TheProject

Palazzo Butera, a new laboratory for the city 

In this historical moment, in the face of extensive migration and globalisation, the continent of Europe appears to be in the process of re-examining its identity and roots. What may rescue Europe from its crisis is to reinvigorate its traditions of openness and hospitality. Sicily, with its history of millennial migrations, offers a rich and experienced point of departure to rethink European identity.

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From the earliest peoples sailing the Mediterranean Sea; Phoenicians and Ancient Greeks, through Christian Byzantines, to the Aghlabid and Fatimid dynasties, migration has shaped Sicilian culture for 3000 years.  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 cradle of differences. Creative and destructive encounters between peoples has generated a unique anthropological synthesis, 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. An extraordinary restoration of this estate has been undertaken and personally financed by them.

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The palace is to be 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 non-circulating reference library and many galleries for temporary exhibitions from both home and abroad. The first floor will contain an area for conferences, special events, and meetings. This area incorporates the Palace's 18th century library and a second frescoed room available to both academic and commercial interests. The second floor will accomodate 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 has collaborated with the European Nomadic Biennialle, 'Manifesta', opening its first exhibition spaces to artists celebrating Palermo as Manifesta's 2018 City of Culture.

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In 2019, 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.