The Artorney.

Giuseppe is an “Artorney”. In the daytime, he is a legal operator of a large investment fund. At night, he is an art curator and co-founder of one of the most dynamic street art galleries in Europe: the Wunderkammern.

For many years I worked as an art curator and, in particular, I followed the Street Art movement. One of the most fascinating traits of this movement is that street artists are a bit like super heroes. They work at night, leave their mark around the cities and hide their identity behind an invented name. Giuseppe Pizzuto is not a street artist – he is a lawyer, and he has been working for an investments fund in the renewable energy sector for four years. But, just like a street artist (or a super hero), he has a parallel (professional) life. It all starts in middle school when he discovers the Impressionists and the magic of art. For many years, however, art remains a passion for Giuseppe, until in 2011 when a friend of him, Giuseppe Ottavianelli, aerospace engineer at the ESA, proposed him to become partner and co-director of his art gallery, the Wunderkammern based in Rome, in Torpignattara. Giuseppe accepts and transforms his great passion for art in his second job. In a few years, the two friends together make the gallery flows: they consolidate its presence at art fairs, strengthen the ranks of collectors and, in 2016 with the arrival of Dorothy de Rubeis – also a lawyer, they open the Milan-based office. At the beginning of 2018, in addition to other two partners, two “pure” investors, Ina Nico, a professional active in the communication world who collaborates with an italian fashion important brand, become part of the Wunderkammern “big” family.

Interview

Would you tell me what pushed you to launch an entrepreneurial initiative, whilst keep working as a lawyer, and how do you combine your two professional lives (in addition to the ones of father and husband)?

Probably, in order to combine two worlds and two very different activities which are (apparently) highly incompatible, several features are needed. Firstly, you need a certain degree of intellectual flexibility to be able to move from a legal analysis to an artist’s discussion (to elaborate for instance his/her new exhibition’s concept). Secondly, it is pivotal that the people around you (professionally and personally) do not conceive the “other” activity as something inferior, but do appreciate the added value that a contamination of this kind may bring (and I must say that I feel extremely lucky in both cases). For instance, thanks to the art world you can develop very strong personal relations based on a shared passion. Finally, it is crucial to choose the right “Partners travel” which are capable to fill all “lacks” you will find on your way. Our model is inspired by “Unity is strenght”. All of us partners consider the art gallery as a second family, so that every success and failures is always something we share. In my opinion, this is something that deeply differentiates us from others within the art galleries world; usually, who owns a gallery is considered dominant and pretty jealous of its creature. We managed to set up things very differently, and we have turned something that might be considered by many as a weak feature, into our key characteristic: an art gallery deeply contaminated by other sectors’ experiences. I am convinced that this peculiarity is understood and appreciated. Obviously, we act through very much coordinated strategies, and obviously, sometimes it may happen to lose in terms of efficiency. Yet, you do gain a lot when you are surrounded by people that believe in your project as much as you do and put lots of energy in it. This is also extremely useful in those “low” moments, where sometimes you need to be pulled on by others. There is something essential which cannot be forgot (otherwise your project may even fail): an extreme trust in your partners.

A side note: for a weird reasons the art world (especially the contemporary art world) is full of legal personalities (usually lawyers and notaries) which have had key and very active roles within this sector, not only related to collectibles pieces, where the cases would be countless. I was surprised by the discovery that Ambroise Vollard and Leo Castelli for instance graduated in Law (the latter in the University of Milan). Besides, in Italy, many law offices have been particularly pro-active in the contemporary art world (as Giuseppe Iannacone and NCTM studio in Milan or as the Giuliani’s Foundation in Rome). Last year we have organized a talk called “Art & Law” where we invited all jurists which partecipate within the art industry: in my opinion there is something deep that attracts jurists towards art.

Which are the four legal skills which help you the most in the art gallery world and which are the four art gallery related skills which help you the most in the legal practice?

These are my 4 legal competences that I believe are extremely useful in the art gallery-related work:

  • Knowing, in general terms, the law, to be able to take the decisions with legal impacts (those situations where you think “I need a lawyer”). In the management of an art gallery there are many legal roles (from the copyright to other legal intellectual property norms).
  • Managing contracts. For me, an email exchange with an artist where we define all conditions is an official contract. Hence, within it, we tend to exchange very clearly the essential elements of a contract.
  • The skill of finding the potential critical issues and immediately producing an alternative strategy.
  • The skills of being completely independent during a negotiation from a legal, economic and commercial point of view (Thence, I can never say “My lawyers will discuss about this”).

