Conversation with Francesco Bonami: “I do not believe in the Home Delivery of Art”
To arrange a library means to arrange one’s thoughts (Luis Borges). Forced to isolation, I try to do it too. I reach the letter “b” and my gaze falls on some books by Francesco Bonami. Who knows what he thinks about what is going on. Sure that his answers will not be obvious, I phone him.
Hi, Francesco, how are you? This banal question, which is generally asked for the sake of politeness and sometimes does not even receive an answer, has now become a sign of true interest in other people’s health.
I am fine, I suppose.
At present you live in Milan, one of the cities that were most affected by Covid-19.
Actually, I still live in New York but I cannot go back. However, there the situation is even worse than in Milan.
Certainly, if you had stayed in the US, things would have not been better for you. By the way, why did you come back to Italy?
I am used to come and go. However, I came back temporarily when Stefano Boeri was City Councillor for Culture, in order to work with him on some projects.
How do you feel when you see so many tricolour flags all around?
I pay no attention to them, really.
An invisible and mysterious entity – the virus – holds the world we used to know in check.
US people say “shit happens”. However, we refuse to admit it. The imponderable exists and has always been there.
Masterpieces must be met in person in museums
The lockdown suddenly threw us into an empty time, compelling us to rearrange our days. In addition, as Umberto Galimberti has pointed out, it pushes us to review the past and redesign the future.
There is a present that contains both the past and the future; it is with it that we need to deal, although we are not used to it yet. Indeed, I think we are not able to do it.
What do you think awaits us at the end of the tunnel?
With museums and galleries closed, art skyrocketed on the social media. Virtual exhibitions proliferate constantly: does it intrigue or annoy you?
It exhausts me.
Exactly one year ago, your book, which is called “Post – L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità sociale” [“the work of art in the age of its social reproducibility”, published by Feltrinelli] was issued. A text that, today, has become even more current.
I grew up looking at the masters of colour. To see a masterpiece, although I grew up in Florence, was quite unusual. The largest part of humanity will never set foot in a museum, but, perhaps, thanks to the internet, they know lots of works of art.
The art market took great advantage of home deliveries, so now works of art are delivered like pizza.
That does not work with art. Art is an excuse to change mental dimension and scope.
Hans Ulrich Obrist (La Lettura – Corriere della Sera – 13.04.2020) said that the world needs artists and that the government has to support them. In short, he wishes for a new New Deal.
Dunno. Everyone wishes for something. Cicero pro domo sua. Artists have never disappeared, not even when six million people were dying in concentration camps. I do not think the world should be worried about the extinction of the artist species. Once there were people who wrote about “the banality of evil”; today, we would need someone to write about “the evil of banality”.
What do you expect from artists once the pandemic will be over?
Nothing, I’d say. I hope they will not expect more than they deserve or would have deserved before the pandemic.
Lorella Pagnucco Salvemini