Interview with Lorenzo Ronchini, founder of Ronchini Gallery

 London  |  15 October 2014  |  AMA  |  Tweet  |  LinkedIn

Lorenzo Ronchini is the founder and director of the Ronchini Gallery in Mayfair, London; formerly based in Umbria, Italy, Ronchini talks to AMA about the motives behind his big move, the growing presence of Italian art in London and the cultural differences that define the two markets. The gallery aesthetic is defined by Minimalism, Spatialism, Conceptualism and Arte Povera, whilst on a larger scale aiming to inspire the next generation of young artists.

Could you begin by presenting the gallery to us?
I have been a gallerist for more than 20 years; I opened my first galley in Umbria, a region in the countryside close to Rome, Italy, in 1992 with the help of my father, who was a collector. I began to attend a lot of art fairs in Italy. I got to know collectors in Milan and Naples, and in other parts of Italy. In 2012 I decided to move the gallery overseas, and I decided that the best place was London. One of the reasons for choosing London was because of the art market, as in Italy, many people don’t want to buy art because of tax restrictions. Also, in terms of the art itself, London is really at the centre of the market, along with New York and perhaps Hong Kong. We began with an exhibition called “Italian Beauty”, because even though I want to be considered as an international gallerist, I am Italian and so I wanted to start with Italian artists. It showed works from the Arte Povera movement, by artists such as Domencio Bianchi, Gio Ponti and Guilio Paolini. Looking to the future, we really want to focus on new, contemporary artists.

What kind of relationships do you have with the artists that you represent? How do you choose these artists?
It’s a long process. When possible, I like to go to art fairs and speak to people in person and to try and work with people that understand the new generation of artists. If I see an artist I like, I first try and go to visit them in their studio, and if afterwards I have a good feeling, then the next step is to organise an exhibition of their work in the gallery. I really try to take my time; I don’t want to make rash decisions. For example, this year we are going to attend UNTITLED Art Fair in Miami Beach, where we will display a solo exhibition of work by the artist Rebecca Ward, who has been working with us for three years. It’s not a fixed process, but this is how it usually happens.

Italian art seems to be quite big in London right now — how would you say that people are reacting to Italian art in London? Have you seen attitudes change since you opened your gallery?
Being Italian, this makes me very proud. Here we’re talking about Modern, Post-War art, not contemporary art, which is what my gallery specialises in. The success didn’t surprise me, but what did was the incredible speed with which prices rose. When I arrived in London three years ago, I had a couple of pieces by Boetti and Castellani, and I sold them to people telling them that they were great pieces to buy, and that they would be a great investment for the future. It turns out I was right, because they did so well at auction. I’m also really pleased to see that several galleries at Frieze Masters are going to show works by artists such as Fontana, Boetti and Burri, for example. In January 2015 we will be showing work by Pier Paolo Calzolari, a renowned Arte Povera artist who has never had a solo show in London before. The only thing I am concerned about is the lack of young Italian artists at auction.

Can you see any differences between collectors that come to your gallery in London and those that come to your gallery in Italy?
There are lots of differences. For example, last year at Sotheby’s New York, in their Post-War Evening Sale, they had a result of something like $700 million; a similar sale in London fetched something like £600 million; but in Italy, at Sotheby’s in Milan, the result was only around €6 million. It’s a completely different, much weaker, market in Italy. Another thing which makes a big difference is the fact that in Italy, VAT is 22%, instead of 20% in London, which puts a lot of people off. Of course, in London it is much easier to work with, and meet, lots of different people; we’ve had exhibitions curated by David Anfam, James Putnam and Kenneth Baker, to name a few. These opportunities are why a lot of Italian galleries come to London.

In your opinion, do you think that London will remain the capital of the European art world? 
I have a feeling. Since I arrived, I have seen so many people who are really interested in art, in building their own collection, and even in just investing in art. London looks set to remain the capital of European art, even if New York is very important on the international scene.

If you were to open another gallery in another city, where would it be?
That’s a good question. Right now I really want to focus on London, but I think opening a gallery in New York would be a good idea.

What is next for the gallery in terms of fairs and exhibitions that you have coming up?
Our current exhibition is called “All That Matters is What’s Left Behind”, which features young artists such as Alex Clarke, Phoebe Collings-James and Prem Sahib, all of whom have just graduated. In November we will be presenting a solo exhibition of the artist Adeline de Monseignat, who the gallery also represents. Later in January we will be hosting our Pier Paolo Calzolari exhibition; it looks to be a very busy, but exciting, period.

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