Castello di Rivoli Museum in Turin Launches the Cerruti Collection in May

  • TURIN, Italy
  • /
  • April 02, 2019

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Dining room at Villa Cerruti, hung with paintings by Giorgio de Chirico, photo Gabriele Gaidano. Courtesy Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin

In 2017 Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Director of the Castello di Rivoli Museum, announced that Castello di Rivoli would enter into a special partnership with the legendary Cerruti Collection to become the world’s first contemporary art museum to incorporate an encyclopaedic collection of the art of the past. 

Castello di Rivoli Museum, a renowned museum of contemporary art and the first in Italy, entered into an important agreement with the Fondazione Francesco Federico Cerruti per l’Arte to safeguard, research, enhance, and display the extraordinary, yet virtually unknown, Cerruti Collection, revealing to the public the priceless legacy of Francesco Federico Cerruti(Genoa, 1922 – Turin, 2015), a secretive and reserved entrepreneur and passionate collector who passed away in 2015 at the age of 93.

"In thirty years the collection at Castello di Rivoli has become one of the outstanding collections of post-war and contemporary art. The full scope of the Cerutti collection has always been a secret, but we can now see that his exceptional eye brought together an astonishing range of work of all periods, all of the highest quality. For the Castello the proximity of this fine collection will provide inspiring histories and stimulating comparisons for the collection of Arte Povera and contemporary art," said Sir Nicholas Serota.

This ambitious project includes renovating the villa that Cerruti built at Rivoli, near the Castello di Rivoli Museum, to house his collection of art, books and furniture spanning from the middle ages to the twentieth century. In May 2019 the villa will become the main home of the Cerruti Collection and the Cerruti Villa and expanded Rivoli museum campus will open to the public. 

The Castello di Rivoli manages the Cerruti Collection and the Villa, demonstrating that a fruitful dialogue between contemporary art and the past is possible. According to Christov-Bakargiev, “This important collection will be a driving force of creativity for the museum, in a unique dialogue between ancient and contemporary.” 

Castello di Rivoli has become the first contemporary art museum in the world to incorporate an historic art collection, says Christov-Bakargiev: “We are transforming what a museum of contemporary art can be, creating a new model that turns the paradigm of museums on its head. Instead of a museum of the past adding a contemporary wing, we are a museum of today, looking at the art of the past from a contemporary perspective. We are offering artists and the broader culture the opportunity to relate up-close to periods that came before, enabling them to respond to and work with the great works of art in this collection.” 

From the 1950s until his death in 2015, Francesco Federico Cerruti collected some 300 works of sculpture and painting, ranging from the Middle Ages to today, plus approximately 200 rare and ancient books, and over 300 furnishings including carpets and desks by renowned cabinet makers. Cerruti assembled a primarily European collection – very strong in Italian art – that provides a journey into the history of art, from furniture to historic art, from the Renaissance to today. It is a private collection of immense quality, like very few in Europe and the world, including extraordinary works ranging from Bernardo Daddi, Bergognone, Pontormo, Ribera and Batoni to Renoir, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Giacometti, Picasso, Klee, de Chirico, Severini, Boccioni, Balla, and Magritte, as well as Bacon, Burri, Fontana, Warhol, De Dominicis, and Paolini.

As The Art Newspaperwrote upon Cerruti’s death in July 2015: 

He loved beauty, and every room was rich in masterpieces he had bought over nearly 70 years from auction catalogues and by just waiting for the art world to come to him. They were his family, his friends, his only raison d’être apart from his work. … Federico Cerruti, who died aged 93 … was famous with dealers for taking weeks to decide, but although he would occasionally consult, it was his eye alone that governed his choices, for he had the gift of understanding great art.

Cerruti, a reclusive bachelor, trained in accounting and made his fortune by transforming his family’s traditional craft book-binding business into Italy’s first industrial book bindery, responsible for printing telephone directories, among other things, although he was also a leader in luxury art book-binding. An entrepreneurial industrialist, he travelled to the US in 1957 to study the technology of automated perfect binding and then recreated it in Turin, founding the company Legatoria Industriale Torinese (LIT), and introducing new robotization techniques able to produce over 200,000 bound volumes a day.

