Collector profile: Giuliana & Tommaso Setari
Contemporary Art | “Art accustoms you to beauty and rigor… to upholding standards.” For the Setaris, proximity with art and artists is an important part of self-construction, prefiguring the adoption of a broad worldview. Tommaso grew up in Rome surrounded by the artist friends of his parents, who collected paintings. Giuliana spent her childhood in Pescara, studying literature and art history, taking courses on Flemish painting and frequenting art galleries.
Giuliana’s first major emotional connection with a work of art was in 1976 at an exhibition staged in a former prison : an Ettore Spalletti floor piece comprised of pure blue pigment, a sensitive depiction of the sky that would lead him to visit the artist in his studio. Tommaso and Giuliana met in Brussels in 1977. She was an intern in the European commission’s cultural director’s office while he “managed the trading room for a major Japanese bank.”
Their first work?
In 1979, two years after they met, the Setaris fell in love with Gerhard Richter’s Abstract Painting 449/2 at the Galeria Mario Pieroni in Rome. “That acquisition was important because it oriented those to come, but also because we met the artist.”
Their collection is spread throughout a global network of 18 countries, 45 cities, and 66 museums and art centers. Numerous residences in Rome, Milan, Capri, New York, Brussels and Paris make up the constituent elements of a single esthetic universe, structured around acquired and commissioned works – the fruit of a necessary dialogue with artists : a Sol LeWitt wall drawing (Asymmetircal Pyramid, 1986) activates antique frescos, a Vettor Pisani work (Edipo Psicopompo, 1986) reveals the winged underside of consciousness, Pistoletto’s mirrors place the human in a floating world of possibilities… Through countless works installed in their homes or loaned to museums, the Setaris are “collectors of artists” according to Michelangelo Pistoletto. As such, over the course of almost forty years, they have come to know the great artists of the day : Alighiero Bœtti, Franz West, Mario Merz, Thierry de Cordier, Carla Accardi, Jan Vercruysse, Maurizio Cattelan...
“Spending the 1980s in New York gave us an understanding of the relationship between art, institutions, galleries and the worlds of business and finance.” Marked by a profound sense of hospitality, their New York home became a meeting place for Italian artists of the Arte Povera movement, directors of the most powerful American museums, and major Italian industrialists, financiers and patrons. This hub of activity continues today through the Paris-based Dena Foundation that Giuliana Setari created to help young Italian (and international) artists find recognition. In the globalization age, art has become a field for responsible action : “the artists I like are developing social interventions.”
A real connoisseur of financial mechanisms, Tommaso Setari dismisses any suggestion of speculation. For him, the essence of profit is “the incalculable value of being able to live with artists and their works.” For Giuliana Setari, money “gives you the ability to support artistic creation, it’s an instrument for allowing artists to realize their projects.”