Since its birth, contemporary art has been chosen as a communication vehicle, focusing on young Italian artists. Interview with Alessia Barrera, Marketing and Communication director.

Created in 2011, Banca Sistema has immediately developed a no-profit activity setting up Banca SISTEMA ARTE, an initiative that aims at promoting young Italian artists between the age of 18 and 35. In the Milan office, the walls, meeting rooms and large hall host temporary exhibitions, while the other Italian branches preserve the collection, constantly increased with new acquisitions.
It is not just a container but a sounding board that does not end with the exhibition but enriches it by publishing a monographic catalogue and organising debates and in-depth talks on cultural themes, acting as a corollary to the exhibition itself.
2017 will be a women’s year, with exhibitions by two female artists and an upcoming inauguration in February. We discussed it with Alessia Barrera, Marketing and Communication director.

What does the Banca Sistema’s collection consist of?
During each exhibition, the bank acquires one or more works by the artists on display with the idea of creating the bank around the bank.
While we grow as a credit institution, we develop our collection. To date, we own 73 works of art.
Milan’s spaces are used to host temporary exhibitions, which change during the year, while the acquired works are redistributed around the various branches in Rome, Naples, Palermo, Pisa …

Trittico di Thomas Berra – ph. Zeno Zotti

Trittico di Thomas Berra – ph. Zeno Zotti

Which are the latest projects displayed?
To a certain degree, the current exhibition is an exception compared to the previous ones: it hosts 70 watercolours on a total of 90, produced for the purposes of a project set up in in 2014 at the Venice Academy. The works were donated to Dynamo Camp and the contribution for their purchase goes to charity. On this occasion as well, like for every exhibition, the bank has purchased a work of art that, in this case, became a donation.
This is a one-off as we usually organise a solo exhibition with a bilingual monographic catalogue with an ISBN code. This way the catalogue is registered internationally and the artist can use it as an introduction to international galleries or to take part in artist residence programmes or other projects. During the event there is always a talk or a debate on themes that are related to the selected artist. Amongst the various talks, we talked about art 2.0 and how artists relate to social media; we organised a series of talks with Christie’s on collecting photography, watches, design and contemporary art.

How does the artists’ selection take place?
The inspiration comes from different channels, which are specialised in young artists; we also receive suggestions from our employees. We collaborate with the magazine Espoarte and with Brera and Venice Academies. Following these suggestions, the Marketing and Communication management shares its choice internally.

Do you follow your artists after the exhibition?
The bank tends to follow the artists in different ways even after the exhibition; for example by putting the bank’s spaces at their disposal, like with Linda Carrara.
Linda was the first female painter selected. We tend to strive for a balance not just in terms of age brackets, from 18 to 35, but also gender. After being a finalist on the Cairo Prize, she took part in various residency programmes, in Saint Petersburg, Berlin and Norway. This last grant did not cover the costs completely so we decided to support her not by directly sponsoring another project but by purchasing one of her works.

Natura Morta di Linda Carrara, courtesy Banca Sistema

Natura Morta by Linda Carrara, courtesy Banca Sistema

Do you support the works’ production?
In order to exhibit here, an artist needs to already have a production of a certain level under way so that he/she can handle our large spaces.
After viewing the space and starting their research, artists almost always decide to create work specifically for our space.
Thomas Berra exhibited his residency experience in Morocco at the bank, through his works and an installation. For the younger ones, we preferred to organise group shows like the one currently on show in Rome, with a collection of works by students at the Brera Academy, that we then purchased in its entirety and left in the city as a permanent exhibition.

How do you catalogue your work?
We own a paper and digital archive that we update every six months or every year. All the artworks, handling and conservation needs are recorded.
Each work has an ID number, a small plaque at the back, our technical sheet and the condition report drafted by Open Care.
A work by Sofia Cacciapaglia, for example, was recently handled and had to undergo a reconditioning process as the winter temperature in the branch were it was displayed was higher on average compared to other areas.
We are very meticulous and the situation is monitored better than in any other situations I witnessed. As we are building a collection from scratch, we prefer to know the history of the artwork from the very beginning.

What is the bank employees’ approach towards this widely spread art?
Changing the set up of the rooms and offices every four to five months is certainly a benefit for the employees that get to breath some fresh air, so to speak.
Obviously some artists are considered as more congenial than others, which were not liked so much.
Anyway, employees are used to this kind of activity by now. They start getting to know the artists before the exhibition starts, during the artists’ inspection to study the space. They won’t be coming so much into contact with our next painter: she lives in Cleveland and will arrive in Italy for the exhibition. Some artists produce site-specific artworks like for example Elisa Bertaglia, who worked for days to conceive an artwork for the largest wall in the hall.

Are there initiatives dedicated to them?
Our employees can take part in our events because everything we do for the outside is also meant for the inside of the institute. A series of initiatives linked to art were organised; we normally give each artist a white piggy bank in a raw material that is returned to us with a different interpretation depending on their taste and sensitivity. On our day dedicated to children in the office, we give one of these piggy banks to all employees who painted them, some of them with their children, others with their parents as the average age in the office is low. They returned them to us with a name and a story. Some of these were auctioned for charity, while some are in the bank. Our employees are used to creative work, let’s say.

salvadanaio_DutyBox di Duty Gorn

Salvadanaio_DutyBox di Duty Gorn

Cover image: Exhibition installation view “La dilatazione dello sguardo” by Federico Unia – ph. Andrea Sartori, courtesy Banca Sistema

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