The tight bond between the Jacorossi family and 20th-century Italian art collecting has remained intact over the years. The Jacorossi industry, dealing in energy services, is an exemplary family business that spans the last hundred years of Italian history and stood as the tenth largest industrial group in both size and sales in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Clearly, the Jacorossi brand was a major player in Italy’s modernization process, positioning itself in the avant-garde of the energy sector in combination with a series of collateral activities related to innovation and development of new technologies.
It was in the phase of maximum industrial expansion that the group, encouraged by Ovidio Jacorossi, began to take an interest in the various expressions of 20th-century Italian art, whose epicentre was Rome. Acquisitions followed quickly one upon the other until a significant corpus was established, including painting, sculpture, drawing, graphic work, photography, installation and ceramics. The collection features prestigious artists along with so-called “minor” ones, which, however, is a serious misnomer. As the critic Federico Zeri pointed out when he visited the collection, “They constitute the humus from which the masters grow”.
Soon, Ovidio Jacorossi’s passion for collecting in and of itself was enriched by practical, profound knowledge of the system of contemporary art, its languages and interpretative canons, which became an effective strategic component of the Group’s subsequent business activities. In the Kepler Project, for example, presented in Venice in 1986, the interaction between culture and business enterprise expressed its guiding principles – putting man at the centre of the economic system just as the sun is at the centre of the solar system.
The act of interpretation before a contemporary work of art on the part of the viewer – even of those less culturally-aware – is a pure, creative gesture that merges with the creativity of the artists themselves. When a company understands this process and incorporates it into its system of values and objectives, the pursuit of profit and the interests of the collectivity can find a happy meeting point; contemporary art thus becomes a powerful instrument of communication and promotion for the company.
Art and business is a winning combination whose first application can be traced to 1984 with the new technological infrastructure of the Guggenheim Museum in Venice. Next the Jacorossi Group invested substantial amounts of capital in other key locations where Italian culture is consumed: Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome in 1990 and Palazzo Ducale in Genoa in 1992 are two iconic examples of the synergy created by the fusion of profit and branding. The artistic environments of these buildings were amply provided with an integrated network of museum services. Eventually, Jacorossi was managing twenty collateral activities simultaneously, including ticket offices, surveillance, photography archives, cafeterias, restaurants and bookshops. These far-sighted initiatives helped generate enthusiasm for the later, and in some ways historic “Ronchey Law”, by which the government of Italy established new criteria, still in force today, for the awarding of contracts for accessory activities in museums and public exhibition spaces.
The rich collection begins with works representing the Symbolist and Divisionist movements of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Next come the Futurist works (of which Giacomo Balla’s Self-Portrait takes place of pride), Metaphysical and Surrealists paintings by Giorgio De Chirico and Fabrizio Clerici, and important pieces from the “Return to Order” period (featuring Arturo Martini, Mario and Edita Broglio, Gino Severini, Sironi and Scuola Romana, Raphäel, Mafai, Scipione, Cagli, Fazzini and Marini, to name a few). Abstractionism of the late ‘40s and ‘50s is represented by the Forma 1 artists Perilli, Turcato, Sanfilippo and Dova. Then there is the new Roman “Piazza del Popolo School” of the ‘60s, with Franco Angeli, Tano Festa, Mario Schifano, Mario Ceroli, Giosetta Fioroni and Francesco Lo Savio. Continuing on, Arte Povera and Conceptual Art are represented with Pistoletto, Luciano Fabro, Gino Paolini, i Fogli by Emilio Prini and the complex work of Gino De Dominicis. The great sense of freedom of these movements resurfaced in the ‘70s with Fluxus and even opened the way for a return to figuration in the ‘80s, with the Trans-avantgarde, Anachronist and New Figurative movements.