Collector Profile: Valeria Napoleone
May 31, 2015 - table lamp
Valeria Napoleone has done some confidant ambience choices in her duration home that competence lift eyebrows in this disdainful enclave of Kensington. The appearance pathway arches and Arts and Crafts moldings have been coated in starkly complicated white. Traditional chandeliers have been transposed with contemporary branching lights by Pae White and Catellani Smith. And one wall of a grave sitting room has been splashed with a word “100% STUPID,” rendered in blue and pinkish burble letters ringed by cartoonish flowers.
The wall portrayal is pleasantness of a Dutch artist Lily outpost der Stokker, whose partner came to a residence in 2004 to govern it. “It is utterly a tough work,” Napoleone notes. “I chose it out of hundreds of small drawings. we responded to a suspicion of irrationality and of ugliness, and we unequivocally favourite a suspicion of graffiti inside a home.” She considers it for a moment, as if contemplating an aged friend. “It is self-referential: ‘100% stupid’ as in ‘I am 100% stupid,’ or ‘100% stupid?’ as in ‘Are you 100% foolish since we don’t get me?’” She eyes me as we demeanour during a work. “Who is foolish and who is not? What is intelligence? we like that conversation.”
At once witty and political, humorous and thought- provoking, and innate of unusual materials, a square says many about a clearly enigmatic collector, who has amassed some 300 contemporary works over a past dual decades. For Napoleone’s easy demeanour and lilting Italian accent confute a pointy concentration and single-mindedness: In a area of critical general art collections, hers is unique, for it contains customarily a work of womanlike artists.
Napoleone shares a home with her husband, Gregorio, and 3 children. She has a vast brownish-red eyes and elongated proportions of a Modigliani model. Her dim hair is cut into a incline that she smooths down with prolonged fingers as she talks. Given to silk trousers and thespian height boots that enlarge her high frame, her impression is conjunction protected adequate to be called classical nor slavishly on-trend.
Born into a rich nobleman family, she grew adult in a range of Varese in northern Italy, surrounded by antique seat and objets d’art. “I had a unequivocally clever cultured sense, a feng shui clarity of things sitting in a right place and looking beautiful,” she tells me, her bony form framed by a marble grate of a sitting room.
Her parents, she says, “were not connoisseurs by any means” and had no seductiveness in contemporary art. What she owes them is not so many a sold cultured as a certainty in her possess eye. As children, Napoleone and her twin sister, Stefania Pramma, now an accessories designer, were speedy to demonstrate themselves freely. “We were authorised to experiment, to fail,” she says, “and that creates me who we am today. With fashion, for instance: Fashion has been with me even before art. Even when we was small we had a tailor….” She trails off, smiling during a memory. “Many people have tailors in Italy, nonetheless we unequivocally were holding it a step further, selecting a fabrics and carrying a showering suits done up.”
Such early support has found full countenance in Napoleone’s confidant ambience in art, that spans painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation. The works are displayed in a family home and rotated with those in storage any few years. On a new Mar afternoon, Ida Ekblad’s energetic epitome house Liquid Drop of a Bleach, 2009, jostles for courtesy with Berta Fischer’s Hulenays, 2011, an acrylic wall square imitative hard, glossy ribbons, while on a building underneath them sits Helen Marten’s found-object sculpture A is for Anarchy…(ABCs), 2010. The room resounds with their shrill voices, clamoring for control of a conversation. “The customarily pattern we use is that we wish to live with a work, so it can't be that huge,” Napoleone explains. “I like work that engages with a space, with a architecture, nonetheless also invades your space and imposes itself. It’s not pointed work.”
Napoleone initial encountered some of these strains as a tyro during New York University. “I had a clarity of what contemporary art was, nonetheless we unequivocally was not prepared for it,” she says, until it “hit me in a face.” The artists she initial fell for were Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Liza Lou, and Carolee Schneemann, who were “really doing things differently than whatever we had been unprotected to…. It was utterly a absolute impulse in a late 1990s in New York, so we was propitious to be there during a right time.”
After graduating from NYU with a grade in journalism, Napoleone embarked on a master’s in art gallery admin- istration during New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology — an useful preparation in a “super-confusing” ways of a art world, nonetheless she never finished adult operative in a gallery. She bought her initial work shortly after completing her studies, a sketch by Carol Shadford from Pierogi 2000 in Williamsburg. “It’s a black-and-white sketch of burble soaps,” she tells me. “It’s utterly epitome from distant away, nonetheless as we proceed we see images of women inside some of them. It’s unequivocally something we responded to. [Shadford] is a lesser-known artist nowadays, nonetheless it was so seminal, so critical in my life, in my tour afterward.”
Napoleone was keenly wakeful of a ambience faced by women artists, as highlighted in campaigns by a Guerrilla Girls severe a underrepresentation of women in open collections. But there is a difference, she insists, between “supporting these bad women”— here she creates mocking quote outlines in a atmosphere — and “supporting artists who we consider are applicable and unequivocally contributing to contemporary culture.” It’s a position Napoleone has spin accustomed to defending. “Someone came here a few years ago and said, ‘Wow, it doesn’t demeanour like art constructed by women.’” She laughs, nonetheless her countenance betrays a sap exasperation. “I was like, ‘What do we mean? What does that demeanour like? Pink? Embroideries?’ Some people customarily don’t get it.”
