Art expands the brain

Una Meistere

An interview with Italian-born art collector and philanthropist Valeria Napoleone in London


Born in Italy, Valeria Napoleone has lived in London for many years and is one of the brightest visionaries on Great Britain’s art scene. An art collector, patroness and philanthropist, over the past twenty years she has created one of the most conceptually strong collections of contemporary art in Europe. It consists only of work by female artists: from Tomma Abts, Shirin Neshat, Joanne Greenbaum, Margherita Manzelli and Phyllida Barlow to Ida Ekblad and Mai-Thu Perret. The goal of the collection, as well as all of Napoleone’s other activities, is to equalise the inequality between the sexes that still exists in the art world.

In 2015, Napoleone established Valeria Napoleone XX, an initiative whose name refers to the female chromosome and the fact that Napoleone is a twin. It aims to provide a platform to advocate for greater representation of female artists in significant public museums across Europe and America. In Europe, it partners with the Contemporary Art Society in London, and every year this collaboration results in the society acquiring one significant work of art by a female artist that it then donates to a regional museum in Great Britain. In New York, the Valeria Napoleone XX project works together with the non-profit SculptureCenter in Long Island City to sponsor the commission of one work of art and exhibition every twelve to eighteen months. The first of these was Project for Door by Anthea Hamilton, a work inspired by an unrealised project for a skyscraper doorway in Manhattan by Italian architect Geotano Pesce in 1972. In 2016, Hamilton received the Turner Prize for this work of art.

Another ongoing partnership is with the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU. XX funds two exhibitions a year, the Great Hall Exhibition series, curated by a team of selected students and focused on female artists. The programming around the solo shows are a very important part of this project. 

In addition to this initiative, Napoleone serves on the New York University President’s Global Council and the board of the Institute of Fine Arts and on the board of trusties of the Contemporary Arts Society. She is also the chair of the development committee at Studio Voltaire.

Napoleone has tons of charisma and literally electrifies any room she enters. It’s a rare and unique quality. Even if you’ve only just met for the first time, she can conjure a feeling of you having known each other for ages. She is a hub of energy able to bring together the various branches of the art world – artists, curators, gallery owners, critics, art historians, museum people and dealers – thus encouraging the creation of new initiatives. She also produces and supports a variety of analytical research projects linked with the role of women in the art world.

Napoleone earned a master’s degree in art administration from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and began collecting art in 1997. She confesses that from the moment she made this decision and acquired her first work of art, she knew that her goal would be to create a serious collection of art. “I knew that this passion was not an infatuation; I knew it was a serious commitment. I never want to forget those early moments, and this is why I always have the pieces that I bought in the 1990s out in conversation with the pieces that have come more recently. It’s a lifetime journey, and it’s wonderful to look back and see that my passion has evolved but is still the same as back then – it’s the same level of commitment,” she says when we meet at her home in Kensington, which is also where she keeps her collection.

“You know, when you travel to beautiful countries like Australia, nature is dominant. It’s beautiful, of course, but when you walk into an incredible art show or a studio, you experience something that you don’t find in nature. I really want that experience of being taken somewhere that is not really anywhere else. Even if I don’t feel comfortable about it, because it stretches a person’s boundaries, and that’s fantastic. That’s why it’s so important for me to live in an environment that’s full of art and to expose my children to it. Art expands the brain and the way we absorb life.”

From the left hanging: Francis Upritchard, The Gentleman, 2008, Modelling Material, Foil, Wire and Paint (+Shelf and Mushroom Screws); Painting: Nicole Eisenman, Brooklyn Biergarten II, 2008, Oil on Canvas; On the left: Kalin Lindena, Oberwindien 7, 2008, Coloured glass, Flag Carrier, Iron rod. Photo: Mariona Otero

You once said in an interview that, for you, art is about communication. That resonates with a quote by the great conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner: Art is conversation. And if there’s no conversation, what the hell is it about?”


And so that’s what I wanted to ask you: What does art really mean to you, what are you searching for in art?

For relationships. Since the very beginning, I’ve understood that the relationship with artists and people is as important for me as the object I’m collecting. The object is the starting point. It opens the door. And then, obviously, I make sure that I meet the artist. I start a conversation with the artist, with the galleries, with curators. It’s an ongoing relationship. It’s an ongoing conversation. I’m so proud of the relationships that I’ve built over so many years, and I value them so much. I give support to institutions and to artists, but I receive a lot back, and to be part of the community – that’s what makes me tick.

