Art as a revelation. From the Agrati Collection in Milan

From Wednesday 16 May to Sunday 19 August at the Gallerie d’Italia – Piazza Scala, Intesa Sanpaolo’s museum complex in Milan, the exhibition called Arte come rivelazione. Dalla collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati (Art as a revelation. From the Luigi and Peppino Agrati collection) will be open to the public.

For the first time ever, the exhibition allows the public to see a selection of art works by eminent figures in Italian and international artistic experimentation from the second half of the twentieth century, that belong to one of the largest private contemporary art collections. The exhibition project was headed by Luca Massimo Barbero, with Gianfranco Brunelli as the general coordinator.

The Luigi and Peppino Agrati collection, that includes 500 art-works, was first set up in the late 1970s by the two leading business men, who were successors and leading figures in the learned Lombardy bourgeoisie. Following Peppino’s death, the torch was passed to his brother Luigi who, with his wife, decided to donate the collection to Intesa Sanpaolo, a landmark contribution to the international dimension of the Bank’s artistic heritage.

In the exhibition, the public will be able to view a selection of 73 works from the collection, thanks to Mariuccia Agrati’s assistance, the wife of Cavaliere Luigi Agrati. There are masterpieces from American artists including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg and Christo, as well as from eminent figures in Italian artistic experimentation, such as Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Mario Schifano, Alberto Burri and Fausto Melotti. The Agratis established a relationship based on dialogue and friendship with many of these artists. From Informalism to Pop Art, and from Arte Poveramovement to Conceptual Art up to the developments in the 1980s, the collection passes through and creates links with the movements that left their mark on the course of art not only in Italy but across the world in the second half of the twentieth century.

Artecome rivelazione (Art as a revelation) means presenting a representative selection of works from the Luigi and Peppino Agrati collection for the very first time to the public as a visual gift to the city, revealing the pair of collectors’ perceptiveness and love of art. In November 1970, the Agratis saw Christo removing the white cloth which he had used to wrap the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II in Piazza del Duomo and the monument to Leonardo da Vinci on Piazza della Scala with their very own eyes, a moment known today as one of the most defining in Milan’s history of contemporary art. Peppino immediately got in touch with Christo, and commissioned the artist to create a number of installations in the garden of his villa in Brianza. Peppino also was one of the patrons of Valley Curtain, one of the environmental installations that led to Christo being known as the pioneer of Land Art.

The Agratis fervently and directly kept their finger on the pulse of the most important developments in art in their time, which is symbolically encapsulated in their personal relationship with Christo, and is also reflected in their close relationship with Fausto Melotti. This was also evident in their attentive and deep understanding of trends in conceptual art and minimalism, the latter being symbolised by Flavin’s large neon piece, which was dedicated to Peppino Agrati himself. Today the collected works express a way of seeing the collection as a revelation and an enrichment, as an opportunity to share a possible world of images that embody modern life’, said exhibition curator Luca Massimo Barbero.

The exhibition starts with with an exceptional group of sculptures by Fausto Melotti, acting as the linchpin of the exhibition, and then moving onto magna opera by Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni, the exhibition gives a deeper insight into Italian ‘new figurative’ painting, with works from Jannis Kounellis and Mario Schifano to name just two, and then progresses to the roots of Arte Povera in its infancy, represented by experimental pieces by Piero Gilardi, Luciano Fabro, Mario Merz and Giulio Paolini.

Thanks to their curiosity, a typical trait of entrepreneurs, and a rare ability to examine in great depth, Luigi and Peppino Agrati have brought together a collection that is representative of the plethora of interests in their experience of contemporary art. Their discovery of American art, examined in detail at the same time as they developed relations in the United States, led to the purchase of works by figureheads of the Pop movement, with Andy Warhol and his large Triple Elvis being iconic of this style, and also pieces by leading figures of minimalist and conceptual trends, including Dan Flavin and Richard Serra. Forming a diverse constellation, included in the collection alongside the Italian art are exceptional works by Robert Rauschenberg, that were widely collected from the late 1960s to the 1980s, as well as extraordinary pieces by Cy Twombly, the original mediator between American and Italian culture, and conceptual artists such as Bruce Nauman and Joseph Kosuth, whose experimental works on language are placed into a dialogue with those of Alighiero Boetti’s and Vincenzo Agnetti’s.

The exhibition develops through a non-chronological itinerary that creates areas and meeting points. Opening from the centre of the Gallerie d’Italia complex, the exhibition passes through every room, section by section, displaying works that form the tiles of an extraordinary mosaic that stands for the history of this collection, unseen by the public until today.

The exhibition catalogue is edited by Silvana Editoriale.

Location: Gallerie d’Italia – 6 Piazza della Scala, Milan

Exhibition period: 16 May – 19 August 2018


  1. Lucio Fontana, Rosario di Santa Fé – Comabbio 1968. Concetto Spaziale. Attese. 1965. The Luigi and Peppino Agrati Collection.
  2. Alberto Burri, Città di Castello 1915 – Nizza 1995. Bianco Rosso, 1954. The Luigi and Peppino Agrati Collection.

  3. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Brooklyn 1960 – New York 1988. Financial District, 1985. The Luigi and Peppino Agrati Collection. 

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