We meet Lorenzo Sconci, general manager and owner of Dubai Sconci Art Gallery, a family business, established in 1977 in Rome by Dr Stefano Sconci, Lorenzo’s father.
What are your first memories related to art? How did you first become interested in art?
Since I was a child, I loved art. Antiquities, archeology, old palaces, museums always attracted me… I was interested in history of ancient Egypt, Greece and Roman Empire, I was spending a lot of time in the library searching for information about these ancient civilizations or watching documentaries on TV. I remember there was a big basement in my house where my father used to keep antiques, I used to spend time there while other children were playing play-station or football. I still remember that my dream was to become an archaeologist but at the same time I was always passionate about fine art, the beauty in all its forms – class and elegance always first! I’ve always been what Oscar Wild called “Dandy ”.
We travelled a lot with my family all around Italy, then Europe and the rest of the world, so I had the opportunity to discover many different cultures, different styles, museums etc. I remember one story, that explains how much of an art lover I am, when I was 7 years old, I forced my mother to stay qeueing for several hours under the rain in front of Quirinale Palace in Rome to see the exhibition of ONLY ONE Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “La Dama con l’ermellino “ – “The Lady with an Ermine ”.
When did you join the gallery? Was it your father who encouraged you?
When I was in high school, I started to follow my father’s work in a more decisive way. I was spending time at his Gallery, travelled with him to art fairs around the world, attended auction houses like Christie’s , Sotheby’s etc. I want to specifically underline the fact that my father NEVER forced me to follow him or to become an art lover. He always gave me the freedom to choose what I like. So he started to teach me all the things related to art market: I was learning about different painters, variety of techniques such as sketching, oil on canvas, watercolor, lithography etc…), some methods to distinguish a forgery from an authentic one. At the same time, I’ve been learning a lot about the economical aspect of work too. I studied Economy at Luiss Guido Carli University of Rome and I got a master degree in Art Investment. It was between the University degree and the Master when I made the decision to open a gallery in Dubai.
What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing your gallery to Dubai?
The biggest challenge was to understand the taste of people here. Dubai is very international city and we were the first Italian art gallery not only in Dubai, but in the Middle East. I see big differences in the way of negotiating the price with clients, sometimes I find it difficult to explain an artwork because of the cultural level. But I’m happy to see that people in Dubai are interested in Art and after 3 years I can say that the art market here is growing very fast.
How do you choose the pieces you exhibit in the gallery?
First, I have to like the piece, I have to feel it, it must be something I would say: “Yes, I would like to have it in MY house“. It must be suitable for the market where I propose it, in accordance with local laws and culture. Of course, I have to analyze the economical aspect. It is very important that all the artworks are of high quality and the curriculum of the artists must be interesting too (e.g. cultural background, the number of exhibitions around the world, if the artist is presented in public auctions…)
What is the oldest art piece in your collection?
Here in Dubai gallery the oldest piece is this Trumeau of XVI Century, covered with paint decorations and gold leaf. It was originally located in the sacristy of the Milan’s Cathedral in Italy., I have many old art pieces in my private collection, some of them are from the XIV century or even older.
What is your favorite one?
It is very difficult to say… I have one on my mind that I love the most, but unfortunately for privacy and security reasons I cannot tell which one, but what I can say that it is in my collection in Italy.
What type of art do you have at home?
Here in Dubai I have contemporary art works, mostly abstract. In Italy I have a mix of Ancient, Modern and Contemporary Art. Sometimes I like to mix the styles, e.g. imagine this Trumeau of XVI Century with a painting of Andy Warhol or Lucio Fontana over it… This contrast amazes me, but of course we must always use the highest quality artworks.
What is your own way to explore new places? Where do you prefer to travel? And what are the places here in Dubai that inspire you the most?
I love to travel since I was a child; I want to see the whole world! I always try to enjoy the culture and the beauty of nature, relaxation is important but not the priority. I’m not that kind of person who would spend two weeks in Maldives sunbathing. When I go somewhere, I talk to local people to understand their culture and their views, I like to try typical food and to enjoy the night life as well. I agree that when you travel you must keep your eyes open! Things that I learn while traveling help me a lot in business as well.
I like to travel around the world but my favorite place is Italy, and it’s not only because I’m Italian. We have 80% of the world’s cultural heritage! E.g. we say about Rome that “even the whole life is not enough to see everything“! In summer I like to spend my holidays in Porto Cervo and Achipelago of Maddalena (Sardinia Island), I like Capri, Positano, Portofino… To relax during the weekend I go to Monte Carlo, Cannes or St. Tropez. I also love to spend time on my boat. In winter, I prefer to visit beautiful cities not only in Italy but also around Europe.
In Dubai I like DIFC/Downtown and Marina, but sometimes I like to discover the old Deira.
Staying in Dubai, such an international city, is it important for you to preserve your national identity? Would pasta and pizza be your favourite food ever?
It’s true, Dubai is very international, but here in the UAE we are 11.000 Italians, it’s not difficult to find one around! I do preserve my identity, you can see I even have an Italian flag on the bracelet, except the black it has the colors of UAE flag as well. I am proud to be Italian. When you live outside your home country, you realize more how beautiful, important and appreciated Italy is, from fashion to Italian food, art, cars, music, lifestyle and many other things. Staying in Italy, you take all these things for granted.
Any advice for young artists?
First thing: be original, you don’t have to be inspired by other artists. You can find the roots in the past, but you have to find new roads. Look for the ways to send a new message to the world. Today the art is mostly conceptual, the artist have to create a new concept, a new message for today’s or future society. E.g. with the ancient art, to give an evaluation to a painting you analyze aspects like the quality of the painting, the use of colors, the perspective, the drapery, the velvet, the proportions… so you pay for the QUALITY. To evaluate a painting of contemporary art you are going to pay for the IDEA, the concept that is behind the artwork, and this is sometime difficult to explain to art collectors and art lovers.
In your gallery, you wanted to “create a space where the art can speak for itself”… What is the main message you would love people to get when they come to visit your gallery?
As you can see, the design of the gallery is very minimalistic: grey floor, white walls and black ceiling. Giorgio Armani once said: “elegance is ‘in simplicity”. The artwork must be the protagonist; nothing else must distract the attention of the visitor. Usually when a client enter my gallery, after the welcome greetings, I never go directly to speak with him, I give him time to enjoy the exhibition, I like to see which painting he is focusing on, and only after that I approach and start a conversation.