We want to be activators of culture&. Sabrina Bianchi, head of culture at BPER, speaks.

The BPER Banca Gallery in Modena turns 7 years old: after 18 exhibitions, the Gallery's activities aim to expand to other venues. We talked about it with Sabrina Bianchi, head of Cultural Heritage and Historical Archives at BPER Banca.

In 2017, La Galleria BPER Banca in Modena opened its exhibition space to the public: it has so far held as many as 18 exhibitions that aim to present the otherwise inaccessible works from its collection by important artists, including Antonio Ligabue, Elisabetta Sirani, and Mario Sironi, authors who have been and are protagonists of La Galleria’s exhibition projects. Now the intention is to open up more and more to the territory to enhance its artistic heritage. So what are its projects, main goals and guiding principles? What role do art and culture play for La Galleria BPER Bank? We talked about this with Sabrina Bianchi, Head of Brand & Marketing Communication and Head of Cultural Heritage and Historical Archives at BPER Bank. The interview is by Ilaria Baratta.

Sabrina Bianchi
Sabrina Bianchi

IB. Having started in the Modena exhibition space, where many different exhibitions have been held so far, The BPER Banca Gallery is now opening up to the territory with new collaborations and initiatives. I am thinking of the recent collaboration with the Brescia Musei Foundation that took the form of the exhibition Ospiti a palazzo. Figures posed and au naturel set up until January 20, 2024 in the spaces of Palazzo Martinengo di Villagana in Brescia, open to the public for the occasion, and in the program of free itinerant guided tours. How does the BPER Bank Gallery intend to enhance its extensive artistic heritage on the Italian territory? What is the intent of this expansion from the point of view of valorization?

SB. The main objective of La Galleria BPER Banca is the valorization of its cultural heritage by making it accessible to the public through initiatives that invite the discovery of works and spaces that are normally not visible or poorly narrated, but also to reflection on issues of relevance to contemporary society. After the first five years of exhibition activity at our picture gallery in Modena, where the exhibition dedicated to Mario Sironi, Solemnity and Torment, curated by Daniela Ferrari, is currently underway, we started a path that would allow us to open a dialogue with other cities and territories where BPER Banca operates. This is possible thanks to collaborations in which we strongly believe, such as the one with Fondazione Carige that led to the creation of the exhibition Sinfonie d’arte in the historic palace of the Foundation in Genoa last spring or with the exhibition All that glitters is not gold by Fabrizio Dusi in the very central Cesare Ponti building in Milan, but also by enhancing the value of historic venues owned by BPER, such as Palazzo Martinengo di Villagana in Brescia, where the exhibition Ospiti a Palazzo citata has just ended. Ours is a corporate collection spread throughout the country, thanks to BPER’s latest bank incorporations, which is why we believe it is essential to expand the reach of La Galleria. La Galleria is no longer only and exclusively a physical place, but above all a project of responsibility that operates by making available to the community opportunities for growth and enrichment of historical and scientific importance, building strategic relationships in the territory and standing alongside local public institutions as a first-rate interlocutor. When we mention collaborations, however, we must remember that also those within the BPER structure, which are equally fundamental, such as the one with the bank’s Real Estate Department, with which we are working on a project that combines the enhancement of works of art and that of the historic buildings we own.

Mario Sironi. Solemnity and Torment (BPER Gallery, 2023/2024)
Mario Sironi. Solemnity and Torment (BPER Gallery, Modena, 2023/2024)
Paesi vaghissimi. Giuseppe Zola and landscape painting (2022)
Paesi vaghissimi. Giuseppe Zola and landscape painting (BPER Gallery, Modena, 2022)
Antonio Ligabue. The Shadowless Hour (2022/2023).
Antonio Ligabue. The hour without shadow (BPER Gallery, Modena, 2022/2023)
Fabrizio Dusi. All that glitters is not gold (Banca Cesare Ponti, Milan, 2023)
Fabrizio Dusi. All that glitters is not gold (Banca Cesare Ponti, Milan, 2023)
Guests at the Palace (Brescia, Palazzo Martinengo di Villagana, 2023/2024)
Guests at the Palace (Brescia, Palazzo Martinengo di Villagana, 2023/2024)

Are other projects along these lines planned for 2024?

The line we will maintain is precisely this: to continue to enhance BPER Banca’s cultural heritage in order to expand our range of coverage more and more. During 2024 we will continue in this direction, always with the aim of being an activator of culture, a real widespread Gallery. We want to best develop the S of Social of ESG goals (which include Environmental, Environmental, Social, Social aspects, and Governance, considering not only economic and financial capital, but also human and social capital), confirm that our reality is a protagonist in the cultural sector, but with a major social commitment. Our catalogs will continue to be flywheels of solidarity, for example, supporting Third Sector entities, such as Dynamo Camp, which become true partners for La Galleria, with whom we create relationships of mutual collaboration.

The exhibitions at La Galleria BPER Bank give the public an opportunity to admire works that would otherwise be inaccessible created by famous artists. How many exhibitions have you organized so far and which have been most popular with the public?

