“It seems that the government forgot about us”
Galeotto was the Coronavirus, with the addition of the quarantine. Stuck in his studio in Padua, Alberto Biasi, one of the best-known Italian artists, as well as one of the founders of Gruppo N in the late 1950s, began to meditate on his long experience in the field of Kinetic and Optical Art. His thoughts, however, turned quite bitter. He concluded that Italy has always been unkind to those who devote to figurative art; and Padua can be even more ungenerous. “It is as if there was a sort of revulsion for us, and this was confirmed to me during this period of forced pause. I am thinking of Minister Franceschini, who is rightly doing a lot for museums, theatres, cinemas, events… but there he stops”. Biasi’s bitterness is increased by the fact that this is no news, actually.
The minister thinks about museums, theaters, events and cinema; artists, instead, are marginalised
“It has been since, many years ago, the Pri Republicans governed Italy, with Spadolini and Ronchey, that nobody has spoken of artists any more. They relegated us to the margins.” And yet they are Italian citizens in all respects, including the financial one, as Biasi points out, “we pay taxes, and a lot of them.
For instance, in 2018, one of my least profitable years, I paid EUR 117,000 to the State. In addition, after 40 years as a teacher, during which I regularly paid Inps contributions, since I continued working after retirement, every year I have to pay 10% of my net earnings to Inps, without any increase in my pension.” Despite all this, Biasi is still attached to his country; in the past, he was invited to move abroad twice, to London and then to Lugano. He refused both times, “because I like Italy, Veneto, my Padua”. Moving abroad, he would have had remarkable taxation advantages. In Switzerland, artists pay no taxes, whereas in Italy, there was one year when he paid over EUR 600,000 of Irpef tax.
But Biasi does not make it personal: “the problem is the way Italians conceive art, and I suspect that, since the 1950s, they have all become philistines. People from all over the world consider our artists the best, whereas in our own country, whenever we need some help to set up an event or an exhibition, we find the desert”.
Bitter thoughts in quarantine: many people were compelled to move from Veneto
There are plenty of examples, even on different levels, “What happened, for instance, to the law that states that, for each public work that is built, the 2% must be given for works of art? It vanished into thin air.” Another striking case is about VAT. “Before 2000, in Italy the VAT was 20%; then, after Europe repeatedly rebuked us, it was reduced to 10% on direct sales from artists to collectors or gallerists; however, this happened in a semi-clandestine way, so much so that many accountants continue ignoring it.
“Yet, in spite of all, i turned down all invitations to move abroad”
Let’s see what happens abroad: in France, VAT on the same kind of sales is 5.5, in Germany 7, in Japan 5 and in Switzerland 8”. The last joke is related to the Coronavirus: Biasi cannot work, because his profession, according to 2007 Ateco codes, belongs to the “creative, artistic and entertainment activities” category. “In other words, I am a jackass,” he commented ironically.
His bitter quarantine thoughts do not spare Padua: “This city had many exceptional figures in the artistic field; however, their lives were miserable, and they had to move in order to succeed. I think of Mantegna, who moved to Mantua, and Palladio, who moved to Vicenza”. What can I say, brain drain is not a modern issue.
Biasi’s contribution to the Red Cross
ArteAtelier, which is directed by Alessio Calestani, has been engaged in the sale of works of art for years and now wants to show its support. So, it has launched a great initiative that is called “The Best Offer”. Last April, Alberto Biasi became involved in it – together with many other artists – to donate his works to help the Italian Red Cross manage the Coronavirus emergency. This is not the first time the artist has supported charitable initiatives; he has been supporting fundraising programs for years, from that to help Florence after the flood and that to build a field hospital in Vietnam to those to help our country manage various natural disasters, including the 1968 earthquake in Belice, the 1976 earthquake in Friuli and the more recent ones in L’Aquila and in Emilia. These are just some of the many tragic natural disasters about which the artist did his part by giving his generous contribution. The transparency of the initiative of ArteAtelier, in which two works by Biasi were awarded at prices that were higher than the quotations, is highlighted by the payment method used: the money is directly paid to the Italian Red Cross, without intermediaries, on the IBAN: IT 59 M 08327 03240 000000010004 BIC ROMAITRR.