A growing number of young collectors are now buying contemporary art in Rome

Has the Eternal City overtaken Milan and Turin?


Rome. In Italy, the market for contemporary art has traditionally been focused in Milan and Turin, where most of the country’s biggest collectors are based. Now, however, the scene appears to be shifting south to the capital where a flood of new gallery openings mean that the Eternal City is becoming a “shop window” for wealthy local and foreign buyers.

One of the new dealers, Guido Schlinkert of the recently opened Extraspazio gallery, says new, younger collectors have emerged because “real estate investment is on the wane here which has made people be more daring about buying art. More younger people in their 30s and 40s and foreign buyers are present”.

Stefano Ambrosetti, a 40-year-old lawyer from Rome, regularly buys works of art from the capital’s new dealers. He says that “many people of my generation think purchasing art is a good investment option. Buying good contemporary pieces in Rome is certainly no longer a problem”.

Roberto Bilotti, nephew of the Florida-based collector Carlo Bilotti, says that, along with Naples, Rome “is becoming an important place for art”, pointing out that his uncle’s new museum in the Villa Borghese will further boost the city’s profile when it opens in March next year. Significantly, Roberto Bilotti confirmed that US dealers Larry Gagosian and Tony Shafrazi will be on the board of the museum.

However, another young collector, Lorenzo Attolico (42), also a lawyer, remains unconvinced. He said that “the spaces for showing contemporary art are increasing but in reality, Rome has not yet realised its potential as a contemporary art centre”, reinforcing the view that the city’s contemporary art scene is developing by degrees.

A major addition to the scene came in 2002 when the New York-based dealer Gavin Brown inaugurated the Roma Roma Roma gallery with Turin-based dealer Franco Noero and Toby Webster of the Modern Institute, Glasgow. Other foreign dealers followed including Lorcan O’Neill, previously director of the defunct Anthony d’Offay gallery in London, who opened. in 2003.

Paolo Bonzano closed his gallery in Milan and decided to move to Rome last December because “even though the market is sleepier here, it is much more glamourous and international”.

The highly anticipated MAXXI—the National Museum of 21st century art— is scheduled to open in 2007, although funding for the project now appears to have stalled. Rome’s other new shrine to contemporary art is MACRO (Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma), a municipal museum launched in 2002. A new wing of the museum designed by French architect Odile Decq with new exhibition halls and a space for video art is due for completion at the end of next year.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Has the Eternal City overtaken Milan and Turin?'