My collection is very ambitious, and I dedicate twenty-four hours, seven days a week to thinking about how I can implement it with the artists I can support and include. But that’s just fifty percent of what I do. My activity as a patron, as an art philanthropist, is equally important, and that work is not just about supporting the artists who are in my collection. Because the collection is very focused, and so many artists are not included for many different reasons and not necessarily because I don’t like their work – maybe it’s timing, or maybe it’s something else, I’ve never been exposed to their work properly, never got into it, and so on. But I can support art in so many other ways.

It’s definitely personal for me, and I keep it that way. I keep it personal when I host dinners, when I give funds to support exhibitions, and I keep it personal with my Valeria Napoleone XX initiatives in cooperation with the Contemporary Art Society in the UK, the Institute of Fine Arts in New York City and the SculptureCenter in Long Island City, Queens. I know there are all sorts of institutions that need funding, but I don’t want it to just be a check at the end of the day. I want my contribution to be meaningful on a deeper level.

Another reason I’m in this field is because I know that I can make a difference. Because I collect artists who are not on everybody’s lips – artists who are either young or forgotten or not yet discovered, artists at various life stages. I don’t like to come in and collect what everybody else is collecting, because, first of all, I wouldn’t feel like it’s so necessary. There are so many artists who are struggling nowadays; art institutions and non-profit organisations are struggling to get the funding and the attention they need.

Great artists are struggling, and horrible art is selling. It’s become so commercial and so mainstream that for so many reasons I still feel alone. I feel like there’s even more necessity nowadays to support meaningful practices – more than before – because all this money that’s coming into the art market is going to these so-called “blue-chip” galleries, to blue-chip artists. Or it’s going to speculation. For example, there are a lot of young artists who are in it totally for the money, in it to be speculated and in it for speculation itself. A lot of people are gambling in this way. And that’s really where the money is going nowadays, where the support is going. Even though the art market is booming and expanding, that’s not making any difference for the people and the institutions, because they’re still struggling. And actually, they’re struggling more than ever.

There’s a new generation of art buyers. I call them “buyers” because probably a fraction of them will go on to become collectors – collectors who are really dedicated and looking in the right direction instead of looking just at household names or branded artists. But the vast majority of these new buyers are really not that interested in being devoted to art. They do it for a certain lifestyle, for conversation, because it’s trendy, and, you know, there’s a lot of wrong mentoring. The art schools are booming, and all of these artists coming out of school, they have this idea that, as an artist, if you’re not in a gallery six months after finishing school, you feel like a loser. If you don’t have a solo show by a year after finishing school, you feel like a loser. If you don’t double your prices because all your friends are doing so... And so on.

I hear artists telling me this. Also, in the art schools there’s a lot of seduction that happens through this money machine that has become the art market. I’m not saying that money is bad. Money is very good when it’s used in a great way and when it’s in great hands, in the right hands.

Nowadays, so much is being done from the perspective of projects: how to be noticed, how to make a successful project, how to attract funding and how to earn money with it.

Exactly. In many art schools they teach students how to prepare their resumes, instead of focusing on their practice. Let the galleries help them in doing their resumes. Being an artist is not a career; it’s not going from here to here, up the ladder – it’s really a lifetime. Sometimes you’re up, you’re in favour, and then for years you’re totally forgotten. Up and down and up and down, and no matter what happens, you’re there, struggling or not struggling, you’re there.

And so this is why we should wait ten or twenty years. The vast majority of people who are in art now will eventually disappear. That has happened in the past. But it’s the wrong kind of mentoring going on in art schools today, and those are the wrong ideas these artists are getting. Because when a younger generation comes out and sees so much money and being famous – becoming rich as an artist – and when this kind of thinking takes over the making of great art, it’s problematic.

