And light came

Conversation with Paolo Guzzini

A well-known entrepreneur and great collector, together with two of the founding partners and with an exceptional team of managers, he brought the family company to worldwide success. They were responsible for the lighting of in Milan.

Many interventions in the world's most prestigious museums in very different contexts

I meet Paolo Guzzini in his central Milanese studio. Affable manners and an open smile characterize this captain of industry who has contributed greatly, with constant commitment together with two of the founding partners and with an exceptional team of managers, to the worldwide success of the family company.

Let’s start from the beginning, Dr. Guzzini: and light came.

The historical family company is Fratelli Guzzini, founded in 1912. Three generations of entrepreneurs have succeeded one another, in addition to ours, which is the fourth. The reference sector includes tableware and kitchen utensils. The first products were made with natural material, such as ox horn. The advent of plexiglass opened up a new concept of the product bringing colour, beauty and practicality to the Italian table. Light was not yet taken care of, then born from the vision of the two brothers Giovanni and Raimondo as a possible extension of the range. An idea that, while not meeting with the favor of the second generation, took shape in 1958 as an autonomous and independent new company expanding to become the current pocket-sized multinational company. Its cradle: a beautiful cellar of the 15th century with a vaulted ceiling, below the floor of the room where I slept as a child. Collaborations with the most acclaimed and recognized international architects followed. Our family was the first, since the ‘50s, to bring to the Marche region the most important Italian and foreign designers.

From here there was a constant growth up now with ongoing collaborations with names such as Piano, Fuksas, Libeskind, Wilmotte among many others. The products of that time were not only useful but also beautiful. Today, reliability, efficiency and sustainability are required. Many are the memories with illustrious personalities with whom we have maintained a friendship that still lasts.

The lighting of Leonardo’s Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie is, perhaps, the best known intervention.

The lighting of Leonardo’s masterpiece, the Last Supper represented a challenge to the limit of the available technologies at the time, later taken and adapted to Giotto’s frescoes in the Cappella degli Scrovegni in Padua. We owe the excellent results we obtained to the tenacity and competence of all the technicians and engineers involved in the project.

We also remember other equally significant interventions.

They are our flagship: the countless interventions carried out in the most prestigious museums in the world in completely different architectural, expositive, structural and, last but not least, climatic contexts: from the Villa Borghese in Rome to the Louvre in Paris, from the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana to the Hermitage of St. Petersburg, passing through that of the Etihad airline in Dubai, among many others. The museum is to architectural light as Formula 1 is to the car industry. In both cases we are talking about research into new solutions aimed at improving the quality and performance of mass-produced industrial products. From design to art, the step is short. I was lucky enough to be born surrounded by beauty and I inherited the same sensitivity from my father Giovanni. Dostoevsky said “beauty will save the world”, I don’t think it is a coincidence that the same theme will be the leitmotif of the Italian pavilion at the next Expo in Dubai. In more than 40 years I have selected and brought together works among many others. The museum is to architectural light as Formula 1 is to the car industry. In both cases we are talking about research into new solutions aimed at improving the quality and performance of mass-produced industrial products.

From design to art, the step is short.

I was lucky enough to be born surrounded by beauty and I inherited the same sensitivity from my father Giovanni. Dostoevsky said “beauty will save the world”, I don’t think it is a coincidence that the same theme will be the leitmotif of the Italian pavilion at the next Expo in Dubai. In more than 40 years I have selected and brought together works that, although not exhaustive, tell the story of 30 centuries of human history. Each work expresses the thoughts and feelings of the artist at a specific moment, sometimes moved by personal situations, others by social, political and religious contexts.

"The museum is to architectural lighting as the Formula 1 is to the car industry"

What does collecting works of art means to you?

A path made of knowledge of history and different cultures. I began by collecting works of art from the 600 and 700. Later, friendships with art critics, important collectors and gallery owners such as the Orler brothers and Roberto Ducci contributed to draw my attention to open a broader vision to the heart and mind, until I put together, with passion but also sacrifice the current collection composed of over 300 pieces. Just think about the fact that with the gallery owners I mentioned our relationship started more than 20 years ago, to end up in trust and collaboration.

Will the next step be to unite a good part of the collection in a foundation?

I’m thinking about it. I want to find the best possible solutions to give continuity to my collection over time, passing on beauty to future generations. I do not exclude creating a foundation to open the collection to the public, just as I don’t exclude compatible alternatives that are being examined by consultants. The final decision if there will be one; can only be shared with my daughters Vanessa and Lucrezia, who by right represent the first natural level of continuity.

You have always lived immersed in beauty. What will you do after the company changes owner?

Today, my interests lie with the family’s PG CAPITAL Holding. We are investing in various sectors. We also acquire minority stakes through dedicated vehicles, for example in the residential real estate in Milan, with PGFAMA, which could soon expand into the niche hospitality sector aimed at demanding customers in Italy and abroad. We are also interested in the pharmaceutical and parapharmaceutical sectors, in this particular moment of their accelerated structural development. The project is to commit myself full time to the growth and development of PG CAPITAL, but following a new entrepreneurial model new: no longer doing but letting others do, contributing, thanks to the experience accumulated over the years, to support and partly coordinate the various activities. Also because these reasons, I have recently sold my shareholding in the family’s historical Holding Company FIMAG SPA.

In the collection 300 artworks that narrate 30 centuries of history

The long periods of forced isolation caused by the pandemic lead to a re-elaboration of the concept of living. How will they live in the apartments you are thinking about?

People will stay at home much longer than before and in a different way. People will also work in smartworking. This new way of working for us Europeans was a need derived from the pandemic and facilitated by technologies. This has been common in the United States for decades. The new concept of living in cities includes apartments equipped with all comforts with a subdivision of spaces to be dedicated to work, wellness and fitness, there will obviously be convivial areas and those for rest. The use of home automation is fundamental for greater ease of remote control and management, both of the various users and of other technologies increasingly present in the homes of the future.

The Author

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Nella sua geografia dell’anima ha Venezia, la città natale, nel cuore e la Versilia eletta a buen retiro. Quando nell’adolescenza le chiedevano che cosa avrebbe desiderato fare da grande, rispondeva sicura: viaggiare e scrivere. Così, per raggiungere lo scopo, si è messa a studiare lingue prima, lettere poi.  E sono oltre 30 anni che pubblica romanzi, saggi, scrive articoli, gira per il mondo. Ci sono tre cose - dice - di cui non può fare a meno: il mare, la scrittura, il caffè. Ah: è il direttore responsabile di AW ArtMag.

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