VILLA PANZA : A HOUSE FOR ART — GIUSEPPE PANZA’S HOME

BIUMO-VARESE (ITALY)

Things have a need of us in order to exist, or to feel that they exist, and, without us, remain in a state of waiting. And hence man feels an anxious uneasiness: the pressure in us of all that has not yet been and wishes to be ― of all the unknown that asks for its little moment of thought, seems to entreat us for existence, because everything has to go that way — and as if there were some joy in telling oneself that one has been ― when one is no longer.
André Gide, Reflections

 

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      Villa Panza and Robert Wilson A House for Giuseppe Panza, 2016

 Photo: Tenderini Fotografia  for FAI, Fondo Ambiente Italiano

I gasp with surprise when young artists or people who are not completely uninterested in contemporary art ask me: “who is Giuseppe Panza?” And I feel pedantic to correct: “He was.” I would be wrong. For the first time in this blog I say with no hesitation he was the greatest art collector of the last century. But because he gave his spirit and love, almost an act of faith, to an unrepeatable, awkward collection he started when Robert Morris, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Robert Rauschenberg, Douglas Huebler, Antony Tàpies, Franz Kline -and others now august members of art history- were still struggling for survival, Giuseppe Panza is the living mind giving trust and home to minimal and conceptual art pieces. His name and feelings will be with them, forever. They needed him in order to exist. With them he waited, thirty years sometimes, before recognition arrived. He filled with art his house and family life. He also happened to be perplexed, not sure, not able to understand at first sight. He took his time. With Robert Ryman and Brice Marden, for instance. Suddenly, after a year he realized that Marden’s paintings were very beautiful.

Paintings made with wax, a semitransparent material. I sensed the light going into the matter and being absorbed. A matter that seemed to absorb the viewer’s gaze. It was the beginning of a journey toward the unknown, hidden by penumbra and obscurity. It was seeing the power of the matter, a power impossible to define. If one considers matter as something final, it’s impossible to go beyond. Marden opened an endless possibility.
The same is happening in the most advanced scientific researches.” (G.P.)

I visited the villa one more time at the beginning of November, the last day Bob Wilson’s video Tales were in final testing before the opening. Guided by the FAI* responsible for the exhibition, Giovanni Giorgetti, I was struck by the attention he paid to Giuseppe Panza’s desires, not to violate the sacredness of his place, as if Panza were in his small studio, on the second floor, waiting to see the finished installation. Not a museum, despite the rotation of public events, still and more than ever VILLA PANZA is Giuseppe Panza’s house, where he left more than paintings and sculptures. He helped the artists to install their work, sometimes forcing them to reveal the emotional secret of their art. Dan Flavin, for whom Panza changed some angles between floor and walls, making them curved, or worked on the windows in order to perfect the sunlight’s reflexions, avoided talking to him, only speaking with his wife. The result is the most convincing and intense experience of Flavin’s art one can stumble into.

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Artists today pay homage to Giuseppe Panza with a sort of awe: they know his spirit is there. Bob Wilson gave him a new house, American style: a tiny church Shaker-style, painted with the same exterior colors of the old house. A place of intimacy in the park, for reading and listening to the silence as John Cage would.  So many spirits among us! Out of their bodies, they grow gigantic. The trees around the little house sing their mysterious cantico which is one with the movement of the air and the sound of birds. A blue light shines inside, on a book with no words, for a man with no body. A House for Giuseppe Panza by Bob Wilson, 2016, is an act of thanks, giving back to him what he gave to so many artists.

When nights are clear, in Biumo, I see a myriad of stars. Tiny luminous points in the endless immensity of the universe. I don’t feel lost in the night, I rather feel as if someone was there calling for me, making me confident. Life comes from the infinite void. A powerful life that attracts and absorbs every thing in herself. Do not know why this call is so strong. There is no theorem to justify it, nor a theory to prove it. I can only be sure that this call is stronger than any other. I am also a blade of grass lasting one season, like the ones gathered by Löhr **. (G.P.)

・・・

New York, April 1999.  I was in New York in the spring of 1999, when the trees start growing leaves and are full of flowers. I was staying with my wife on the 37th floor of the Essex House Hotel, Central Park South.
I was higher, much higher than the Madonnina of the Dome in Milan, the highest point of the city. Only a medium hight in New York… I came for the first time in 1954. … About half of my collection has been thought of, experienced and created in this city, the southern part, poor, in a range of a few miles. Ideally, my mind, emotions and thoughts were sharing the same life as the artists living there. I have been one of the first who discovered and loved them, among thousand who disappeared without traces left behind. Maybe I am the first who loved so much what they thought and felt, the first who wanted to have many of their art works. …
Although Rothko, Klein, Lichtenstein, Flavin, Judd, Huebler, Segal disappeared, their works live and re-live in us, still alive. Buying their art I gave my self into the soul of this city. (G.P.)

