“When someone asks me why they should build a contemporary art collection I say that they would go home more gladly if they had great pieces on their walls.”
Contemporary art consultant and curator, Tiziana Castelluzzo, shows us around her stunning apartment in Milan. With a Master’s degree in contemporary art, a former career in finance and over ten years of art consulting under her belt, she has a wealth of experience and shares her expert wisdom on investing in art, her favorite spots in Milan and her predictions for the next big names in the art scene.
FAM: Hi Tiziana, thank you for meeting with me today in your beautiful home in Milan. The city has firmly established itself among Italy’s great cities for contemporary art, hasn’t it?
Tiziana Castelluzzo: In the last five years, Milan has really transformed itself. When I moved back from London I missed the vibe and the energy of the big city. Now I have to say that Milan has grown so much in terms of cultural offering that I know I am in the right place.
Which local galleries and museums do you feel inspired by?
Fondazione Prada, Pirelli HangarBicocca and Fondazione Trussardi are the three institutions that I find the most interesting. Also contemporary art galleries like Massimo de Carlo, Lia Rumma and, among the youngest, Patricia Armocida are my favorites in the city, but I also have many relationships with international galleries with whom I work daily. In the digital age, it’s very easy to work remotely.
What made you want to work in the art world?
I graduated in business and finance but I had always been interested in art. I was working in finance when I decided to move to London and do a Master’s degree in contemporary art. At that time I was not sure if at the end of it, I would go back to finance or pursue a career in the art field but when I finished my degree I was so into contemporary art that I wanted to remain there!
How did you become an art advisor?
After an experience at Sotheby’s in the contemporary art department and at Phillips de Pury in the photography department, I had the great opportunity to become the managing director of an art consultancy within a high-end lifestyle group. This gave me the chance to combine my business expertise with my art background, to meet and work with very talented and well-known members of the contemporary art scene. It was a very exciting period!
How did it feel to change careers?
Of course my choice was very risky as I already had a good career in finance and it was not easy, but I am very proud and happy of my path and most importantly, now I do what I really love. Working in art for me is a passion, not just a job.
What are the joys of being a curator?
I love to discover young talented artists and work with them forming a close relationship by staying with them. I confront myself with their work and their personality. I think a curator has the role of helping artists to express themselves in the most effective way and to make their vision possible by guiding them. Great artists can convey so much through their work.
Which of the exhibitions you have curated have been the most memorable for you?
When I attended the first edition of the Hong Kong art fair as an art advisor I discovered Korean artist Seahyun Lee. I fell in love with his work and found a way to bring him to Italy and curate his first solo show here, which was a big success. Another exhibition that comes to mind is that of Jukhee Kwon. I met her in London when she was studying at Camberwell College. Manually shredding pages of abandoned and unused books with great precision and patience, she creates waterfall-like hanging sculptures. I had already exhibited her work in some group shows but I had never done a solo show. I was very happy with that exhibition because it attracted the interest of people that are not particularly into contemporary art.
As a collector, what grabs your attention?
The work has to intrigue me, to make me think and push me to research and to discover more. But I have problems with art works that solely need research or an explanation to catch my attention. The contemporary artists that I appreciate the most are those who are able to address important issues with powerful works, and also those who express their intimate world in a way that is so universal that it can resonate with everyone’s emotions.
You have a work by Os Gemeos and eL Seed in your collection—what are your views on Street Art?
I do not like the term “Street” Art—journalists use it a lot but it’s really sensationalist and reductive for artists like them. Of course they began in the underground scene but as their work evolved they started to bring their imaginary worlds into contemporary art galleries and museums. They still make public pieces but the latter represents the minimum part of what they do.
What made you want to buy this work by Os Gemeos?
The identical twin brothers Os Gemeos, who were recently invited to produce a mural for Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan, create surreal worlds with distinctive characters from their Brazilian culture—portraits of musicians, fishermen, women, and children who populate simple and sensual scenes of Brazilian reality that are melded with imaginary figures conceived in their oneiric universe. My Os Gemeos work was part of an installation, which was built inside Patricia Armocida gallery.
And eL Seed?
eL Seed works with themes that seem contradictory. His dynamic and colorful oeuvre is eye-catching not only for the words themselves and their meaning, but also for their movement that lures viewers. The universal messages of peace, tolerance, coexistence, and dialogue between people and cultures are the foundations of eL Seed’s poetics. His aim is to challenge prejudices and clichés.
What is your favorite piece in your collection and why?
I don’t have a favorite. I am really attached to every single piece in my collection. I come home, I look at the art on the walls and I feel at peace. When someone asks me why they should build a contemporary art collection I say that they would go home more gladly if they had great pieces on their walls. Contemporary art speaks of our time, of our reality and addresses new ways of thinking, which opens our mind. It’s also a good way to invest money.
What are your thoughts about buying art for investment?
I think that art can be a very good way to invest money, whilst also owning something enjoyable. But as with all investments it needs expertise. In order to make a good investment you need to have a deep understanding of the art market’s dynamics to know what and where to buy, and at what price.
What advice would you give to someone buying emerging art?
In the art world, like in all others, things don’t happen by chance. So if you are interested in buying a work which, regardless of how much you pay for it, stands for quality and has the potential to gain in value, then you should carefully read the artist’s CV—look at their education, the exhibitions they have done and the galleries that represent their work. I would suggest buying only from galleries that have a great reputation and works that are unique and recognizable.
Who in terms of emerging artists do you think is currently on the road to success? Who are your favorites?
Dale Lewis, Danny Fox, Felix Treadwell, Helena Parada Kim, Agostino Iacurci, eL Seed, Richie Culver, and many others.
And lastly, where do you buy?
Mostly from art galleries. I do buy at auction, but mostly for my clients. For me, the most interesting thing is going to an exhibition, falling in love with an artist and learning more about their work. Then you have something that tells a story.
Interview by Anna Fargher