Italy

Italian bank launches contemporary art prize

New €150,000 UniCredit Venice Award will be given to a Eastern European artist taking part in the Venice Biennale

Dario Guccio, Locus amoenus, 2010 on view in "Carte Blanche #3: Agenzia 200"

MILAN. Of the Italian banks, many of which are strongly committed to sponsoring art and culture, UniCredit has paid the keenest attention to the contemporary art scene. It is now adding another string to its bow in the form of the UniCredit Venice Award, a prize worth €150,000, for artists from the 19 Central and Eastern European countries where the Group operates (Azerbaijan to Ukraine) represented at the next Venice Biennale (for the competition announcement go to www.unicreditgroup.eu). We discussed this with Antonella Massari, Head of Group Identity and Communications, at the opening of an exhibition at the bank’s head office in Piazza Cordusio, in the heart of Milan. Titled “Carte Blanche #3: Agenzia 200”, the debut exhibition of a group of students from the Accademia di Brera is selected by their teacher, Alberto Garutti, whose own work is included in the bank’s art collection.

Why have you established the UniCredit Venice Award?

This is not the first time we have supported artists represented in Venice but, because the Biennale is an international showcase, we now want to do something that demonstrates our interest in the countries in which we operate but do not have large-scale art investments in the form of collections or exhibition venues, as we do in Italy, Germany and Austria. By instituting this prize, we want to show that we are a European group, “at home” in many countries. The initiative has been received with great enthusiasm and has also been welcomed by the Group’s managing directors in those countries, because the rules require that the prize-winning works be donated or loaned to a local museum, ensuring that they remain in the country and are accessible to all.

In Italy (and also in Germany and Austria), you have partnerships with many museums. Will you maintain this commitment?

In Italy, we partner with Castello di Rivoli, Mart, MAMbo, MaXXI, Macro and the Pomodoro Foundation in Milan, where we have a Project Room and provide support for the programming: it is a venue we are very keen on, it is very prestigious. Moreover, an important part of our mission is our contribution to the cultural development of the countries in which we operate, and supporting creativity and innovation in contemporary art seems to us one of the best ways of doing this.

And what about your collection? Are you still adding to it at a time of economic crisis?

Certainly, the collection continues to grow through annual acquisitions made on the advice of our scientific committee, consisting of Walter Guadagnini, Luca Massimo Barbero, Lóránd Hegyi and Angelika Nollert. And in the last 18 months, we have been contributing some of our works to international exhibitions as a way of promoting our name. We have been to Vienna, Verona and Istanbul, and in November we shall be in Moscow with a new exhibition concept. Because the financial crisis has taught us that the major banks need to make themselves known and win acceptance abroad, and these activities make the general public aware of the useful work we do. Through music and art, two universal languages in no need of translation, we seek to contribute to a better understanding of our time, addressing as wide an audience as possible. Our own employees are very much involved, and our Arts Days, when we take them on organised visits to museums in many towns and cities, get booked up very quickly.

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