・・・

In my artistic choices I always had the future in mind, never the present and not even tomorrow; something distant in time not foreseeable, completely uncertain, that I could only hope. My wife and myself were sure we made good choices, meditated, heartfelt, intensely loved. When one loves and doesn’t ask for anything in exchange, to be wrong is more difficult. (G.P.)

・・・

Beauty is a powerful force and yet not intrusive, and generous if one looks for her without ulterior motives; otherwise she doesn’t reveal herself. It is the direct expression of a superior good, she doesn’t die, and is immortal because she is not made of matter, although she uses matter to manifest herself. No instrument can measure her. She is inside every thing, from the stones to the stars, from the flowers to our mind. Impossible to measure, she escapes from scientists who only believe in measurable things. She is the invisible motor of the universe and the sparkle for life. (G.P.)

All the quotes, translated by RA, are from Giuseppe Panza, Ricordi di un collezionista, Milano, Jaca Book, 2006

There is no conclusion. I’m walking on the grass of the park, smelling the fall of leaves still green in November but tired of such a long summer. I look from afar, around the terrace which is one of the most pleasant gardens I’ve met in my life. In Italian we have a word with no equivalent in English: le lontananze. Something absent and distant, says the dictionary. In lontananza, a distance of time more than geographical, I see my village and the house where I was born, half an hour by car from Villa Panza. Hard to tell, feelings are tangled. Panza, the house, the grass, the view on the valley, they talk to me of a Lombard soul which is proud and modest at the same time; daring and quite, never loud. The stronger the passions, the more secret.
Bob Wilson made Panza invisible, as if he was present in his mind; I would like, instead, to have a portrait of him and his wife painted by Lorenzo Lotto, like The Young Man in His Study, 1527, leafing through the book of life.

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To presume that we definitely know brings us to the death of knowledge, especially about contemporary art.  The quality of art is always an emotional phenomenon, an act of love, the happiness of looking at and possessing art is nothing but this love relationship. (G.P.)

 

*FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano. It’s a non-profit foundation supported by private citizens, companies and institutions in order to protect, preserve and develop the artistic and natural heritage of Italian landscape. Founded in 1975, it was built under the inspiration of the British National Trust and is affiliated with INTO – International National Trust Organization. Villa Panza is one of the 56 sites under FAI’s wings.

** Christiane Löhr, German artist who works with dry, and fragile vegetable elements preserved in glass boxes.

VILLA PANZA was bought by Giuseppe’s father in 1935 when Giuseppe Panza was 12 years old. The building was first conceived and realized in the mid 1700s by Paolo Antonio Menafoglio, “a merchant of money.” At his death in 1768 the property was sold and resold to various owners until it ended into the hands of Pompeo Litta in 1823. The Litta family was one of the richest in Milan. Some rooms were added to the Villa, and the park was modified. Pompeo Litta received the title of duke from Napoleon for his political views, he was “a liberal and democratic spirit.” When Panza’s father found and bought the Villa, the property needed to be restored. The project was directed by Portaluppi, in the thirties one of the most prominent architects in Milan.

IN PRAISE OF DELICACY

ART, THREE WOMEN, AND A BRAID: Corazon Del Sol, Eugenia Perpetua Butler, Eugenia Butler

by Rosanna Albertini

CORAZON DEL SOL, three lives in one braid, 2015 Courtesy of the artist

CORAZON DEL SOL, three lives in one braid, 2015  braided hair
Courtesy of the artist

(This art piece by Corazon Del Sol has been made for The Kite)

“My mother was…” Corazon Del Sol sorts out threads of memories that wind through her feelings, “she was a great artist entirely devoted to fragility and vulnerability.” Her mother was Eugenia Perpetua Butler. While she unfolds page by page of her mother’s 14 by 17 black notebook, drawings, as well as dreams pinned down in words, are lit by her voice, they take off. Silently, my own mother’s stories evaporate from my brain at the same time. Corazon and her mother often slept in the same bed, often sharing only one room, in Central America or California. I never slept in my mother’s bed. I’m only saying that to work with an artist is very different from scientific observation. As new stories come into play, they instantly pinch the threads of my own stories, distant and incongruous experiences merge into a new integration almost by themselves. Perhaps we only imagine ourselves, Corazon and I, as if we knew something.

