On the occasion of the Parcours des Mondes fair, young collector Inti Ligabue draws up a portrait of one of the broadest Italian art collections, ranging from prehistory to modern paintings via tribal art. An inventory.
Inti Ligabue, thirty-five years old, was appointed honorary president of the 15th edition of the Parcours des Mondes fair. This year, the event is drawing to Paris 80 international galleries specialising in tribal and Asian arts, from 6 to 11 September. Inti is the son of Giancarlo Ligabue, who passed away in 2015, and who gained renown as an archaeologist, palaeontologist and collector, as well as a political figure and businessman at the head of Gruppo Ligabue, a hundred-year-old family business dealing in food freight and services, present on every continent. This eminent Italian public figure left behind an incomparable legacy, including an extraordinary art collection covering a few thousand years. To carry on this adventure, Inti Ligabue launched, in January 2016, a foundation in Venice to support his father’s research and collection.
You are this year’s honorary president at the Parcours des Mondes. From an international perspective, how is this event positioned?
This event is doubtless one of the most important international meeting places for the tribal-art market and collectors. It gathers prestigious galleries from all over the world. It is an opportunity for specialists and enthusiasts to exchange their views and knowledge. I’m happy to have been chosen as honorary president of this year’s Parcours des Monde; it is a fine homage to the work of my father who built up his collection passionately over more than forty years.
What is the core of your collection?
In terms of the number of works, the collection mainly presents Pre-Columbian art pieces. In terms of cultural and historic interest, it is particularly distinctive for its tribal-art and antiquity pieces. But we also have many Old Masters drawings, from Giambattista Tiepolo to Veronese or Leonardo Da Vinci. The collection also comprises prehistoric pieces. My father was an eclectic collector. He was always guided, while building up his collection, by his research on the beginnings of humanity.
As managing director of Gruppo Ligabue, how do you reconcile your work with your collection activities?
Collecting is a passion, and it’s hard for me to stop always going further and exploring cultures more. The company that I head is established in fourteen countries, and I need to travel regularly throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. I always take advantage of these trips to visit museums, galleries and exhibitions, and I’m always attentive to the way in which locals present their art.
Have you acquired any works recently?
Oh yes! I’m an enthusiastic collector – perhaps sometimes even a bit excessive! In the last two years, I’ve bought more than twenty pieces. I’m particularly proud of my acquisition of a magnificent Fang work from the Cameroon, as well as a Romanian Venus dating from the 2nd century.
Are you also interested in contemporary art?
What I like in tribal and ancient artworks is the historical and spiritual evidence that they present whereas contemporary art is more intuitive. But it’s true that I’m interested in modern art. The collection includes works by Fortunato Depero, Lucio Fontana, Zoran Mušic, Tancredi and Emilio Vedova.
What is the role of the Giancarlo Ligabue Foundation?
I set up the foundation in Venice last year. It continues the activities of the research centre established by my father forty years ago, organising archaeological, anthropological and paleontological expeditions. The aim of this foundation is to manage and conserve the collection, to organise exhibitions and to promote publications and university research. We also publish a quarterly magazine.
The exhibition “The World That Wasn’t There: Pre-Columbian Art in the Ligabue Collection”, held at the National Archaeological Museum in Florence, was dedicated to your father. Did he have a preference for Pre-Columbian art?
My father showed especial interest in the Chavin and Teotihuacan periods, but all cultures, from Central America to South America, were represented in this exhibition, also thanks to loans from collectors and museums, in particular the Palazzo Pitti. The exhibition was a great success. Nearly 35,000 visitors came.
What types of films do you produce via the Foundation?
We have films on expeditions that are several decades old, and we collaborate with several Italian universities to conserve and archive what my father left behind. Most of these films are unique and concern tribes no longer in existence.
Do you make loans to museums?
We are currently loaning nearly 2,000 objects from different periods to four Italian museums, including the Archaeological Museum in Venice, the Museo Di Fiera di Primiero and the Museo Pigorini. The Natural History Museum in Venice also presents a gallery dedicated to the Ligabue collection, including the Ouanosaurus nigeriensis dinosaur dating back 60 million years.
Are you preparing other exhibitions?
We are going to put on the “The World That Wasn’t There” exhibition again at the MART in Rovereto this October. In January, we’re organising the exhibition “Prima del alphabet” on Mesopotamia at the History Library of the Palazzo Loredan in Venice. This exhibition will cover all communication forms prior to the emergence of writing. We are also already looking ahead to 2018 when we will be organising a few exhibitions on tribal arts and drawings by Tiepolo.
The Giancarlo Ligabue Foundation was set up in January 2016 in Venice by Inti Lagabue. It covers research activities in archaeology, anthropology, palaeontology, natural science and figurative arts, with events open to the public including exhibitions, conferences, congresses, publications… The foundation also plays an active role in restoring works and in philanthropy, while also organising prizes and offering scholarships. Its scientific committee is made up of internationally renowned specialists, namely, from France, Philippe Taquet, palaeontologist and former director of the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle, and André Delpuech, head curator from the Musée du Quai Branly, specialising in prehistory and Amerindian culture.
Giancarlo Ligabue Foundation. San Marco, 3319 – 30124 Venice, Italy. www.fondazioneligabue.it
Parcours des Mondes is the most important international fair on primitive arts in terms of the number, quality and diversity of participants it attracts. Since 2002, it has gathered, every year, around sixty gallerists specialised in the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Americas and archaeology. This concentration of works and experts takes the form of an open free-access fair. The success of this extra-mural fair is due to the healthy primitive-arts market, growing enthusiasm for so-called “remote” arts, and efforts undertaken by dealers to offer high-quality themed exhibitions.
Parcours des Mondes. From Tuesday 6 to Sunday 11 September, Beaux-Arts and Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, Paris 75006.