From the left hanging: Kalin Lindena, Oberwindien 7, 2008, Coloured glass, Flag Carrier, Iron rod; work in the middle: Julia Wachtel, Landscape No.11 (government), 1990, Oil, Flashe, Lacquer, Ink on Canvas; below the painting: Shio Kusaka, porcelain, on the left: Haegue Yang, Up and Down Between Twins, 2010, mixed media. Photo: Mariona Otero

According to a 2017 report by the Association of Art Museum Directors, seventy percent of museums with annual budgets of $15 million or more are run by men. And when it comes to artists, the disparity in prices achieved for works at auction is far greater. The $44.4 million achieved by Georgia O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1 (1932) in 2014 still holds the record for the priciest painting by a female artist. Compare that with $450.3 million for Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci or $179 million for Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger sold at Christie’s. The record for a work by a living woman artist at auction belongs to Jenny Saville and a work of hers that sold for $12.4 million at Sotheby’slast year, while Balloon Dog by her male contemporary Jeff Koons sold for $58.5 million at Christie’s in New York in 2014. What’s your explanation for this harsh reality?

The art world has always been a boys’ club. It’s been even worse than the situation in society in general. Even worse than in finance and banking.

If you look at finance, OK, it’s a men’s club, and everybody knows it. It’s always been like that, and you expect it. But the art world – most people tend to think of that as a very progressive field. Pushing boundaries, being very forward-looking and so on. So it’s a shock to see how backwards it really is. Even in 2019, it’s worse than in any other field.

For women, becoming an artist in the 1950s and 60s was like a no-no. In the 1920s and 30s it was a no-no. If you were a woman and wanted to become a doctor, maybe your parents would have at least told you that, if you became a good doctor, you could make a living at it. But art has always been off limits for women, probably because it’s always been looked at as not a real profession. And the legacy of all these big names, these male names, who had a really incredible companion at their side – a woman, who is totally dismissed. Even though the women were actually making incredible art, and sometimes better art than their male partners.

So women had to have double the courage to become an artist, more than they needed to in order to become a doctor or a scientist. Because of the stigma for a woman to be an artist. Still now I hear artists of my generation saying, “My parents were never supportive of what I wanted to do. They asked how will you make a living out of it.” Still now, because of the preconceptions, women feel a lot of resistance from society, from their parents and family, as women entering such a field.

A new wave of feminism has probably elevated consciousness and action on gender imbalance in every field and art is included. But how much are people in the arts really committed to it?

Trends are common and tricky to say the least. We do not want female artists to be a trend we want serious commitment to change.

I think it’s also the responsibility of art institutions and museums when they make their collections.

It actually starts from there. I think that’s one of the most important elements and one that the art institutions really need to figure out. How to support female artists, or other genders and diversity.So really, we’re entering another discourse, but it’s because everything follows from the institutions. If serious institutions shed light on and “open windows” to really great artists and great female artists, then collectors will come and the representation will come.

But unfortunately, the seduction doesn’t stop at the artist’s level; it also goes to curators, and curators like to have very popular shows. And shows require large funding. So if you’re a young gallery or a smaller organisation and you don’t have the money to support a solo institutional show of your artists, curators will turn to someone else, someone with bigger pockets. This happens more often than we like.

A few years ago, The Art Newspaper published the results of a study that showed that artists from five of the world’s biggest galleries accounted for nearly a third of solo museum shows in Europe, I believe, between 2007 and 2013. We need very serious, committed curators with integrity. We need people with integrity. I keep saying that “integrity” is my favourite word, because it’s so rare and so necessary.

I think it’s great what Tate Modern is doing right now in terms of its collection, developing the idea of transnationality. This “re-calibration” was initiated by Tate Modern’s former director of collections (international art) Frances Morris, who is now the director of Tate Modern. And it’s being continued by her successor, Gregor Muir.

And I definitely want them to continue doing that. But they’re only one institution. And they need to do more and more, because it’s never enough. But it’s fantastic that really large institutions are run by women. This is all about the pyramid in the art world: once you reach the larger institutions, women disappear, women really disappear as you go up the pyramid. And the resistance is there; it’s still a power game from the establishment. But there are also other issues, for example, sometimes women are the worst enemy of other women. Because if they’re so flattered to become part of this boys’ club and they finally make it into the big league or whatever you want to call it, they sometimes become even worse in marginalising other women.

So it’s really problematic. I mean, obviously I’m not as pessimistic as it sounds. I’m actually a very optimistic person. I just look ahead, but I don’t want to be naive. Just because there are a lot of all-female shows and a lot of articles, that doesn’t mean that the serious commitment is there. Let’s not be delusional. Let’s be realistic and see things the way they are. But at the same time, charge ahead with a lot of optimism. I’ve been on a great journey since the beginning. And I’m so excited at the incredible number of talented individuals who are women, who are so relevant for the younger generation, so relevant for their own generation. This is why I do what I do. Because I feel it’s needed and I feel it’s making a huge difference to the artist, to the institution I support.