Since the opening of the exhibition space in Modena in 2017, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of BPER Banca, until today, we have held eighteen exhibitions, all aimed at presenting the masterpieces of the corporate collection in a dynamic way and according to up-to-date scientific studies. It is a private collection but one that we manage as a public good, since La Galleria is a large and complex project that stems from the desire to manage the heritage in a more conscious and responsible way by properly enhancing it from a cultural point of view. For this reason, we have begun to develop curatorial projects of a high scientific level that intersect the in-depth study of themes and values in which BPER Bank recognizes itself and which it supports as a brand. For example, one of these is freedom of expression through the story of female talent, celebrated with the exhibition Elisabetta Sirani. Virtuous Woman, Heroine Painter (2021), to which is added, for example, environmental sustainability with Vague Countries. Giuseppe Zola and Landscape Painting (2022). Definitely a turning point for The Gallery was the exhibition Antonio Ligabue. The Shadowless Hour (2022/2023), which registered a considerable number of admissions and special attention from the press. The itinerary delved into the theme of justice proposed by the XXII edition of festivalfilosophy, highlighting topical issues such as inclusion and valuing diversity. Today, the exhibition dedicated to Mario Sironi, curated by Daniela Ferrari, is certainly one of the most interesting results for La Galleria, which for the first time presented works belonging to the BPER Banca Group owned by Banco di Sardegna, inviting reflection on the theme of words, recognizing the fundamental role of communication in Sironi’s work.

Any anticipation of upcoming exhibition projects?

I can definitely say that 2024 will be very rich and, from a certain point of view, it will also be a year of consolidation and acceleration. After the closing of the monographic exhibition dedicated to Mario Sironi on February 4, in April we will continue the exhibition activity at La Galleria in Modena with an exhibition dedicated to still life, in which we will delve into the botanical theme, with an exhibition project that mixes pictorial works with archival documents; a combination that puts the artistic and archival heritage in dialogue. Also in spring, on the occasion of Milan Art Week, we will reopen the doors of Cesare Ponti in Milan with an exhibition dedicated to contemporary photography organized in collaboration with Studio Pavesio Associati with Negri-Clementi. In the fall, the Modena branch will again propose an exhibition in line with the theme proposed by the festivalfilosophy, which this year is “Psyche.” We will then return to Brescia, at the Palazzo Martinengo di Villagana venue, with an exhibition that will place La Galleria at the center of Brescia’s cultural programming. In Genoa, on the other hand, we have set up a short but very valuable itinerary on the 14th floor of the headquarters in Via Cassa di Risparmio, which we will make visible to the public on various occasions, such as Rolli Days and ABI’s “it’s culture.” Thus participating in some of the main initiatives that characterize the city calendar. Of course, all of our exhibitions will continue to be free for visitors in an effort to share our common visual heritage.

What role do art and culture play for The BPER Bank Gallery? And what goals does it set from a cultural point of view?

Art and culture are intrinsically linked to the development and well-being of society, so we believe that making heritage available to the public is a way to help build a better future. For The Gallery, cultural heritage is a tool for growth and connection within communities, and its enhancement and dissemination contributes to the development of a more equitable, sustainable and conscious ecosystem. Our philosophy is based on four fundamental pillars. The first is conservation, which means knowing the heritage. Together with specialists from Open Care, an in-depth audit, analysis and evaluation of the artistic heritage was conducted. Today we have 10,000 inventoried works, all barcoded and available to scholars and experts on a dedicated platform. Another pillar is enhancement, which means proper conservation through collaboration with expert curators. The third is fruition: we have decided to open to the public a patrimony that for decades has been locked up inside representative rooms. The president of the CDA, Flavia Mazzarella is very sensitive to these issues. She is a great believer in sharing heritage with the public and is responsible for this change of view: the works are no longer intended as decorations of palaces and places of representation but are elements of an organic, usable collection, also intended as a vehicle for communicating the values and aims pursued by the bank. Because we think that by spreading culture we improve our society. The fourth and final pillar comes from here: the social commitment of the bank, which has always been strongly committed to issues such as the environment, social issues and internal governance. The BPER Gallery contributes to the social sustainability mission by bringing to light not only the paintings but also the issues behind them.

This is why the new generations constitute one of the main audiences we target with ad hoc educational and didactic projects. Among these, I would like to mention the Schools Project promoted by Museimpresa A scuola d’impresa, with which we have involved two classes of the Liceo Classico and Linguistico Muratori San Carlo high school in Modena to carry out a crowdfunding campaign that aims to purchase a work of art by Fabrizio Dusi that will be set up in a common space of the school, for the benefit of the entire school population. We want to be able to be an activator of culture, igniting a spark in those who come into contact with the reality of La Galleria.

What major cultural challenge does La Galleria BPER Bank set for its nearest future?

We carry forward an overall project that continues to evolve. One noteworthy endeavor to which we are now devoting ourselves concerns the marriage between the corporate collection and its locations, that is, the historic buildings of those institutions that, by unifying, have given birth to our banking group, from Ferrara to L’Aquila, all the way to our head office in Modena.

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