The Art of Spending on Art

Written by  Andrea Nascimbeni
An enlightened bank for music, restoration and culture.
These days money is seldom given to artists so that they can work without financial cares. The interest of patrons has shifted from creativity to conservation and the protection of the existing heritage, in the hope of preserving it from neglect, deterioration and dispersion with a view to building on it in the future.

Opening up the bank's collection to the public brings a heritage of artefacts and knowledge worthy of attention back into social currency, and provides an opportunity to reconstruct contexts, attribute authorship, and uncover influences. This is art collecting interweaved with cultural values, stimulating moral and intellectual improvement. This is the great strength of art, contributing to group cohesion and the style of an organisation - like the bank - which cannot be measured, either now or in the future, solely in terms of efficiency and productivity. Before considering the sponsorship, it should be remembered that the Italian artistic heritage had historical benefactors, above all socially-based credit institutions which have for decades provided a budget line for restoration works or collecting.

The Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara was established in 1838 and is of the predominant type found in the former papal states and Tuscany, being a company of private individuals rather than a bank founded by a municipality or other corporate body on which it remains more or less closely dependent.

Allocating significant sums for conservation works, the Cassa benefits the community which took part in the founding of the bank as a public credit institution, distributing the profits from credit activities in a harmonious and fair fashion throughout the social fabric. The art of spending to foster art and culture is a part of the Cassa's heritage, as has been confirmed during the last decade by involvement in initiatives covering the visual arts and music, publishing and support for major events.
The most important artists whose works have been acquired by the Cassa include Sebastiano Filippi, known as "il Bastianino", Giuseppe Zola, Scarsellino, Dionisio Fiammingo, Pietro Damini and Giuseppe Mentessi. Building on a respected publishing tradition, the Cassa has in the last ten years published a series of studies of painters of the Ferrara School: Anna Maria Fioravanti Baraldi's Garofalo, Alessandro Ballarin's twin volumes on Dosso Dossi, and Monica Molteni's Ercole De Roberti and Cosmè Tura. In the field of historiography, there are the three volumes of Adriano Franceschini's Artisti a Ferrara in età umanistica e rinascimentale, and the monumental history of Ferrara of which volumes I and IV were issued.

Music has also been honoured, with support for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's concert conducted by Abbado in 1990 and the production of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Not to mention Ferrara Musica - a joint initiative from the Cassa di Risparmio and the Ferrara authorities - which guarantees the continuous presence in Ferrara of a world-renowned orchestra, such as the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, with conductors and soloists of the stature of Ruggero Raimondi, John Eliot Gardiner, Maurizio Pollini and Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

The most recent in this line of cultural projects is the restoration of the former Church of SS. Simone and Giuda, which will become a specialised local art and history library. Finally, the Cassa has sponsored a number of exhibitions in the fabulous setting of the Palazzo Dei Diamanti, including those featuring Chagall, Monet, Dosso Dossi, De Pisis, Rubens, Gauguin, and Norwegian paining from Dahl to Munch.