My collection, for example, is not like, “Oh, I picked this artist – poor her, otherwise she would not survive without my support.” No, my collection is about quality.

So, the first key issue is talent. Talent and quality. And this is what I get excited about. This is why I’m very focused and picky about what enters the collection. Not just the type of artist but also the type of work. I want pretty top quality in what I buy, and I want to keep it that way – consistency in quality throughout the decades. I’ve been working for twenty-plus years, and this is my mission. My collection has to have the highest level of quality I can identify, the highest level of artists I can identify. This is my ambition and constant, and this is not easy to achieve. It takes time, it takes dedication, it takes a lot of energy, but that’s what I love to do. And the same amount of energy goes into being a patron as well.

From the left: Emily Mae Smith, Guns VS Tongues, 2014, prepared ground, oil on canvas; Pamela Fraser, Colombo, 2000, Acrylic Gouache & Gesso on Canvas; on the floor: Magali Reus, In Place of (Sundries), 2015, mixed media; above: Pae White, Sunshine Chandelier, 2006, Sculpture in Terracotta, Metal and Paint; on the windowsill: Vase by Gaetano Pesce; Jennifer Packer, No Mind For Yearning, 2015, Oil on canvas. Photo: Mariona Otero

You said you’re fifty percent collector and fifty percent patron?

The two go hand in hand. Really, I would feel crippled doing one without the other. I need both, because this is naturally who I am. Someone asked me recently, “Deep inside, really deep inside you, what ticks?” And I know what it is – it’s this strong sense of fairness. A sense of what is right and what is wrong. That’s the way I was brought up. I’m like my father, with a really strong sensitivity towards injustice. to things that are wrong. And I think deep inside this is what ticked in me when I started collecting female artists. It was not a strategy.

I’ve always put questions to myself, because I want to do things, I want to improve, and life around you changes and situations change. So when I started collecting, deep inside me was this feeling that there’s so much wrong in the art world. People often ask me whether the situation has improved. Well, the conversation has just started, and it needs to go deeper. I believe the next step now is to continue focusing on the work of female artists. Besides institutional and curatorial support, we need to focus on critical analysis and writing about female artists. Artists who are in their 80s or 90s or maybe already dead, there isn’t any critical writing on their work, they’ve never been looked at. So how do we address art history if we don’t have any material, any critical material on their work? This is so needed. Publications, analysis, symposiums. Not just “Oh, I’ve just done an all-female artist show, so I’m politically correct.”

You know, it’s exactly this type of superficiality that is expanding to and reaching every single aspect in our society nowadays. It’s visual, it’s fast consumption, and the art world is not immune to that. But the art world is not fashion; it’s not about a quick turnaround from one collection to the next and selling, selling, selling all the time. Art is not like that.

At the same time, though, that’s exactly the attitude encouraged today by tools like social media.

Social media gives exposure, but it also gives people the wrong idea. Making art is different from making anything else. It’s not the hundred thousand followers on Instagram that make you successful as an artist; instead, it’s your work that tells a story, and the way it’s connected with the community of artists nowadays, and how it influences your peers and new generations.

Lily van der Stokker, & Leo Kroll, Tables and Chairs, 2004, 1 Table and 4 chairs, Wood, Plastics and Digital Prints on Pastic Laminated; behind Valeria: Lisa Yuskavage, True Blonde, 1998, Oil on Linen. Photo: Philip Sinden

When speaking about your collection, you always say that you need to be surrounded by something that provokes you, something gets you out of your comfort zone. Why do you need this?

People ask me to describe the type of art that I like, and I cannot. Because my collection is very conceptual, and so each piece is different. It’s not a style that I’m attracted to. I guess if I have to describe it some way, I like practices that are really in your face, that are unapologetic. Art that really demands your attention. It’s not about style; it’s about language. I want to be exposed to something that I have never been exposed to before. I really like this element of surprise, but a surprise that’s at so many different levels in terms of discourse. And I feel that this is what makes me grow, what makes me look at life in a totally different way.

As a person, I need this constant stimulation of really pushing myself. What if this, what if that? Every time I find and meet an artist or a practice that does this to me, my brain expands, I feel different and new emotions. It’s priceless. So, in a way, it could be considered a little, you know, selfish, because I really crave that feeling. But I counterbalance it with the fact that I support art.

