I want to tell you about a very particular, very pleasant experience. It is the month of May 1984. A German artist, Joseph Beuys, while passing through Abruzzo with some friends, sees a bottle of my wine in a restaurant and asks: “Do you know this Mr. Zaccagnini who produces this wine?” Among those present was Baron Bubi Durini who answered: “Of course. He is a very dear friend of mine”. Beuys wanted to meet me and he proposed a performance in my winery. This was my first experience of art.
I have always considered contemporary art a tool for creative suggestion for the company. When I started working due to my father’s premature death I was very young, I was 16. It took me twelve years to get my degree and in this time I had two obsessions: one was business and one was contemporary art. One cannot have two obsessions simultaneously and so, very speculatively, I took contemporary art and brought it into my business. This discussion you are now having makes me feel very emotional because I have experienced the opposite. Through a collection that I took to the company I began letting the employees and the clients breathe a creative atmosphere. I do wish however to make one thing clear: you cannot take contemporary art into a business if the company does not then put the man at the centre of the economic system, if it doesn’t put the person at the centre of the business. My collaborators felt that they belonged to a company that ennobled them. This fact acted not only on a managerial level, at the top, but also with all our collaborators it became a phenomenon of democratic and popular art, outside the system of art. Simple people always have great freedom, they have the ability to change their mind, mutate their opinion after months, after years. The allure of contemporary art is in its not being elitist as one often thinks. It can speak to anyone.
Doing the work I do, that is choosing to train artists is a very demanding job and so that it can have a sense it is necessary to find a new way of training them. Young artists need to learn to be autonomous, they need to find a sense of freedom. This is not a problem solely within the school but also outside. There is an overlap.
It is case of reinventing a sense of space for the businessman and the business in the current society. Contrary to the past, today’s society is more demanding. What was once exceptional has become normal. The public sector and the laws connected with it are in need of change. But this is very difficult to do without being artificial, superficial. What I find interesting is a totally new view of things.
You start with the principle that there are people with different competencies, from different contexts and with different specific work practices, who on the basis of reciprocal exchange spontaneously talk together, new, unexpected ways of doing can be reached.
What is a producer? Someone who through his activity puts economics into play. My production may well be somehow linked, but it is not money that is determining in the realisation of a project. When Gianfranco Baruchello speaks of exchange values, for me it is indisputable that this exchange value is not money. The exchange value of a group project obviously requires money, but the exchange value is the value of thought.
The artist is not an economic sponsor, but rather a sponsor in terms of ideas, in terms of exchange of points of view and of participation. The exchange value comes from the collaboration that is not conditioned by a specific economic result.
What we must focus on is that, substantially, the artist is a runner whose aim is not to finish first but to surpass himself. The artist is an entity in movement, someone who has his “feet firmly planted on the clouds”. But this doesn’t mean that his head is in the clouds. Contrary to the businessman who has his feet firmly on the ground, the higher the artist is able to reach with his thoughts the closer he comes to the role of the businessman despite not being interested in economics. Between artist and businessman there must be a sort of “parification” of roles that leads not to compromises, but to conciliating the characteristics of both. To date this has yet to be done. It may have appeared incomprehensible. We know however that it can lead to a new vision of the world.
At the beginning the artists never has the answer to what he is thinking. He is an explorer, a researcher carrying forth a project not knowing where it will lead him. Until he has finished it. The businessman on the other hand faces each situation with the determination of seeing his initial projects realised.
The entrepreneur can have an artistic side, the artist an entrepreneurial side. Then each chooses his or her road. There are entrepreneurs who think only of profit, operating on shortwave. He who moves on long wave knows that he must be able to think with a different logic and look beyond. It is wonderful talking to an artist because it opens your mind. The result can also be the transformation of the objects you produce.
In these difficult times he who survives is he at the centre of the business who has reflected philosophically in order to allow him to see beyond things. This characteristic of seeing beyond is typical of the artist because he reasons with a universal logic. The survival of businesses in Europe is surely linked to the ability of moving away from old models. There is a need for people who feel very strongly towards the business and who have the will to take the situation in hand. A concrete exchange of information and situations can create a very strong synergy. We Italians can be very good at “recuperating the existing” and this is something of which we can reap the rewards.
It is normal that each professional field maintains its own interests. We for example are not interested only the fact of selling in itself, but that the consumer “has a complete experience”, trying the product and then visiting the place in which it was made. This is the best way of spreading the brand so that it doesn’t become a simple advertisement, a label, but so that it can represent the result of a corporate experience.
The problem is that in Italy things are done but then they are not followed up. Alongside creativity perseverance is needed. Mr. De Concini is a good example. He is a pioneer of electric mobility. I think that he must have taken many roads and I too could write a fair few chapters. It is necessary to show that it can be done and have passion. Following only the Money God won’t get you far. Our road may well be winding, it is not downhill, but he who perseveres will prevail.
As a business we are convinced that innovation is not the fruit of a calculation of accounting, but rather that it is born from visions. The common denominator that unites people is the project that is truly believed in and that allows the construction of something important. Talking with artists often means finding new solutions, reaching innovations. European contributions are not enough to renew a territory.
We need to also consider the audience. Our customers have to survive. Without customers we don’t exist.
Artists have this ability to make a synthesis to of what is going on and of what should be done. They have the ability to translate a specific context and to find common interests. The beginning of cooperation is a common understanding, the common structure arrives after. The process of course goes up and down. Everybody has also his own problems of survival.
Creativity and the power of changing the world is the guarantee that the world still exists. It is ridiculous to assume that the world 10 years or 100 years from now should be exactly the same as today. It is not possible for human beings to stand still , but in order to get it moving you need creativity.
The way producers and artists operate at the end may be quite similar . Their cooperation makes better both the work of companies and the work of artists better.