“There is something universal here; not just something personal.” Ludwig Wittgenstein would say, On Certainty, 440.

The only thing we know for sure is that our mothers are in our body: in the same way Eugenia Butler the gallerist was in Eugenia Perpetua’s body. The month after she passed away my mother was so strongly in my body that I had to ask her to leave, even the mirror showed her more than me.

But re-turning to our mothers we can feel in touch, if not really knowing, with our instinctual identity. Conflicts keep it crispy. “? Who is the stranger in myself” – E. Perpetua’s question, and struggle: “The idea is that you force yourself to execute an almost impossible task under unlikely circumstances.” “Art is not a will which is intellect but being and intent.” “Like many of my generation we found ourselves caught inside a historical envelope that we never understood…we seldom know each other and can only guess, guess at the lives that…” Yes Eugenia Perpetua, I could say the same. I was born two years earlier. I hope you don’t mind if I skip details of your life and of your mother’s life. Things didn’t turn out well, you told me. Yet you had a daughter, and I remember, uttering her name your eyes did smile. I’m avoiding local circumstances, art history episodes. Simply I call you back as an artist, the secret artist you entrusted to your black notebooks, and I’m trying to give back to you the same token of ‘amorous and civilized’ signs you left in your secret books: the art of delicacy. Somebody* told that delicacy is the artistic form of compassion, ‘it touches lightly.‘

EUGENIA P. BUTLER, A page from her notebook about the nineties. Courtesy of Corazon Del Sol

EUGENIA P. BUTLER, A page from her notebook about the nineties.
Courtesy of Corazon Del Sol

EUGENIA P. BUTLER, A page from her notebook about the nineties Courtesy of Corazon del Sol

EUGENIA P. BUTLER, A page from her notebook about the nineties
Courtesy of Corazon del Sol

Among your cut papers I found a small report which is like everything else, impossible to classify as a fact, or to detect how reliable it is. Let’s keep it in the black box of your feelings, with the meaning it had for you:

An IBM scientist and his colleagues have

discovered a way to make an object

disintegrate in one place and reappear intact

in another.

It seems to me you are reappearing in your daughter’s art. Through you, also her grandmother the gallerist reappears. Let me paraphrase Roland Barthes’s glorification of love: Love has no specific place, neither in our spoken words or written arguments. Love is the ultimate escapist we can talk about only if we consider it a beyond evaluation treasure we put aside for when we are lost. Every kind of discourse about love is always addressed to somebody. “A person whom one addresses, though this person may have shifted to the condition of a phantom or a creature still to come. No one wants to speak of love unless it is FOR someone.”

As in the braid, there’s no beginning or ending in this post, no separation between images, art, documents and lives. There is, feelings.

EUGENIA BUTLER (Corazon Del Sol grandmother) Letter to Giuseppe Panza, January  22, 1970. Courtesy of Corazon Del Sol

EUGENIA BUTLER (Corazon Del Sol grandmother) Letter to Giuseppe Panza, January 22, 1970.
Courtesy of Corazon Del Sol

The letter is now at The Getty Research Institute, Special collection. I received detailed information about it from Francesca Guicciardi  and Giuseppina Panza, daughter in law and daughter of Giuseppe Panza. They both take care of the Panza Collection. In January 1970 Giuseppe Panza wrote to Eugenia Butler searching for artworks by conceptual artists. This is the first answer, another followed in February offering more pieces. Photographs of the pieces were included.

In May 1970 Panza bought from  Eugenia Butler four artworks by Douglas Huebler: Duration Piece 14, Salisbury, New Hampshire, October 1968 and Location Piece #9, New England, March 1969. Location Piece #1, New York – Los Angeles, February 1969 and Duration Piece #12, Venice California – Plum Island, (Newburyport) Massachusetts, May 1969. – Between end of May and end of July he will purchase also an artwork and a drawing on paper by Joseph Kosuth: Twenty-Five Works in a Context as one Work (Special Investigation), July 1969, (on stickers); Project for Seven Square Grey Painting on Canvas with Words as Art, 1966, (drawing).

* Roland Barthes, Fragments d’un discours amoureux, 1977,  A Lover’s Discourse – Fragments, 1978, Translated by  Richard Howard.