Even works in a collection that rivet directly with a depiction of women do not fit with simplistic, gender-defined expectations. In a dining room, True Blonde, 1998, Lisa Yuskavage’s portrayal of a womanlike bare masturbating, for instance, is partial porn star, partial video diversion character. Her confidence can be review as independence, nonetheless her active appearance in a (male) anticipation is problematic. Napoleone tells me, “The engaging partial of a private collection is that it’s a prophesy of a collector, and it’s not commanded by a conform of a impulse or ticking a boxes of what we have to buy.” She grows animated, vocalization quickly. “I consider these are a tedious collections — a ones done by a same names that everybody has. we wish to do things my possess way.”
Her closest counselors would agree. “I would never try to conclude Valeria’s taste,” says Cornelia Grassi, of South London gallery Greengrassi. “For her, it’s not about brands or emblem or carrying iconic objects.” Echoes Lisa Panting, of Herald St gallery in East London, “Valeria’s ambience is utterly extended and varied, nonetheless we can review threads using by her collection. She is meddlesome in work that connects to a sold knowledge or impulse or to a body.” Much of a work has a clever unpractical basis, nonetheless a earthy form is roughly as important, as a scale and vibrancy of a art suggests. There is humor, too. Argentine artist Amalia Pica’s designation Vitrine 1 (Unintentional Monument #10, 11, 12, and 13), 2010, that Napoleone bought from Herald St, is a array of temporary automatic contraptions in a Plexiglas box. Each object facilities some demeanour of aerial conductor or receiver, nonetheless it’s a fun about record and unsuccessful communication: one is a potato sporting dual needlework needles like invalid antennas.
The interplay of media and memory is another common theme. On one wall is An Ear to a Sounds of Our History (Road to a White House), 2012, Sharon Hayes’s collage of a record sleeves for American presidential speeches, cringe-inducing in their common honour and unfitness (they enclose no records). Adjacent is Aleksandra Domanovic ́’s digitally manipulated Portrait (mesing), 2012, a pseudo-portrait of Marshal Tito, a former Yugoslav president. Growing adult in Yugoslavia, a artist attended a propagandize where any classroom had an central mural of a leader; her possess chronicle riffs on a central portrait, “but she’s churned it in a approach so that it’s a facilities of Tito and of her high propagandize teacher,” explains Napoleone. “Her work is unequivocally navigating between a common mind and a personal — how it shapes your mind and who we are.”
Napoleone describes her opinion to collecting as perceptive nonetheless not strategic. “I am driven by what we love,” she says, and has been peaceful to spin down “quite a few pieces by artists we unequivocally venerate and we was longing since we suspicion [the works offered] were second-best.” Her ambience is instinctive; she knows a square is for her, she says, when her heartbeat quickens. But premonition is followed by consummate investigate — reading, articulate to people, creation studio visits — before a sale is finalized. “People are in a rush to buy since they are fearful that a prices will go adult or that if they don’t get a artist into their collection, they will be on a watchful list. we do a opposite: we step behind and we take my time.”
Napoleone infrequently buys during art fairs, nonetheless customarily artists she knows, and customarily from galleries with that she has an existent relationship. She never buys during auction, and creates many purchases from galleries. In London, her favorites embody Greengrassi, Hollybush Gardens, and Herald St; in New York, Simone Subal and Kaufmann Repetto; and in Berlin, Tanya Leighton. Of gallerists, Napoleone says, “I admire vision, patience, integrity, and a long-term viewpoint in their business and their artists’ careers. we do not do business with people who play games.” But she is constantly forging new relationships; her phone hums steadfastly via a interview. She won’t spend some-more than €40,000 ($42,900) on a singular piece. “I wish myself to be extemporaneous and not to consider about investment,” she explains. “If we spend over a cap, we will start meditative about a money.”
Napoleone is not a speculator: She doesn’t sell, and she doesn’t play on shopping during art-school grade shows. For her, personification a watchful diversion mostly means following an artist for several years before shopping — nonetheless crucially, shopping during a indicate in a artist’s career when she can still make a difference. “What we caring many about is a artists and ancillary them,” she says.
And not customarily as a collector. Napoleone devotes roughly half her time to nonprofit organizations, in sold Studio Voltaire in South London. Since she came on house some 9 years ago, it has grown from an spontaneous artists’ common into one of a city’s heading nonprofit contemporary art spaces. “I told them, ‘I wish to be involved, nonetheless not customarily with a check,’ ” Napoleone says. “I’m a hands-on person. we venerate to get my hands dirty.” As conduct of a growth committee, she helped launch House of Voltaire, a successful biennial pop-up emporium in Mayfair that sells artworks, prints, clothing, and accessories in support of Studio Voltaire’s work.
Napoleone won’t hold her skeleton for a destiny of her collection nonetheless doesn’t order out donating it to an institution. For a moment, her aim for a collection is “just to continue to say it and to grow it with quality. Quality is a many formidable component to say over decades. To say peculiarity in a marketplace like this, it takes a lot of dedication.”
A chronicle of this essay appears in a May 2015 emanate of Art + Auction.