Cerruti’s only collecting criterion was perfection – he aimed to create a collection of museum-quality masterpieces in every category. While he lent generously to important museum exhibitions, this was done anonymously; he and the extent of his collection remained a mystery until his death. 

In his will Cerruti left his collection to future generations, so they could discover its beauty and complexity for themselves. In the foundation’s statute, Cerruti wrote how he “had decided to donate [his collection] to a national and international public” in the hopes of “perpetuating the values that animated him, as well as his sense of patronage, so as to help to make the Cerruti Collection a reality that could live on and stimulate cultural growth.” In his eccentric life and lasting cultural legacy, Cerruti can perhaps be seen as an Italian collector in the tradition of the American Albert C. Barnes, whose art collection continues to inspire future generations. 

Andreina Cerruti, the collector’s sister and President of the Fondazione Francesco Federico Cerruti per l’Arte, states: “We are pleased that Francesco Federico’s dream of offering his home and collection to the public can today become a reality thanks to an agreement with the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art. This initiative between the Museum in Rivoli and our Foundation makes my brother’s extraordinary art collection open to the world, as he himself said and desired. The collection is also the story of life, disclosing his own life in the exclusive language that belongs to art and to poetry.”

Behind this exceptional collection lies the ideal and mysterious figure of the art lover Francesco Federico Cerruti, a discreet and private man, little inclined to the noisiness of the world or to social interaction. In the silence of his own private museum he sought emotion and amazement in front of the enigma of artistic creation. Despite passionately overseeing the display of his works and furnishings at the Rivoli villa in a balance where their closeness and distance could coexist, Cerruti chose not to live there, preferring instead a simple flat above his factory in Turin. He only visited the villa for a solitary lunch every Sunday, prepared by his housekeeper in a room filled with orchids. He organised two parties a year in the villa, on his birthday and name day, and spent Christmas with the homeless. Cerruti’ssensitivity and generosity, the hidden motif of his passion, are now an integral part of this new museum, unique in Italy and the world. 

From May 4th 2019 onwards, the Cerruti Villa will be open to the public from Thursday to Sunday through guided tours, and a dedicated shuttle will run between the Castello di Rivoli and the Villa Cerruti. In addition, artists, writers, art historians, filmmakers, philosophers and other thinkers will be invited to experience the Cerruti Villa in an intimate dialogue to render the hidden voice, the nuances, the vibrations concealed in art that can embrace the legacy of the past, and place these into the heart of our age. In our digital era—technological and innovative yet aimed at archiving the past— Castello di Rivoli has chosen a different path, aware of the inescapable bond between the works of the past and of the present, and of a course like that of art, which flows beyond all space and time. Castello di Rivoli is now the first museum of modern art in the world that, thanks to this agreement, integrates the art of the past into the heart of a contemporary institution.
Castello di Rivoli is overseeing the publication of the Cerruti Collection catalogue with over sixty-six art historians involved, including writings by Emily Braun, Salvatore Settis, Ester Coen, Mirjam Foot, Flavio Fergonzi and Carlo Falciani. The catalogue will be published in Fall 2019 with Umberto Allemandi Editore. A giudebook will be ready by the opening of the Cerruti Collection in May 2019.

‘By Artists: from the Home to the Museum, from the Museum to the Home’ – a new series of contemporary commissions in homage to the Cerruti Collection 

To emphasise the continuous link between artists of the past and the present, Castello di Rivoli has also embarked on a series of contemporary commissions by over 30 international artists inspired by artworks from the Cerruti Collection, which will unfold in the years ahead. This project, entitled ‘By Artists: From the Home to the Museum, from the Museum to the Home’, will launch in May 2019 with commissions by Giuseppe Penone, Susan Philipsz, Alex Cecchetti, Liu Ding, Seth Price, Camille Henrot and Anna Boghiguian, among others. Artists have been invited to contribute in this ongoing project, including William Kentridge, Elisa Sighicelli, Goshka Macuga, Michael Rakowitz, Wael Shawky, James Richards, Adrián Villar Rojas, and Mario García Torres.

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