On April 18, Finarte in Milan will sell the impressive photography collection of Mario Trevisan, an Italian collector, which includes works by Mario Giacomelli, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Metthew Barney, Adam Fuss, Mimmo Jodice and Bert Stern.

Trevisan is one of the most important photography collectors in Italy. His passion for photography was ignited after years dedicated to modern and contemporary art... and mathematics. In fact, Trevisan worked as a mathematician, but a volume of art economics, which he read while collaborating in the analysis course at the Cà Foscari University of Venice, inspired him to take a new path.

He started collecting photographs thirty years ago in the early 90s, and in his acquisitions have always been guided "by the eyes, the heart, and the head," to use an expression by Henri Cartier-Bresson. He now is selling a part of his collection without regret, but rather, with the enthusiasm of "discovering new things".


“Presenting photographic works from a private collection is always an operation rich in a thousand implications because it does not only mean proposing images of certain value that have already been examined and chosen by a competent collector. It also means questioning why they were acquired, how they have been harmonized with those already acquired, of what charm they have compared to others, of what new life they will live once they have been put on the market to reach other destinations, chosen by another collector, to get in tune with other works. "


We interviewed Mario Trevisan, who tells us about himself and the collection of works heading to Finarte's auction, as well as imparts valuable advice to first-time collectors of photography.

You started studying to be a mathematician, then moved on to the economy of art and from there to modern and contemporary art and then landed on what has become your greatest passion: photography. Can you tell us about this journey?

Mario Trevisan: I graduated with a degree in mathematics, then for two years I collaborated in the mathematical analysis course in economics and commerce at the Cà Foscari in Venice. There, in the early 1980s, I saw a volume of art economics and, driven by a passion for this sector, I wrote for Finarte a 500-page book on the trend of contemporary art over the last 20 years following the results of the last auctions. With this publication I was called by the auction house Semenzato to become the head of the department of Modern and Contemporary Art. In the meantime I started to buy works of art. I've always been passionate about photography and little by little I sold paintings to buy photographs. I bought the most important works between the 90s and 2000s.

What is the main difference between collecting art and collecting photography?

The fundamental difference is in economic terms. A photographic collection on the level of mine would not be possible at the same price point as artworks. Great photographers can be purchased at an "affordable" price and are still available, but, for example a [Giorgio] de Chirico painting from 1911 is rare and very expensive. An equivalent photograph of great importance can be "accessible". In photography we talk in terms of thousands, not millions. Another element is that of counterfeit works: in art it is a big problem. In photography it is different, photographic paper is dated, so thanks to that it is possible to identify the year of printing.

Are there any photographs in your collection you are most attached to?

Certainly. Some I would never give up even for offers higher than their real value. For example, the photo of Strache in Berlin after the bombing or Gordon Parks "American Gothic". My favorites are those who are slightly out of the chorus and difficult to find, while others (Arbus, Mapplethorpe) are easier to acquire. I tend to sell a photo if I found another one by the same photographer that interests me more in relation to my collection and my taste. Today I am looking for a Kertész that is not necessarily among the 20 most famous.

Where do you prefer to buy the works? In the gallery, in the auction, online, directly from the artist ...?

If I can buy it from the artist, I do, otherwise I purchase at auction. I also buy online, but always at auction or from important galleries.

Do you buy more with instinct or with the idea of​​ investment?

It is certainly a thoughtful decision, but far from the idea of ​​investment. Now many galleries promise investments, but it is the evil of the market today. Someone once said "Don't look at art with your ears" , but I say "don't follow advice, but choose yourself." If you choose well, it's already an investment. In the book I wrote, which I mentioned earlier, I argued that certain paintings bought and then resold at a higher price did not necessarily constitute an investment because of inflation.

Tips for beginners: what technical features should they check when they decide to buy a photograph?

A fundamental piece of advice is to read up a book of the history of photography. The world of photography is made up of people who are much better prepared than the contemporary art world. Another fundamental element in a photograph is the state of its preservation. One must always check whether the card corresponds to the declared date.

What advice would you give to young collectors who are passionate about photography?

To read up and not be blinded by great promises of contemporary artists that do not necessarily have a reputation on the market. There are great classics at affordable prices: I think they are preferable to unknown young people.

What can you tell us about the works on auction at Finarte?

They are a part of the collection exhibited at the Mart in Rovereto in 2012 and are the ones that I believe are not as important to me. They are important from the point of view of the history of photography, but I have decided to keep the ones that I think belong to me the most.

What are the highlights of the Finarte auction?

A beautiful work by Matthew Barney from the Cremaster 2 series, an intriguing print by Adam Fuss, a rare Giacomelli in large format (70x100) and other international-level lots that are hard to find on the Italian market.

What does it mean, for a passionate collector like yourself, to part with his collection?

I don't do it out of necessity but because I want to renew myself and I've changed. Now I also want new things, without going into the ultra-contemporary.

The Finarte Photography Auction will be held April 18t at the headquarters in Via Paolo Sarpi 6, Milan. The sale is divided into two rounds, one at 5 pm and the other at 7 pm.

Cover image:: Andrè Kertèsz, Dunaharaszti, Swimming, 1919 (detail)

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