These are the 4 art-galley related competences which I found extremely useful in my legal practice:

  • The skill of story-telling; the ability of telling a story in a passionate way in order to raise in others curiosity and interest.
  • The skill of changing strategy. In the art industry, there are many negotiations which need to be dealt with very quickly, since for instance you might lose the opportunity to close a deal as a selling or a particular project. Hence, you need to close the deal in that precise moment and at valid conditions. This means changing strategies quiete often.
  • The skill of observing things from different perspectives. By getting to know the creative universe of an artist often means changing radically perspective. With the habit do discuss with artist you develop a certain degree of flexibility in changing perspective, and I think that this is also key in the legal practice.
  • The skills to be seen as trustworthy by others. In the art world (and in the legal, too) the relationship between the art gallery people and the collectible ones is driven by trust. By inspiring trust (and make it durable) is a key feature for everyone working in this field, and I think it is also crucial in the legal practice. Working in an art gallery means that you need to have a long-term perspective and a 360° vision, and these are both extremely useful elements to be seen as trustworthy.

By getting to know the creative universe of an artist, often means changing radically perspective.

— Giuseppe Pizzuto

You are both manager, as “Affairs Responsible” in the VEI Green Investment Funds, and an entrepreneur, as business partner and codirector of Wunderkammern. Which are, in your opinion, the key differences between being a manager and an entrepreneur?

Let’s say that I have always considered my work for VEI Green as an entrepreneurial initiative, since I am lucky enough to work with a small team where the approach is entrepreneurial: this means that in every choice we make, we tend to answer to the question “What would I do if the money were mine?”. So I think that this is the difference between the two, as an entrepreneur, you risk your own resources.

In Wunderkammern, none of the three business partners come from the art world. You are a lawyer, Giuseppe is an engineer and Dorothy a lawyer as well. Yet, you did manage to create one of the best art-gallery of the moment. Today, many sectors have been revolutionized by “outsiders” (as Airbnb and Netflix), which, coming from different markets, they manage to change it. Which is the formula that allowed you to enter into the art world and to innovate it?

Firstly I wanna thank you for your words since I know your passion for art and I see it as an extremely qualified compliment. As I said above, I think that we live in a moment where interdisciplinarity plays a key role, both in the entrepreneurial and professional world. Hence, I think that the fact that we apply diverse backgrounds and competences is one of our most valuable feature. I do not know whether or not we will be able to innovate the art world, yet, what I can say is that we have tried to ask ourselves which where our strengths, and we found three key points: quality, research and market. With “quality” we refer to both our art proposals and our approach in everything we do, since we attempt to keep a deep professional approach with both artists and other people we work with. Regarding the “research”, we think that this must be an other key point of our management, since we tend to be well aware of artists’ birth and development and, by following their paths and developments, we manage to pick up the most interesting and dynamic ones for our gallery. Finally, “market” refers to our only income, the sale of our artists’ works. Here, in particular, we notice that there is a deep hypocrisy in the art industry, since it seems common to try to sell art works by hiding it. Hence, by inserting within our funding values the term “market” we wanted to display the fact that our activity is entirely based on our artists’ works, and not on other forms of incomes as donations or subsidies.

We are living an era where interdisciplinarity as a concept plays a centrale role, both in the entrepreneurial and in the professional world.

— Giuseppe Pizzuto

A few quick questions

Besides art, is there any other passion of yours you would like to turn into a job?

Certainly. Music. In particular, rap music. Even more particularly, Italian rap.

If you found a working time machine, and you could have one trip only, where would you like to live? In past or future times ?

This is a very difficult question. I think that the curiosity to see our future is deeply inside all of us (grown with “Back to the future”). Yet, I think that I would love to see the ancient Rome (maybe the Imperial one).

As Banksy used to say, street artists prefer to ask for forgiveness instead of permission, and often, they have legal problems. Even if you are not practicing as a lawyer anymore, you are a lawyer, is there any artist who would make you go back to the practice?

It is not quiete correct saying that I do not practice anymore since I keep dealing with legal stuff. It is certainly true the fact that I am not attending courtrooms anymore. Having said that, I would definitely go back to the courtrooms to defend some of my artists. Probably (to reassure my artists), I would ask to be joined by a more expert colleague of mine.

If you could write a single word on a wall in Rome, which word would you go for?

RESPECT

What drives you to work more? Making profit and be successful (making money) or whether your job gives meaning to your life and might positively impacts the world (making meaning)? ?

A wise friend of mine always says that “money goes and comes around”. Working within the investment funds field made me feel not very much interested or attracted by money. On the other hand, the opportunity to have built something which is “making meaning” for me is absolutely fundamental.

Today Wunderkammern has offices spread between Rome and Milan, which is the city where would you like to open the next office in?

Let’s say that New York is in my heart for many reasons. Hence, although I am aware that opening an art gallery in New York is like opening a chocolate shop in Belgium, this is still a dream of mine.