Art by Accident: An Interview With Carol Biagiotti

  Carol Biagiotti at her estate in Florence, Italy

Carol Biagiotti at her estate in Florence, Italy

Born in Arizona, Carol Biagiotti arrived in Florence, Italy quite by accident. After graduating from college, she traveled to Naples by boat. From there, she proceeded to Rome and eventually arrived in Florence. Roaming the streets on day, her purse disintegrated in front of Mario Biagiotti’s local leather store. He came to her rescue and fixed her purse on the spot, free of charge. Eventually, the two fell in love and Carol stayed in Florence. For a while, she worked with Mario in the family business while raising a family. With a degree in art history and oriental culture from Northwestern University, Carol’s passion for art ultimately led her to open an art gallery, Biagiotti Progetto Arte. The gallery, tucked away on the inconspicuous Via delle Belle Donne, is known to be one of the first contemporary art galleries in the city, housing art by artists from around the world. 

With natural elegance and extraordinary command, Carol continues to discover and nurture new artistic talent. Again and again, she welcomes young artists into her gallery, a melting pot of disparate styles, mediums, themes, mediums and visions. 

What made you want to open your own gallery?

Actually, I didn’t want to open a gallery. My husband was looking for a store to open in Via Tournabuoni and instead saw a gallery space for sale. One morning he woke up and said, “Why don’t we open a gallery?” I was painting and had my own career. I did not want to do it. Then I began to think. I don’t know much about contemporary Italian art. We had very few contemporary museums in Italy, and I knew a lot more about contemporary art in the rest of the world. I thought it would be interested to know more about what was going on in Italy, so I said, “Sure, I’ll do it, but I’m not going to change my whole life to open a gallery with pretty paintings. If we really open a contemporary art gallery then, yes, I’m interested.” That’s how we opened.

What sort of artists do you look for?

 I don’t look for certain artists. I look for something. I’m not sure what it is. It has nothing to do with media – it can be video or performance art. It’s just something I see or feel. It hits me. I can feel it physically. I encourage artist to keep coming back to show me what they’re doing, even if I don’t accept them at first, and I am happy to take the time to see what they have been doing.

How do you decide who to represent?

I think there is a tremendous need for young artists to be helped, and that’s what really interests me. I feel as though I am on a mission to find new talent, develop it and try to help the artists with their careers. A lot of young artists come to me now. I get all sorts of emails from people asking to show me their work. I try to be very diplomatic and helpful, but I don’t lie. Most times I see artists’ work that I would like for a gallery, but not necessarily my gallery, because I am trying to stay on a very difficult path of contemporary art. I turn down many people. 

If I do nothing else with the gallery except make people realize that you have to open your mind and not be negative, and look at art in an open way, I’ll be happy.

Are many of the artists you represent Italian or American?

Most of them are Italian, but it changes. I also have had many artists from other countries.

What is it like working with artists?

 Unfortunately, there is a problem with working with young artists. You don’t know if they’re going to continue working hard or start to slack off. Another problem is that, once they start getting on the map, and people start hearing their names, their work ends up in museums. Private collectors will then try to buy their art without going to the galleries. Sometimes, too, the artists think they’re really special and really talented, and that’s when they tend to be problematic.

How many artists do you represent?

It depends. Right not, of the artists that I work with all the time, I probably have signed around ten. Then I have some that I am very attached to, that I’ve worked with over the years. I have great contact with all the artists that have ever been in my gallery. I try to help them because they’re all artists I believe in. I try to promote them when I’m in America, and I advise them about their work. 

  Visitors attend the opening of "ReSignifications" at Biagiotti Progetto Arte in 2015

Visitors attend the opening of "ReSignifications" at Biagiotti Progetto Arte in 2015

What do you enjoy most about running the gallery? What makes the work worthwhile?

To find someone who is really talented – that just does it for me. To be a professional artist, you have to pay attention to every chance you have. Art is global, and where you want to be as an artist is global, and to be global, you have to get your act together.

I am interested in the gallery because I thin it is so important to have cutting-edge contemporary art in Florence. If I do nothing else with the gallery except make people realize that you have to open your mind and not be negative, and look at art in an open way, I’ll be happy.

Do you have a favorite artist?

I love Piero della Francesca. I would walk 100 miles to see a Piero della Francesca. He was tremendously contemporary for his time. His figures are immediate, clean and strong. I think he had a wonderful feeling for composition. He thought in a very contemporary way in his time, and for me, it’s still cotemporary.