Collecting 101 is a series hosted by art advisor and curator Daria Borisova who seeks out knowledgeable and inspiring female collectors in the art world to educate art lovers and future collectors. This week, Daria interviewed Aloisia Leopardi, a young collector who is taking her passion for art and creating a new residency program in the South of Italy called the Castello San Basilio in Basilicata. Check out what Aloisia has to say on her experiences collecting between London and Italy, her favorite artists to keep on your radar and why love at first sight when buying art isn’t everything.
How were you introduced to art?
Being born in a family who is passionate about art, I have been surrounded by artworks, artists, curators and collectors from an early age. This family enthusiasm has gradually become my own, leading me to study Criticism, Communication and Curation at Central Saint Martin’s University of Arts in London, which has also helped me develop this passion into my career.
What did you do after your program in London?
I worked for 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair between 2014 – 2017. The fair’s focus on contemporary African art has given me the opportunity to explore a field that was almost entirely new to me, becoming one I was extremely passionate about. My first acquisitions, in fact, were by African artists. Examples include Ibrahim Mahama, Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze, Marcia Kure, Farah Khelil, Michele Mathison, Phumzile Khanile…most of them are friends now – which is what I find the most beautiful!!
I am currently working at Edel Assanti, a gallery in Fitzrovia, London. The experience of working directly with artists on projects and exhibitions, has refined my taste in collecting, shifting my interest towards research-led works that are culturally or politically charged. I am especially interested in understanding the social commentary that goes into the works, what they say about the times in which we live and how they challenge us.
Why is collecting art important to you?
Collecting has always been an essential part of my life – a unique journey shaped by the fascinating people I encounter throughout the way. It is something I get my energy from, greatly depend on, and through which I am constantly learning. Speaking to artists about their work has exposed me to a breadth of new topics and issues that have challenged and expanded my point of view. This has led me to think of ways in which I could push this passion a step further, transforming it into a long-term project from which other people could benefit too. This is the reason why last summer (2019) I started my own residency programme at Castello San Basilio in Basilicata – a hard-to-reach, remote area in the South of Italy, removed from fashions and distractions. An ideal place to bring together people united by the same passion.
Can you tell us a little more about your residency program?
The idea was to transform the property into a project space, an informal environment, dedicated to research, artistic experimentation and collaboration, facilitating cultural exchange within artists, curators, collectors, art professionals… everyone really! I believe this is the future of collecting and philanthropy in the art world. It is also a great way for young collectors to meet artists, ask them where their ideas came from and understand how their work is produced – a very important aspect, especially now, given the current crisis.
The first edition of the residency, in the summer of 2019, proved the model works. Three artists participated (Oren Pinhassi, Lucy Henshall and Michele Mathison), and a group of international collectors and art professionals flew from all over the world to experience the exhibitions and the collection. This year has been more challenging. Due to lockdown, I had to revisit the programme, postponing all confirmed residencies. This has, however, led me to brainstorm about other possibilities launching a ‘Residency in Exile,’ a new model that could challenge traditional structures of support for artists.
The idea behind ‘Residency in Exile’ is to allow artists with more challenging mediums, like performance, to start their residency period a year in advance, from their homes. This would expose their research process and initial body of work to a wider, digital audience through weekly posts published on Castello San Basilio’s instagram platform @castellosanbasilio and website page castellosanbasilio.com (itself a collaboration with Lucy Henshall). During this period the platforms would operate as their studio ‘in exile’ and online exhibition space, in advance of their actual onsite residency and performance.
We are launching this new model presenting GRJB, a performance duo formed by Jesse Bonnell and Gabriella Rhodeen. During this period of lockdown, they have been working from their home in Los Angeles, generating a series of films and works on paper discovering Castello San Basilio and Basilicata’s region from afar. The works on paper are an extension of the artists’ films and research, exploring themes of place, absence, memory and exile. Their sale, through the website, supports the production of their final site-responsive performance piece that will now take place at Castello San Basilio and Marconia, the nearby village, in May 2021.
Where do you hope to see your program in five, ten years?
I hope to create something that is positive for Basilicata- initiating an arts programme that would involve the local community and becoming a place through which local young artists and art professionals could benefit too. I remember doing research about the region, and being surprised at how contemporary art is almost nonexistent there. For future residencies, I’ll propose artists to work on a project to be presented in nearby villages (this could be anything from an event, like a talk or workshop, to a site-specific installation or performance piece). GRJB, for example, will present their performance piece in Marconia’s main square.
You’re mostly based out of Italy and London- Can you compare the two art scenes?
Italy has so much to offer in terms of its artistic heritage, but its scale and management also expose the country’s deepest flaws. The state struggles to find enough money to look after the country’s existing artworks, making the production of new works and exhibitions even more challenging. Bureaucracy is also a big issue. I left Rome when I was 18 years old to move to London and study at Central Saint Martins University. I felt the city’s international background could offer me more than what Rome, or even Milan could have (even though Milan has improved a lot in recent years!). I will definitely go back to Italy at some point. My dream is to use the residency to initiate a series of collaborations with other non-profit entities, museums or collectors. The exhibitions produced and presented at Castello San Basilio could travel to other Italian cities, not only giving the artworks another life, but also rejuvenating the beautiful museums we have in Italy with a greater variety of contemporary artists.
Any artists on your radar now?
I am obsessed with Oren Pinhassi’s works, and I am lucky to say that this ‘obsession’ has transformed into a collaboration. I now work with him on different projects – from exhibitions to the production of new works.
My most recent acquisitions were a sculpture by Rayyane Tabet, an artist from Beirut, whose work I last saw at Parasol Unit in London and Tomaso Binga, a feminist artist from the 70s, who had a show at Mimosa House last October.
What advice do you have for young collectors who want to start collecting art?
I go through different steps when acquiring art. It often starts with ‘a love at first sight’ feeling, followed by in-depth research about the artist. For me, these two aspects go hand in hand- I need to like what I am buying as I am going to see it in my home every day, but at the same time, I need to be intellectually stimulated by the work. I don’t buy a work only because I think it will increase in value.
One’s knowledge is refined over time. Visiting galleries and museums, including non-profit organisations like residencies, is definitely my preferred way. Not only do you get to see a curated exhibition, which gives more content about the artist; they are also generally more accessible, provide visitors with material about the artists, offer a more personal experience (compared to art fairs, which can be overwhelming). Even though the art world might seem intimidating at first, what is essential is to always keep an open mind and not be afraid of asking questions.
Interview conducted by Daria Borisova, a Russian-born, London-based, curator and art advisor. Her work focuses on young and emerging, as well as established artists who inspire progressive understanding and promote lasting change. With an emphasis on transparency and education, Borisova has built collections for prominent private and corporate clients. She maintains relationships with philanthropists, organizations and art industry luminaries.
In her curatorial work, Borisova seeks to utilize non-traditional spaces to create immersive exhibitions and present emerging artists that often work in new media. Her most recent curatorial work includes: Global Call for Artists in partnership with W1 Curates x Amplifier – a digital public art installation in London, Winter Show at Harlesden High Street Gallery in London, House of Togetherness in London and Alla Gorka: Heroine presented by White Ribbon in Ukrainian Parliament and America House Kyiv.