Interview with Mr Emilio Gargioni – Italy
Collection of modern rhino paintings
1) Why did you decide to collect images of the rhinoceros in modern art?
I have decided to start a collection of artworks concerning the Rhinoceros as I had two different passions: from one side the preference for grotesque art, from the other the interest for endangered species of mammals.
The match between these two elements has produced the decision to put together an ensemble of artworks devoted to an endangered grotesque animal and then the rhino came out!...
2) What is the earliest item in the collection?
The earliest work bought was a big oil on wood made by an Italian surreal/fantastic artist named Lorenzo Alessandri. The painting was reproducing not a rhinoceros but a fantastic insect called “sclassaronte” which brought to mind a gigantic rhino.
3) How many items are in the collection and how would you categorize them?
The collection, today, is composed by about 1200 works, divided into: 600-650 paintings, 100 original illustrations, 100 graphics, about 80 sculptures; the rest is formed by applied art objects.
4) Which piece would you say is your favorite?
It’s quite difficult to elect a favourite piece among all these artworks. What I can say is that the one I probably love more than the others, is a beautiful interpretation of a rhino that appeared in a Fellini’s movie, realised by a German artist, Michael Mathias Prechtl, who was also a very good friend of mine.
5) Do you exhibit your collection?
My collection has been already exhibited three times.
The first one was in 1988/89. A travelling exhibition in seven Italian cities organized and coordinated by Cartier, titled “Platinum Rhinoceros”, in which Cartier was presenting its platinum jewels dedicated to the rhino. In addition to them, I have been requested to select about 100 works to accompany the show. A beautiful catalogue, which is now out of print, was produced with all the colour images of my paintings.
The second exhibition has been in Torino in 2003, at the Museum of Natural Sciences (http://www.regione.piemonte.it/museoscienzenaturali/).
This was a show entirely dedicated to my collection, with about 150 pieces presented. The duration of this exhibit has been of three months and a half, and the visitors were about 38.000.
A beautiful book has been edited by the museum, with all the images of the works exhibited reproduced in colour. This catalogue is still available asking the museum bookshop.
The third one was a selection of sculptures and objects of my collection which have been shown in the external windows of the BSI Italian Switzerland Bank in Lugano. In this case the press officer of the bank, who was also the cultural events responsible, selected about 100 pieces that were exhibited in ten big windows of the bank with a special set design.
The catalogue was produced in three languages (Italian, French and German).
6) How do you find the works of art to be added to the collection?
My current role of a modern art gallerist is helping me very much. Many artists who became also friends of mine, talk of this collection in every part of the world, and now I am often contacted by artists from everywhere who show me their interpretations of the rhino.
When I was only a collector (and not yet a gallerist), it was much more difficult. Today we are all advantaged by having internet, with the possibility to look at images in real time…
7) Are you also interested in the rhinoceros as a living animal?
I think that before becoming a collector I was, without any doubt, in love with that animal, not only because it was a grotesque example of mammal, but mainly because it had to be protected against its worst enemy… the man.