Of course, as a collector you are a little bit selfish anyway, because you own things.

Of course...but what I’m saying when I say that I crave this is that I crave it for my intellect, for my emotions. I buy the work of art, but I want to engage in the conversation with the artist. I cannot separate these two things, because it’s an experience that goes beyond the object that I buy.

From the left fragment of Francis Francis Upritchard, Warm Table, 2011, Wooden table, Wool Ryg, Ceramic, Leather, Fur, Braid, Football, in the left corner:Berta Fischer, Hulenays, 2011, Radiant Acrylic Glass; Judith Bernstein, Screw 1, 2014, Charcoal on linen. Photo: Oliver Holms

How important for you is the story behind the work of art?

There’s a story behind each piece. I buy a few pieces a year and which I believe are great pieces by great artists. I prefer quality over quantity. It’s not about money; it’s about the way I am. I want to really “taste” and savour every single piece that comes into my collection, and I need time to think about it. I need to meet the artist. Some artists I buy as soon as I meet them. But with some artists I wait months. With some artists, I even wait years for the right body of work that opens up the eye. There are some artists I’ve known for years, but I always feel like they’re not there yet for me. I need to be excited. I need to feel my heart beating when I look at the work. So I wait.

You know, there’s a lot that goes on before I actually start buying a work of art. It’s a journey. And I like that, and I don’t buy on the secondary market. Actually, though, two years ago I did buy a piece at auction for the first time in my twenty years of collecting.

What was the reason for buying it?

Well, I always look at auctions to see what’s coming and have a feeling of the market. The same way art fairs are great tools of information into what's happening. But I do not buy that much at both. Nowadays there’s a lot of production done especially for art fairs, and I don’t want to go around my living room saying that I bought this at this art fair and that one at some other art fair. The problem stays with many galleries, participating to so many art fairs, pushing the artists to produce a lot for fairs, and I believe this is wrong.

For me, it’s always been important to support the artist and to support the gallery. This is why I buy in the primary market, also because the money goes directly to the artists, which does not happen if you buy on secondary market. I truly believe in the gallery system, it’s not obsolete, the system is in place and it’s here to stay. It’s so important for artists to have a space – not just a physical space, but a space like a community of other artists with which to engage and exchange. And the role of the gallerist is also an important one. That’s a community that’s vital for the art world. That's the community I am part of.

The reason why I bought that one piece at auction is because it is a beautiful piece by an artist I really meant to add to my collection for a while. I came across this work by chance and I thought “Oh, this is a great work,” but then I forgot about it. Later on I checked the results and found out the piece was unsold. I said OK, I want anyway to but some work by her. I called the gallery and said that I had found this piece and would like to let them know about it. The auction house didn’t have the certificate of authenticity, so I asked the gallery if they could ask the artist to provide it. She said yes, and shortly afterwards I ended up buying two major works by the same artist from the gallery at a much higher price than the auction. All to say that there is a problematic art market today and many great artists find themselves in a very vulnerable position. I like to see more responsibility and more heart in how people collect. 

Did you have a mentor of sorts when you started? How did this process start?

My mentoring was the master’s degree programme in art gallery administration that I did at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. That was in the mid-1990s, which was really the golden period for the art world. It was still a small world back then. And whatever art books I was looking at, it was all men. Abstract expressionists, minimalists, land artists... Then suddenly, in the middle of my studies, the really new languages coming out – like Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Guerrilla Girls, etc. – they were all women bringing new ideas to the table.

I immediately knew that this was the art I connect to. And I said to myself that I want to collect female artists. I wondered why nobody was giving support to female artists. Was it just because of their gender? I couldn’t understand why. I’m a feminist. I grew up in a family where being a man or a woman was no different. I never experienced any type of discrimination.

The early pieces I bought in the 1990s, in 1997, 1998, are so precious to me, like family pictures. They remind me of where I come from; they remind me of great moments in my life and how it has changed. I discovered contemporary art, but not only that – I discovered how much commitment I’m willing to give to this field. It’s funny now, because my best friend, who really knows me well and since back then, she told me recently, “Valeria, I remember you came to London” – because I started collecting in New York – “You came to London, and you came to visit me, and then you told me that you’re a collector.” So she asked me, “OK, how many pieces do you have?” And I said, “Two.”

