LOTS 101 - 158

The charm of a collection resides in what little it reveals, and what little it conceals, of that secret urge that pushed the collector to create it in the first place. [...] Hence each collection, the present one included, resembles a diary: a travel diary of course, but also a diary of feelings, emotions, and mindsets [...].

Italo Calvino, Collezione di sabbia, Oscar Mondadori, 2011, p. 7

My uncle, Pino Casagrande, always used to say: "Art has to be lived; one has to coexist with works of art".  As soon as you got to know him, you could not help but notice that he was a different person - different from most, and better than most, to a certain extent.

I belong to a family of collectors, but he more than others, was motivated by a strong passion. He had always loved artworks, was curious, generous to others, and strict with himself. He treated our collection like a living thing and dedicated his entire life to beauty and doing justice to these artists.

In order to become a collector, one needs eyes that are able to see and even more importantly, to understand. Eyes that are able to linger on beauty, eyes capable of deciphering the message, eyes that are not afraid of braving the challenges constantly raised by Contemporary Art. In order to build a collection that goes beyond the mere sampling of beautiful objects, one has to have a vision - a comprehensive vision.

The idea of balance and harmony represents the foundation of my family’s collection. Why have we pursued, desired, and collected these artworks? To tell a story - a story revealing the taste and love of a family. For my uncle, the works in our collection represented a shelter, a place for the soul; he experienced the art as a dream, as a yearning, and his collecting practice like a breath-taking journey.

He began to build his collection at a very young age. At first he collected drawings from the Roman school. Then, in 1967, he met Yvon Lambert through Ugo Ferranti, and was introduced to American and European artists oriented towards Minimalist practices. It was like being struck by lightning.  He travelled, visited galleries, made the acquaintance of the most important art dealers of the time, became the artists’ friend, exchanged views with them, followed their research, and subsequently invited them to Rome to his beautiful home, which was conceived at the beginning of the 1990s in accordance with the artworks which it was meant to welcome.

This collection follows one thought, a holistic idea of an organic unit. It developed naturally around a group of artists who dealt simultaneously with similar themes despite their geographic distances. From the end of the 1960s, Conceptual Art dominated the mind of my uncle. Sol Lewitt was introduced together with Robert Ryman, Brice Marden, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Bob Morris, Daniel Buren, On Kawara, Richard Long, Amish Fulton, Robert Barry, Niele Toroni, Bruce Nauman, Roman Opalka, Vito Acconci, Richard Nonas, Douglas Huebler, and Fred Sandback, as well as Giulio Paolini, Gilberto Zorio, Giuseppe Penone, Jannis Kounellis, Giovanni Anselmo, and Luciano Fabro.

The collection in situ, including works by Carl Andre, Joseph Kosuth and Daniel BurenThe collection in situ, including works by
Carl Andre, Joseph Kosuth and Daniel Buren
© Photo courtesy of Alessandro Vasari

Rome in the 1970s was a place of transit for many Italian and international artists, and my uncle spent time with them all. The artist Lawrence Weiner confided to me many years later, on the occasion of one of his exhibitions at Gagosian, that my uncle was his first patron in Rome. Each and every single one of the artworks in his collection has been desired, sought after, and even chased, like the time he followed Christian Stein all the way to his home in Turin so that he would sell him a work by Anselmo which my uncle had seen and loved very much.

In the early 1980s he familiarised himself with photography and recognised in Bernd and Hilla Becher as well as their students (Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff) a language that, through its coherence and aesthetics, ties in very closely with the basis of his collection. In this collection each work exists individually but also as part of a larger group. Generally, the ensemble permeates into a harmonious rhythm which was amplified by the vessel in which the works were exhibited.

The house is, in a way, a non-location or a location which owes its identity, its appearance and recognition to the artworks themselves. The space and the architecture cease to exist. The genius loci resides within the collection itself. Many works have been specifically commissioned for this house, such as the wall drawing by Sol LeWitt, positioned by the artist above a Roman sarcophagus which therefore became part of the drawing, or Robert Barry’s piece. Two of Daniel Buren’s works had been planned as site-specific works - originally for a different location. The house became a museum and the pieces placed in this context are highlighted as a result, they acquire a stronger iconic value whilst at the same time, gaining a familiar taste of ‘everyday life’ for those, like me, who have grown up alongside them.

The most intimate meaning of this collection lies in its coherence; it looks at artists linked to the same historical period in which my uncle lived and who all worked on similar themes and poetries. This collection has helped both my uncle and me to look beyond, it has been a bridge between reality and fantasy, the visible and the visionary, and has offered us who have lived with it, something we had all to ourselves. But it has equally given those who have had the opportunity to admire it as guests, the tools to live differently in this world. Because a collection should never be a conclusion but always a starting point; it is a way to discover oneself a little better.

What hides behind this collection? There is the heart and the mind of my family, a part of our lives, but there are also the eyes, the feelings and the emotions of all those who have admired it, visited and observed it during all these years. Because a collection, the way we understand it, never purely belongs to its curator, but is also part of a social good, it is a cultural patrimony. So today my family and I, in memory of my uncle, wish to give all this ‘great beauty’ a second chance.  This auction represents for us a way to offer an after-life to these artworks, and therefore we hope that - like birds - they will fly.

Gaia Casagrande

For enquiries please contact Flaminia Allvin on flaminia.allvin@sothebys.com or +39 06 6994 1791.


01 July 2014 | London