Born in Arizona, Carol Biagiotti arrived in Florence quite by accident. After graduating from college, she was traveling to Paris by boat and decided to get off in Naples, proceeded to Rome, then arrived in Florence. Her purse disintegrated in front of Mario Biagiotti’s leather store; he helped her fix it, they fell in love, and she stayed in Florence. She worked with Mario in family businesses while raising a family. With a degree in art history, fine arts, and oriental cutlure from Northwestern University, her passion for art ultimately led to opening an art gallery: Biagiotti Progetto Arte.
Why did you want to open a gallery?
Actually, I didn’t want to open a gallery. My husband was looking for a store to open on via Tornabuoni 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 didn’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 interesting to know more about what’s 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’. So that’s how we opened.
What sort of artists do you look for to put in your gallery?
I don’t look for certain artists: I look for something, and I’m not sure what it is. It has nothing to do with media—it can be video, it can be performance art. It’s just something I see or feel and it just hits me. I can feel it physically. I encourage artists 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’ve been doing.
How do you make choices?
I think there’s a tremendous need for young artists to be helped, and that’s what really interests me. I feel as though I’m 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, and I get all sorts of e-mails and people asking me to look at their work. It’s such a difficult thing for artists to show their work, especially young artists, so 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—many every day.
Are most of the artists you represent Italian or American?
Most of them are Italian. I also have artists from other countries but most of them are Italian.
Are artists hard to deal with?
Unfortunately there’s a problem with working with young artists. You don’t know if they’re going to continue working hard or slack off. Another problem is that, once they start getting on the map and people start hearing their names, their work ends up being in museums. Then everybody goes after them. The collectors try to buy without going to galleries. Sometimes, all of a sudden, the artists think they’re really special and really talented, better than Picasso, and that’s when they tend to be a problem.
How many artists do you represent?
It depends. Right now, of the artists that I work with all the time, I probably have around 10. And then I have some that I’m very attached to, that I’ve worked with over the years. I have great contact with all the artists that have ever been in the gallery, even if their exhibition isn’t in the 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.
What do you like most about running the gallery? What makes the work so great?
To find someone who is really talented—that just sends 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 think it is so important to have cutting-edge, contemporary art in Italy and Florence. This city is famous for contemporary art: contemporary artists were working here in the Renaissance and before. Think of Giotto—the total change from the Byzantine feeling. 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?
Well, I love Piero della Francesca; I would walk 100 miles to see a Piero della Francesca, he is one of my favorite artists. He was tremendously contemporary. 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 contemporary.