This conversation was held on Nov.9th 2012 during the Artissima Art Fair in Turin.
A conversation with Francesco Pantaleone about his gallery and his work
Francesco Pantaleone: I opened my gallery in Palermo, Sicily, in 2005. After working for a while at Gagosian, New York, I felt the need to bring contemporary art into my town, Palermo, and find there what I was missing. I started my gallery as a game, with the typical levity of art connected to the beauty of the location, the Ramacca Palace in the neighborhood of Vucciria in Palermo. The project was started with a great energy, with the will to involve interesting people I met in previous years. Such as the artists I met when I was living in Rome and in New York. The gallery represented the right excuse for bringing them back close to me. The gallery was born thanks to the help of artist friends and to my family’s faith in me. Very quickly, in 2005, we managed to exhibit for the first time at a Fair, the Artissima Art Fair in Turin, exactly where we are meeting today. Here we had the occasion to start a relationship with the wider world of contemporary art which is not so easy to meet in Palermo. I easily understood the positive aspect of living in Sicily, the incredible energy of the place, the immense potential of a virgin land. In Sicily there are also big limitations, a limited number of collectors, and a not particularly developed sensibility for contemporary art. Once we have focused our goals, we have tried to keep walking towards that direction, trying to find the right artists that could guide Palermitans towards contemporary art.
The relationship with the wider Italian contemporary art system is very nice and stimulating. In particular, the relationship with the other galleries which started in an atmosphere of mutual respect and professionalism. Whenever we have invited artists already working with other galleries, we have always involved the galleries representing them. This is very important because the artist-gallery relationship is very serious and professional and cannot be underestimated. We recognize the work done by those galleries and today we ask for the same recognition for the work we are doing. And when someone invites one of our artists, we use the same working modalities.
Tiziana Casapietra: What does it mean working in Sicily?
FP: Working in Sicily means exploiting the land’s potential, a land which in a way is still virgin, and exploit the big history and energy of this place. The enormous traditions that Sicily has sometimes represent a limitation but often become an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the artists. Being in Sicily also means lower production costs and a good level of professionalism; we have very good carpenters and craftsmen that produce the art works for the artists and make them very satisfied. Sometimes the artists do not easily find such skillful workers in the north of Italy.
TC: Having spent some years in the US, have you ever thought to open a gallery there?
FP: It is quite natural dreaming of opening galleries anywhere in the world as Larry Gagosian does. The feeling that links me to art and the way I feel it in Palermo, probably could not be applied in the US. I feel my personal story more connected to my land. In any case, I have just opened a space in Milan around which moves a little group of friends and collectors that follow and support the gallery. We work with artists based in Milan such as Liliana Moro. At the moment we are the only Italian gallery that represents her. For us she is a source of experience and stimulus. At times we get a little scolding that helps us keep walking and we feel it necessary to our work. We felt this was the moment to get closer to Milan. We took the occasion of a wonderful space in the Brera neighborhood. Should a similar occasion arise in the US or in Germany, we will certainly consider it. It would represent an opportunity for the gallery and for our artists.
TC: How do you select your artists?
FP: The selection is very spontaneous. We usually have a first meeting held on a human basis. We meet, we try to understand each other, and then we see if we can work together. If we achieve reciprocal human understanding, the professional understanding will easily follow. But we always try to keep friendship and business well distinguished. We never take anything for granted. We never think that an artist has to work with us because of our friendship. The human aspect is very important but must be kept safely separated from business.
TC: How do you deal with the economic crisis of our times?
FP: The crisis does exist and we feel it as much as anyone else. But the times of crisis have always led to a higher quality of products. Crisis can be a challenge and an opportunity. And perhaps it represents the occasion for us to do more discounts…