L’Aquila’s Beauty & the Beast

Following the Art for l’Aquila auction held at the Italian Cultural Institute in London we have now raised a total of nearly £4,000 from the auction and subsequent post- sales on Thursday evening and Friday; 42% of the works donated have now been sold, not bad in these tough times!   This is a small drop in the ocean compared to the required €5 million that has been announced by the French government following their adoption of the Santa Maria del Suffragio on the eve of the G8 held in L’Aquila this week, but it all helps, and it was an excellent way to raise the profile of some Abruzzo artists alongside their international colleagues.

We would like to offer our most sincere “thank yous” to all participating artists, particularly those that the Lifeinabruzzo team sourced  namely Jack Vettriano & Fredi Marcarini & Bella Freud for supporting this event. Mr Vettriano’s attendance and that of his friends assisted hugely in providing the appropriate spirit & generosity the charity auction needed. Equally appreciated were the efforts of Bloomsbury Auctions both in terms of designing & producing the catalogue, creating the beautiful bidding slips and conducting the actual auction, taken by their own one-time L’Aquila-resident Dido Arthur, under not the easiest of conditions. And of course are biggest thanks go out to all those who attended the auction with intention of supporting the cause one way or another.

What was surprising and unquestionably disappointing was the absence at the auction it seemed of many Italians. Without question the auction would have benefitted from the attendance of those more directly able to relate to the tragedy that befell Abruzzo in April, either via familial connections or a more abstract awareness of national identity and grief. It is hard to know definitively why they were conspicuous in their absence, considering the assumed importance and potential reach of the Italian Cultural Institute, in their own words “…the official body of the Italian government dedicated to the promotion of the Italian language and culture in England and Wales”; rather disturbingly however it does seem they did not particularly raise the profile of the event.

Without delving into an at this stage unnecessary level of detail and specifics, it was made clear quite quickly that the IIC were not willing to fully support the event, something corroborated by one of their own senior directors who made it apparent, albeit apologetically, that whilst individually that person was willing to provide the event organisers Art Project Minerva with a list of her own friends, corporally the IIC was not willing to directly contact its members about the exhibition & auction. The main motivation for this lack of support was it would seem the delicate issue of “good taste”.

Contemporary art is notoriously subjective, and what is one man’s mead is another man’s poison; I cannot pretend to personally like everything that was available at the auction, however it is impractical to have a charity art auction where all pieces are of the value of £1000+ by well-established artists; there are people who want to participate whose pockets aren’t lined quite so deeply but who still want to help, and having a range of prices to allow everyone to feel that they have contributed a little and reflect the varied tastes that we as individuals possess is imperative at such an event.  Inviting people to an event like this ensures that even if a person does not like donated pieces they may still dig deep in these difficult times and offer a small donation, due to a respect and affinity with the actual cause.

To not promote a charitable event that you are in affect hosting, with the excuse that it is not to your own personal taste seems to me amoral at best. Not only was this event helping to raise money for the restoration of something beautiful back home in Abruzzo and Italy, but in addition it was a way of providing a small mantle of hope to the Abruzzo artists affected by the earthquake and their beleaguered families, that internationally people want to work with them and continue to think of them beyond those attendees at the G8 summit in L’Aquila this week.

The origins of the word culture stems from the Latin ‘cultus’, part participle of ‘colere’, to cultivate; it is a pity that those in London who are paid in part by the taxes of the enforced diaspora of L’Aquila do not know their Latin. When you have lost everything and all there is left is hope, spirit & community, if any of these combined can be fostered you are in turn helping people get back on their feet, culturally, economically and possibly literally after an earthquake!

One of the event organisers & curators is Polish.  Although not a Polish event, the Polish Consular came along, spoke to guests, bought works and supported the event, telling Polish broadsheet journalists and ensuring that the people of L’Aquila displaced from the earthquake are remembered, rather than just the L’Aquila G8 summit. Perhaps that could be a lesson to those in other supposedly august institutions on how to support and cultivate culture, as the only fine skills that some seem capable of presenting from recent experience were a talent for almost internecine spiralling cynicism and a Machiavellian offsetting of responsibility that impressed nobody and distressed everything via its machinations, including it seems their own moral compass

Watch the coverage of the auction on Italian TV

Photography by Elio Stolz

Roddy Newlands
Author: Roddy Newlands

Roddy Newlands is an Associate Member of Life In Abruzzo, as well as antique book dealer and web and graphic designer. Abruzzo allows him to get his mountain-air fix, & satisfy his passion for pasta & panettone.

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