Fiorenzo Manganiello is an Italian tech entrepreneur who has been collecting art for the past seven years. Manganiello, who primarily lives between Naples and Dubai, is the co-founder of Lian Group, a tech-focused investment firm, and Cowa, a blockchain infrastructure company. He is also a professor of blockchain technologies at Geneva Business School.
Manganiello started collecting in his 20s, with a key interest in street and digital art, and now owns works by artists including Chloe Wise, Peter Saul, Alex Israel and Zhang Xiaogang. In 2019 Manganiello created the Lian Foundation, which provides funding for and promotes digital learning, and in 2021 created the Prix Lian Foundation, which is awarded annually to arts students at the Haute Ecole d’art et de Design Genève.
The Art Newspaper: What are you looking out for in Basel this year?
Fiorenzo Manganiello: I have been unconsciously but obsessively
collecting works with a very digital aesthetic. After seven years of buying,
I realised it was time to contextualise and ground the collection with cornerstones of digital art, artists who pioneered the movement. So I will be looking out for works by Jeff Elrod, Jacqueline Humphries, Cory Arcangel and David Reed.
How quickly do you decide to buy a work of art?
About three seconds? If it’s an artist I have been following for a while then straight away, but of course if it’s an artist I’m unfamiliar with, I will do my research. I tend not to wait around, though. I think it’s a millennial mindset, to get things done!
What was the first work you ever bought?
The first work of art I ever purchased was at a flea market in Geneva. It is a Picasso-esque harlequin scene and I have no idea who it is by or where it is from. I still have it up on my wall as, although it has no value, it means a lot to me as my entry into art. My first significant purchase was an Oli Epp painting, Chlorine (2017). He is a London-based painter whose work broadly defines the aesthetic of my collection—digital and playful.
What was the last work you bought?
My last purchase was a work by [the American artist] Austin Lee titled Dancers (2023). Again, I can’t stay away from this digital aesthetic.
What do you regret not buying when you had the chance?
Lots of things—perhaps this is why I feel the need to make decisions so quickly now. The first artist that comes to mind is Cristina BanBan [a Spanish-born, New York-based painter represented by Perrotin and Skarstedt galleries]. We had been emailing in 2017 but, as I had just started buying art, I didn’t take the leap and buy one of her works.
If you could have any work from any museum, what would it be?
Being an Italian, I feel I have to choose something quintessentially Italian—Modigliani’s Woman with Blue Eyes (1918) in the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
Where do you like to eat and drink while you’re in Basel?
Once I’m inside the fair, I get sucked in and don’t leave the building until closing time, so I end up eating in the UBS lounge most days...
Do you have any parties lined up?
This year, to celebrate my friends, colleagues and artists being together in Basel, I decided to host a dinner with LaCollection.io at Les Trois Rois. [Manganiello sits on the board of LaCollection.io, which enables museums to create NFTs of their collections].
What’s your least favourite thing about art fairs?
I seem to be one of the few people who really enjoys attending art fairs! For me, Art Basel is the lifeblood of the art market and barometer for its health. I also see each year as a marker of my own growth as a collector. My least favourite thing is people who come to criticise: it’s a waste of everyone’s time. And obviously the price of hotels that have to be booked six months in advance. It makes Basel less accessible for people who just want to see art from around the world in one place.
Where do you go in Basel to get away from it all?
Basel Zoo... from one zoo to another.
What tip would you give to someone visiting Basel for the first time?
Go with people who know what they are talking about. I was completely out of my depth the first time, but in great company, which made me want to keep going. And make time for Liste.