I didn’t say I was an art buyer. No, I never said that about myself. I only said I’m going to become a collector and a serious collector. I knew that this passion, which took me two years to figure out, was going to be for a lifetime. And if I’m lucky enough, I will continue collecting and building the collection. If I’m not lucky, if life takes me somewhere else, I’ll support art in a different capacity. But I knew that it was going to be a lifetime journey.

Is it true that your collection began with a black-and-white photograph by American artist Carol Shadford? 

About a week after I graduated, I went to Williamsburg. Back then it was a no man’s land, just artists’ spaces and studios. That was where I bought this photograph of soap bubbles by Carol Shadford from a small, non-profit gallery. It’s a beautiful piece. It’s small, but if you look closely, you see that there’s a face or a figure of a woman in some of the bubbles. This was how my collection started.

Those years in New York were really my time of mentoring; I was mentored throughout those years by artists whom I trust. This is my community. I created this spider web of a support system and of which I’m so proud, because people trust me. And when I say people, I mean curators, artists, gallerists. They trust me, they know that I don’t sell, they know that I don’t speculate and that I loan the pieces to museums. They know that I support the artists in so many other ways. They know the level of commitment and the genuineness. It’s not about the money, it’s about the ethics.

At the end of the day, they could probably sell the same paintings to ten other collectors. But I get access to these pieces because I am who I am. Because I’ve done the job that I’ve done, and I’m proud of it. And, honestly, I earned it.

In the end, I think art is all about truth. And this is what you’re doing – you’re searching for the truth in art.

Absolutely. You’re right. You search for truth, and you search for something that touches your soul. And for me, this journey has really been an incredible experience. I have dug to a very deep level of my soul and heart, and I’m overwhelmed. Most of the time I’m emotionally overwhelmed about what I experience and what I feel.

And all these incredible relationships and friendships that I’ve developed along the way, they really teach me to be a better person and to really look at life with deeper meaning. That’s my drive. My doctor doesn’t need to tell me that I have to do it for my own well-being. It’s instinctive, you know. It’s deep inside me.

How important for you – both in your own private space and in the collection as a whole – is the interaction between different works of art? These direct dialogues, which undeniably exist.

This is also why we live with art. Curating the collection, deciding about the pieces to include in it, has been an incredible journey as well. It’s not just “I love this artist, I love the practice.” I also need to find the type of work that speaks to me at every level.

I always said I want to create a choir. I want to create a choir of human voices with my collection. They’ve been silenced, and so every single piece, every single artist has to have a strong voice within the collection and add something new. And this is what it has become – it’s not just a collection of names. It’s more than the sum of its parts, because it represents something more. It represents this choir of female voices that have been silenced, but it also represents the grandness, the level of quality that female artists have been producing, which has been totally dismissed.

You’ve mentioned the word “voice” several times. If you were to think of your collection as a piece of music, what kind of music would it be? Opera?

Yeah, I think so. Wow, why do you say opera?

Because of the deepness of the emotions in a brilliant opera performance. For example, if you listen to old recordings of Maria Callas, there is this overwhelming power and the feeling of absolute truth in her voice. The passion, the emotions, the intellectual challenge that great music awakens in you despite already knowing the libretto so well.

This is absolutely true. And I think that when you listen to opera, you close your eyes. And you see the voice, even though you actually can’t see it. But it has such a presence, and it comes from deep inside the singer’s body. Nobody told me about this, but it’s so true. Absolutely. And also because there’s longevity in that. In opera, too, because it’s never over.

Because with each voice and each interpretation you can open other doors.

And also because it’s not a trend. It’s not like something that just pops up at one moment. There’s such a level of authenticity and of mastery, to master a voice. Being an opera singer, that’s not an easy thing to do. I mean, it doesn’t come to everybody. So, this level of mastery, this level of emotion, of authenticity, of passion. That’s what makes it true, absolutely. And it’s the same with art.

On the left: Berta Fischer, Hulenays2011, Radiant Acrylic Glass, 270 x 150  x 50; behind Valeria on the wall: Falke Pisano, Figures of Speech (Figure 1), 2009, Sculpture; Wood, Paint, Fabric, 129 x 120 x 9 cm; on the floor: Nina Canell, Another Soft Stone, 2009, Neon, Concrete, Foam, Watermelon, Cable. Photo: Philip Sinden