Venice, put up for sale the House of the Three Oci, architectural jewel and home of photography


The Venice Foundation puts the Casa dei Tre Oci, an architectural jewel and home of photography, up for sale officially to raise capital for reinvestment. And appeals against the operation are multiplying.

In an incredible about-face from its denials in May, the Venice Foundation has put up for sale the Casa dei Tre Oci, an architectural jewel of the early 20th century and a recognized house of photography in Venice, since the most popular photography exhibitions for the general public are held here: Werner Bischof, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Fulvio Roiter, Willy Ronis, Ferdinando Scianna, and Letizia Battaglia are just some of the names whose works have been exhibited in the halls of the Casa dei Tre Oci over the past two or three years.

The sale of the house is a consequence of the approval of the Foundation’s 2021-2023 strategic plan. Four in particular are the characterizing elements of the plan: the cost restructuring plan; the new project for the M9 Museum in Mestre and the consequent plan for the development of the M9 district through the establishment at the cloister of an executive and innovation hub; the lines of intervention for the territory (in fact, the Foundation wants to return to investing, with actions in favor of human capital, small and medium-sized enterprises, culture and social, contrasting educational discomfort, promoting inclusion policies); plan for the reorganization of the assets, through the reduction of the share of real estate assets.

The sale of the Casa dei Tre Oci fits precisely into the “reduction of the share of real estate assets,” with the aim of increasing the financial investment and thus the ability to intervene in the territory. It is sold, in short, to obtain liquidity to reinvest for the community. “In the Council,” Emanuela Bassetti, president and managing director of Civita Tre Venezie, the company that manages the Casa dei Tre Oci, as well as a board member of the Foundation, told the Gazzettino, “it emerged that the assets are macroscopically concentrated in real estate that does not give income, and therefore the willingness to divest all or part of the real estate assets was given. The sale of our real estate will allow us to return to operate at the highest level together with the city and for the city, strongly supporting local institutions in their complex work of responding to the needs, not only material, of citizens and the territory, which are all the more necessary today also in light of the emergencies caused by the pandemic. In particular, the hope is to divest the exaggeratedly large headquarters on the Rio Nuovo in order to acquire a more suitably sized building, also in Venice. We have made a commitment not to leave the historic center as our headquarters.”

The reorganization of the assets, the Venice Foundation assures, will be carried out by guaranteeing the utmost attention to the profile of the subjects with whom specific interlocutions will be initiated, as well as to the destination of use of the properties, without, for this, lacking a strong and visible presence, both physical and of action, of the Venice Foundation in the city. “The new guideline,” said the Foundation’s president, Michele Bugliesi, “stems from a careful and in-depth assessment, shared with the Bodies, on the need to return to operate at the highest levels together with the city and for the city, strongly supporting local institutions in their complex work of responding to the needs, not only material, of citizens and the territory.”

Bugliesi also rattled off the numbers of the operation: the assets of the Venice Foundation amount to 400 million euros, 30 percent of which (130 million) correspond to real estate assets, a share, the president assures, that is not matched by any other banking foundation, where the average is around 4-5 percent. This therefore implies, for the foundation, a low investment capacity, and the sale of the Casa dei Tre Oci (whose asset value is estimated at 6 million euros) is oriented in this sense: to demobilize in order to invest in financial instruments that would allow doubling the foundation’s disbursement capacity. And for this very reason, moreover, the Casa dei Tre Oci will not be the only property to be sold: the intention is also to put the Rio Novo building and part of the M9 complex on the market.

Despite Bugliesi’s reassurances that the Foundation will initiate interlocutions only with entities whose institutional mission is akin to that of the Foundation itself, the city is in turmoil and appeals against the sale are already starting. The council group Tutta la citt insieme, through a petition, has already collected three thousand signatures and will submit a question to the mayor “to know,” writes Councilman Giovanni Andrea Martini, “whether the plan to sell the Venice Foundation serves not so much, or not only, to finance the cultural and social sectors, but to actually heal the losses of M9.” And indeed the large digital museum in Mestre has been a flop for now, practically snubbed by citizens and tourists, or at any rate with results far from expectations: it alone has resulted in a deficit of 6.9 million euros for the Foundation.

Councillor for Social Cohesion, Simone Venturini, is also upset by the idea that the Casa dei Tre Oci might be sold: “I think it’s a mistake,” he tweeted, “to even hypothesize the sale of the Casa dei Tre Oci. A very important cultural reality for the city. Maximum collaboration to the Foundation and to the new president, an esteemed and capable person, to find alternative paths to this scenario.” Mayor Luigi Brugnaro, in May, had tweeted “the Casa dei Tre Oci is not to be touched,” and at the moment it would seem he has not changed his mind.

Pictured: the House of the Three Oci. Ph. Credit Till Niermann

Venice, put up for sale the House of the Three Oci, architectural jewel and home of photography
Venice, put up for sale the House of the Three Oci, architectural jewel and home of photography