Luis Parenti: Art as a Way of Life

No. 129 – October 2005

He is an architect and works in a construction company. Towards the end of the 1980’s he settled in Buenos Aires, after working in the south of Argentina for several years. On the way to his office in the middle of Bajo Retiro neighborhood, he started visiting art galleries. Little by little, he developed a passion for collecting, an activity he shares with Dominique Biquard, his wife. We interviewed him at his home, where he lives surrounded by art, with works by Testa, Prior, Pierri, Becú, Schwartz, Pirozzi, Cambre, Cornejo, de Koenisberg, García Saenz, Félix Rodríguez, Hoffmann, Gómez Canle, Guerrieri, Mortarotti, Marjal, Fracchia, Laguna, Londaibere, Barilaro, Perrota, Vecino, Sandro Pereyra, De Loof, Sícoli, Scafatti, Boetling, Domínguez Nacif, Juan Martín Juárez, Duville, Eduardo Navarro and Leon, among others.

Arte al Día: As we enter your house there is a portrait of Florencia Braga Menéndez made by the Mondongo. Why did you choose that piece?

Luis Parenti: I really like what Mondongo does. This painting is part of an exhibition that they did with portraits of people related to the world of visual arts and the one of Florencia is the one that was most linked to my wife and me. Florencia is someone I respect very much, for her ideas and for the sharpness of her look.

AAD: Both Florencia and Fernanda are involved with the artist in an affective, almost maternal way.

LP: Yes, they are part of the group of artists. There is a lot of respect between them and they value each other. Both Belleza y Felicidad and Braga Menéndez Gallery are centers that, in addition to selling artwork, have something in common: they are a thought and production powerhouse.

AAD: The grotesque, the figurative and expressionism as a style predominate in their collection. There is almost no conceptual work. 

LP: That’s true; I’m interested in works where the concept, if any, is mysteriously hidden.

AAD: Aren’t you moved by a work in which an idea or a project predominates? 

LP: It’s as if I should find some kind of poetry between the concept and the manufacture of the work.

AAD: How did the habit of collecting develop?

LP: I am an architect and work in a construction company. Probably the fact that I didn’t dedicate myself to the creative activity of the architectural project led me to become passionate about the visual arts.

AAD: Where does your interest in art come from? 

LP: My grandfather – who I never met – was Florentine, he settled in Buenos Aires in the 1920s. He had in his blood, I am told, the artistic tradition of his city, which he visited very often. My father inherited some of that interest, and my mother studied art history. 

AAD: How did the step towards collecting happen? 

LP: In 1982 I got married, and with my wife, Dominique, we went to live to Comodoro Rivadavia where artistic expression was not abundant. When I returned to Buenos Aires I found, without knowing it, my interest in art. We moved to this building where I live, in Juncal and Esmeralda. My office is downtown and on my daily commutes to work I began to visit the art galleries in the area.

AAD: How did you meet Florencia?

LP: I met her at ArteBa, the year she was presenting with the Blanca gallery in the alternative spaces section curated by Jorge López Anaya. I was captivated by her knowledge and passion for art. Soon after that, she opened a new space, “Braga Menéndez Schuster” where we would usually go on Saturday afternoons with Dominique. Meetings were set up with the artists of the gallery where we discussed current issues. 

AAD: A big change.

LP: We discovered a world that until then didn’t exist for me, at least in a conscious way. 

AAD: So you usually meet the artists and share a social activity with them. 

LP: Yes; I began to visit the workshops of different artists and found multiple poetic universes unknown to me until that moment. 

AAD: How do you organize your visits to artists’ studios? 

LP: If the artist I’m interested in is represented by a Gallery I go with people from that Gallery or with their permission. If not, I arrange directly with them.

AAD: Do you think your world has changed since you began to enter the art world? 

LP: Yes, totally. Everyday life ends up being right there. I relate affectively, I do it with passion and I think it’s a lifelong thing. Besides, I’m very interested in what’s happening in this moment and in this place. 

AAD: So it’s also a way of always being updated, because what is external is always changing. It’s like renewing yourself through the eyes of artists. 

LP: I take their points of view very seriously and it gives me great pleasure to be able to help them in some way, I feel committed to them. 

AAD: One thing leads to another and suddenly you start practicing cultural management.

LP: My wife says that I am a “connector” and not a “collector”… Suddenly I found myself magically collaborating with different projects among artists, gallery owners, art-related institutions and companies that are interested in establishing links with this world. At this moment I am participating in Periférica, a fair at the Borges Cultural Center that will be held at the end of the year with the participation of different cultural centers in Argentina and neighboring countries.

AAD: In your collection there are quite a few artists from the interior of the country, and others who are little known. 

LP: Yes, I’m annoyed at the influence of fashion on collecting. You always get involved in it, but you fight against it. So what we have at home is what we really like. Of course there are opinions of others that I respect and attend to.

AAD: Do you worry that art can be an economically profitable investment? 

LP: I would like things to remain valuable, but I don’t buy that way. Also, I can’t spend a lot of money on a painting. What prevails is the pleasure of living with artworks I like.