Italian collector’s pledge to help save crumbling city of Palermo

Roberto Bilotti has restored an 18th-century palace and plans to open an “art chapel”



The New York-born, Italian collector Roberto Bilotti has set himself the ambitious task of helping to regenerate the crumbling baroque heart of the Sicilian capital, Palermo. Mr Bilotti, who lives in Rome and works for the Italian banking association, has just completed the restoration of an 18th-century palace in Palermo, the Palazzo Burgio, which he purchased in 2005.

“I would like to participate in the rebirth of this city,” says Mr Bilotti who owns a number of other palaces in the historic centre of the Sicilian capital.

Mr Bilotti’s other plans for the city include the realisation of a project which his late uncle, the Florida-based cosmetics magnate and collector, Carlo Bilotti, had devoted several years of his life to. Carlo Bilotti had hoped to open a “Bilotti chapel” in Rome which would have housed his collection of works by artists such as Henri Matisse, Willem de Kooning and Roy Lichtenstein. In 2004 Damien Hirst was commissioned by the late millionaire to make a series of four large paintings entitled The Four Evangelists for the space.

Carlo Bilotti had been in discussions with Rome city council about transforming a deconsecrated chapel in Villa Ada in the north of the capital which he aimed to lease for 80 years. The project stalled because of the dilapidated state of the building.

Roberto Bilotti has now purchased a deconsecrated 17th-century chapel in Palermo, the Annunziata del Giglio in the centre of the city, where he plans to house the modern and contemporary works. “I would like to realise the dream of my uncle to open a Bilotti chapel in Palermo instead of Rome because I believe it is important to participate in the recovery of this city through art,” he said.

The cost of restoring the Annunziata del Giglio chapel will be met by the local authority. The high altar and the majolica-tiled floor are among the areas to be conserved.

“I would like to offer the city of Palermo the projects already started by my uncle through contacts he established with artists, heirs and foundations—so that these projects do not die,” added Mr Bilotti.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Italian collector’s pledge to help save Palermo'