understand the changes in themselves and in the world. The main interest of the Foundation are ideas and the ways in which humanity has transformed them into specific disciplines: literature, cinema, music, philosophy, art and science. The collection is intended by the Foundation as a repertoire of perspectives: different people are invited to create new projects: curators, artists, architects, but also scientists and students, thinkers, writers. The Prada Foundation is a free territory of thought that welcomes both consolidated and unavoidable figures and emerging approaches.

15. Carriero Foundation (Milan)

The Carriero Foundation is a private institution, dedicated to research and knowledge of intellectual works in every form of expression, but also a commissioner for the creation of new works. One of the most special features of the Foundation is that of not showing a private collection but to explore new frontiers. The Foundation is characterized by activities ranging from the organization of exhibitions to the publication of catalogues, from the creation of a calendar of debates and conferences open to the public to specific activities aimed at teaching and training. 

16. De Fornaris Foundation (Turin)

The De Fornaris Foundation was founded in Turin in 1982 thanks to the collection of Ettore De Fornaris. The Foundation buys paintings, sculptures, installations, graphic sheets preserved and exhibited at the Gam - Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Turin. Nowadays the Foundation has more than 1000 artworks (from 1800 to present days) signed by artists as Balla, Casorati, de Chirico, de Pisis, Morandi, Vedova, Melotti, Burri, Manzù and then Anselmo, Penone, Pistoletto, Paolini, Merz, Zorio, Cragg. The Foundation is inspired by the wishes expressed by Ettore De Fornaris in his will: first of all, that of striving, through love and the study of art the "artistic education of the community". 

17. Mario Merz Foundation (Turin)

The Merz Foundation was established as a centre of contemporary art in 2005, with the aim of hosting exhibitions, events, and educational activities and continuing the research in the field of art. The Foundation alternates exhibitions dedicated to Mario and Marisa Merz and exhibitions made of large site-specific projects of national and international artists invited to confront the space of the Foundation and its content. It also organizes events, including the visual arts and music exhibition “Meteorite in Giardino”, which every year offers the opportunity to bring together different disciplines related to contemporary culture.

Fondazione Merz, Alfredo Jaar, Abbiamo amato tanto la rivoluzione, Torino 2013. Courtesy Fondazione Merz. Photo Credit Andrea Rossetti
Fondazione Merz, Alfredo Jaar, Abbiamo amato tanto la rivoluzione, Torino 2013. Courtesy Fondazione Merz. Photo Credit Andrea Rossetti


18. Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation (Turin)

One of the first private foundations opened in Italy, it is an observatory on the artistic trends and cultural languages of the present, at the intersection of art, music, dance, literature, and design. The Foundation has its roots in the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection. The exhibition is the meeting point between artist, curator and public: it is a reflective space that, thanks to the works preserved, gives visibility to current art, to its perspectives on the themes of the present (from globalization to ecology, from work to new technologies). The Foundation is an internationally recognized exhibition centre and is an educational agency with a strong identity and an intense experience in the field of training, attested by programs such as the Residence for Young Foreign Curators.

19. Spinola Banna Foundation (Turin)

The Spinola Banna Foundation for Art was founded in 2004 in the Tenuta Spinola in Banna. The aim is that of contributing to the promotion and dissemination of contemporary art and music through a structured program of workshops and residences dedicated to young artists who are involved in the profession.


Stay Tuned on Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.