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Home arrow ZOOM arrow [INTERVIEW] United Arts. Luciano Benetton, entrepreneur and urban philanthropist
[INTERVIEW] United Arts. Luciano Benetton, entrepreneur and urban philanthropist
Written by Massimo Bran, Fabio Marzari   


luciano-benetton_09.pngWe met Luciano Benetton to talk about his ideas on art sponsorship and on concrete action of public significance, for youth, for culture. The Benetton Group just carried out another successful project - the restoration of the ancient penitentiary in the centre of Treviso, which now houses permanent collection Imago Mundi and the renovation of the San Teonisto Church, which is now a space for concerts and cultural activity.

Imago mundi

Behind this project are curiosity and enthusiasm. I started with the places I knew the least. I knew northern Africa since we have production sites in Tunisia, but I knew little of Sub-Saharan Africa. I wanted to explore this macroregion and be guided by art. After that, we moved on towards other directions, including Europe. It was such a great experience; we collected a number of temporal, human, social, economic, geographical reference points, globally and locally.


Mapping art

To realize such a large project, you need strong cooperation locally. You need curators who know their country well and are able to expand their network to best represent its art. There are a few countries where it’s hard to do that. Think Somalia, Libya, or Syria – those were no walk in the park, but how rewarding was the outcome. There are no theoretical limits to the mapping of art, it depends wholly on us. We want to end this first chapter with 200 catalogues by next year, 27 or 28 of whom have been realized in China. We met authors from China in San Giorgio Island who will collect art from 56 ethnicities in China. Of course we accepted and we will produce the exhibition next year, which will also be the 70th anniversary of the Revolution.


Heritage in Treviso

We weren’t sure what to make of the ancient penitentiary when we moved in the area – ideas came with time. We knew we wanted to preserve the building and we made sure it was roofed and put in safety. The San Teonisto Church had been close since the 1950s. After the 1944 bombing, what art was left was moved to museums in town and elsewhere. The church laid abandoned for a while, then was used as storage. Tobia Scarpa renovated it with new flooring and a retractable platform for the audience to be used for concerts or other events. It is a piece of traditional architecture turned into a multi-use building for art.


Your relationship with architecture

Tobia Scarpa and I were young men of limited finances when we met in 1963. He designed our first production site and fifty-five years later we have the best memories of working together. Tobia is an architect who loves conservation, who respects material, and who is worth my trust. We built the kindergarten in the town where it all began, Ponzano, together. I thought it was natural to look at Nordic models for education but we found that some of the best kindergartens in the world are in Italy, in the Emilia region. He designed the building around that educational model with a colleague from Madrid, Alberto Campo Baeza. We are very proud of our work.


What economic model for Treviso

No person is useless. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, you need many. Maybe not used together at once, but you need many. As far as art goes, my respect goes to all those who made something for the city. I praise Fondazione Cassamarca, who produced very important exhibitions and made a name for Treviso in the world of art. I think we need to get better not out of a misguided attempt at competition, but to add value to the system. We have the power to produce exhibition of the largest scope on so many themes and we are already in touch with museums and foundations all over the world to pursue this.



We resumed our cooperation with Oliviero Toscani. In a way, he can be considered an architect, as well. He gave so much to the world of communication and he still has so much to give. There are no particular themes on the table at present, the idea Toscani and I share is that Fabrica must be revolutionary, subversive, there should be no theme too audacious, no frontier too far. And he is quite the subversive. The vocation at Fabrica is to produce ideas, produce the themes of communication, of art, culture, of present, and of people.



The exhibition of Chinese art I was talking about, to open in 2019, will be produced in Venice. Venice is the ambition of many, both for those who have never been in it and for us, who know it well, because the city’s role as a crossroads of cultures is unique, even if we think of other international locations. What is key, here, is that there is always room to grow. It would be great to expand the large events in Venice to Treviso, not necessarily with an official presence. From the point of view of the tourist industry, it seems sensible and virtuous for both cities to offer more, to include a larger territory. It’s not easy to work together, but I believe it can be done. The right attitude should be complementarity, interaction, not competition.




There goes our flaw, we have little sense of community. A civic virtue that lacks and that’s quite regretful. It seems our country has a distaste for progressive maturation – Italy evolves in an anarchic fashion. It loves to surprise. The growth in wealth north-eastern Italy experienced since the 1950s probably has no equal in all of Europe. Understandably, after such a tremendous growth it takes a while to reach a plateau of normality. Things may be discomforting at times, especially if we compare Italy with places where starting a business, doing research, studying are much easier than they are here. But it is in comparison that we can measure our results, bridge the gaps, cultivate hope. Italy gives its best in spontaneity and adaptability, though not only. Some families, like the one I belong to, tried to expand their vision internationally. Naturally, risk and strong roots are always part of the equation. We chose to invest in sports, in culture, in art, in the urgency to contribute to the development of our territory and to give something back. Italians did so much in the last fifty to sixty years, it is lamentable that we integrated so little. I believe it is high time we invest courageously in education and cultivate the ideas of community. This is the challenge of the future for those, like us, who feel gratitude towards a country.

We are ready to answer this call.