Palazzo Butera, a new laboratory for the city 

In this historical moment, with its extensive migration and globalisation, the continent of Europe appears to be in the grip of an identity crisis. What may rescue Europe from its crisis is a reinvigoration of its deep rooted traditions of openness and hospitality. Sicily, with its history of millennial migrations, offers a rich and seasoned point of departure to reimagine European identity.

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For 3000 years migration has shaped Sicilian culture.  From the earliest sailors crossing the Mediterranean Sea, many different cultures have landed on Sicily's shores; Phoenicians, Ancient Greeks, Christian Byzantines, and Aghlabid and Fatimid Muslims.   With its political centre in the court of Palermo, through the reigns of Norman kings or later viceroys linked to the Crown of Aragon, Sicily has become a cultural crucible of diversity. Creative and destructive encounters between peoples has generated a unique anthropological synthesis, still visible today in the streets of Palermo where hospitality and integration are practiced with time-honoured and daily persistence.

These historical and cultural stratifications are still visible at the Kalsa, a district on the seafront of central Palermo. Palazzo Butera is located on the old main street of this district and has been recently acquired by Francesca Frua de Angeli and Massimo Valsecchi. They have undertaken and personally financed an extraordinary restoration of this estate.

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The palace is an open laboratory, drawing together history, arts and culture in an interdisciplinary exercise aimed at finding solutions for social development.  Open to the city of Palermo and the world beyond, the ground floor will offer a reference library and many galleries for temporary exhibitions from both home and abroad. The first floor contains conference and events rooms. This area houses the Palace's 18th century library. The second floor will accommodate a museum, displaying the Francesca & Massimo Valsecchi art collection (see below).  Other international museums will also be invited to display their collections in this part of the palace. Finally, artists, curators and other cultural stakeholders, will find comfortable and contemporary accommodation available in the guesthouse, allowing them access both to events at Palazzo Butera, and to connect with other cultural and academic institutions in the City of Palermo

Palazzo Butera collaborated with the peripatetic European Biennialle, 'Manifesta', opening its first exhibition spaces to artists celebrating Palermo as Manifesta's 2018 City of Culture.

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In 2020, Palazzo Butera will welcome the Francesca & Massimo Valsecchi art collection, currently on long-term loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (UK).

Their gathering of artworks has taken some 50 years, and in a recent article published by the prestigious international art review, 'Apollo', Susan Moore writes that the collection is “the least known private holding of great art in London” (Apollo Magazine, June 2016). 

For Francesca and Massimo Valsecchi, the formation of the collection has been disciplined by an insistence on quality and serious research. The fundamental idea behind the collection is the proposition that placing outstanding artworks from different worlds side by side, is a way to understand the ties that lie beneath apparent cultural differences.  The collection is an experiment, igniting, through highly prestigious works of art from many cultures and historical ages, a profound educational mediation on cultural similarities; an important and unique contribution in the urgent debate on integration and immigration.