Art to be Lived


I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, a fashion editor for an Italian magazine; it was one of those conversations that happen very unexpectedly in the middle of a hectic week of work somewhere in Europe. We were talking about our lives, how fortunate we are to be able to be globetrotting across the planet with our jobs and getting in touch with different cultures and experiencing so many different lives in one lifetime, to be seeing things that we used to see in text books in school or in our parents art books. We spoke of our different backgrounds and the places we now live in and the places we see ourselves living in, in the future; we decided we are in did searching for a feeling of a well lived life, which in fact we already have, given our young age.

But this talk was more in terms of where would we establish ourselves, where we saw ourselves spending our old age, how our life would be, what we would become from here on? Well, of course no precise answer could come out of this conversation, but we do know what we are looking for.

For anyone who has seen the movie "I Am Love" I am sure the house in which the characters lived in was in fact a character on its own, possible the most impressive character of the movie. The house where they lived in, in Milan, had its own character, which was a combination of years of experience, years of traveling, years of knowledge accumulated in those rooms. The appreciation for art and architecture that breathes through the walls, the knowledge of fashion present in its inhabitants, the admiration for food and the impact of its flavors and also how they could change a mood with a single bite.

The house in that movie is a character on its own because it has been lived in, it has felt the love, the laughter and the sorrow of one or many families, it has seen birthdays and funerals, it has seen engagement parties and celebrations of all sorts; it looks perfect from the distance but from up close you can see the floorboards are scratched, the curtains have stains and the windows may have cracks. Like a person, a house is allowed to live and accumulate treasures, like we accumulate shoes, watches, stamps or even a rose from a lover that we keep in secrecy. The house in “I Am Love” is a character on its own because it is in fact a well lived house, it’s quite possibly one of Milan’s most famous properties, called Villa Necchi Campiglio, at Via Mozart, today a cultural institution open for visitors and kept as it was when their owners lived there.

During this conversation with my friend it then hit me, through something she said, that art is not meant to be hanging from the cold walls of museums, but in houses and apartments, where it can be shared with friends and family, where it can be admired and treated with love, like we would a plant or animal. Art was made to live with people and witness their lives, and be accumulated by their homes, not to be left alone in a cold room alongside other abandoned and marketed pieces of art.

 Even though I am thankful for the museums and galleries, for their existence and for allowing me to see some of the most beautiful and enticing works created by men, I would adore if more of these museums could be like Villa Necchi or The Frick Collection are, houses that have been lived in and were left untouched for the appreciation of the people. Every time I visit one of these stunning places I ask myself how their lives must have been and I can't help but wonder what it feels like to be able to work there every day. The Pierpont Morgan Library in New York for example is to me one of the most remarkable places I ever visited in my life, there it is, the house and life’s work of a man completely devoted to collecting art, books and obviously money, but that last bit is irrelevant in this case.

Really impressive, and on another side of the spectrum, was visiting the Frida Khalo museum in Mexico City, because that's the place where she loved, bled, and created some of the most beautiful and relevant works of art seen by men. In that house, Frida and Diego accumulated art by other artists, their own art, books, animals and all sorts of memories, The Frida Khalo Museum was to me the epitome of the museum home, every room spoke to me, it’s almost as if she was there, walking around in her beautiful garden or flipping through one of her many art books; to be able to see with my own eyes how that amazing artist lived her life and which books she read and how she kept her house was a phenomenal and unique experience.

While in Milan I had the opportunity to also visit the Boschi Di Stefano apartment as well, and these two were very affluent Milanese artists who acquired more than two thousand pieces of art during their life together, and by art I mean all types; from paintings to sculpture, from furniture to chandeliers, it's all in there for the curious visitor to see, for free.

It warms my heart to know that someone would leave their entire patrimony to the city, to the memory of the world, to improve the lives of those who follow them. To visit a place like this, that always existed for the love of art, is a blessing, and even though museums were created and exist to preserve art and were born precisely from the love for art, they haven't been lived in, they haven't had a chance in life, they are these boxes, time capsules, in which we keep our memories related to art and can access them whenever possible. It doesn’t seem fair to me, but it sure is great to have them in such an organized manner.

I have always had this fear in life, of where I would end up, what would become of me, then that turned into a fear of what would be done with my belongings, who, of the people I know, would appreciate having some of the paintings I now own and would care for it as much as I do? Well, that all is gone now, it is not important what happens to my belongings after I pass, I will not be around to see it, but I still definitely hope for the best and that the art I own feels just as proud and happy for the life they were able to live while they were living with me as I am proud to have them around me.