Villa e collezione
If you are visiting Villa Panza & the Panza Collection for the first time, you cannot fail to be struck by the surprising juxtapositions between the contemporary works of art on show, the rich 16th-to-19th-century decor and the major collection of African and pre-Columbian art. On his return from America in 1956, Giuseppe Panza di Biumo began to collect contemporary artworks and house them in the villa. He identified a restricted group of artists, whose names were still unknown to the general public, and bought as many of their pieces as possible in an effort to give a comprehensive, in-depth overview of their work.
Paying no attention to critics or the market, Panza's choices were based solely on his extraordinary intuition, and of course, on his profound need for beauty and spirituality, qualities that differentiated not only the works selected, but also the balanced way those works were displayed against the backdrop of the villa's architecture.
A great many artists in Panza's peer group were invited to transform some of the rooms of the complex – particularly the spaces within the stable block and the outbuildings – into works of environmental art designed specifically for Biumo. In no time at all, the burgeoning collection started to garner an international reputation, attracting myriad scholars and aficionados who wanted to pay homage to the owner's foresight and artistic sensibility. It is thanks to Giuseppe Panza that it is now possible to admire the art of Dan Flavin – of whose works the Panza Collection has the largest concentration on permanent display – the poetics of James Turrell and Robert Irwin, and numerous monochrome canvases and other works by artists such as Phil Sims, David Simpson, Ruth Ann Fredenthal, Max Cole, Maria Nordman, Martin Puryear, Ford Beckman, Ross Rudell, Alfonso Frateggiani, Ettore Spalletti, Lawrence Carroll, Stuart Arends, Allan Graham and Winston Roeth.
The Panza Collection contains around 2,500 works, including pieces and installations that are globally famous and are partially distributed across some of the leading international museums, from the Guggenheim in New York to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles and the Museo Cantonale d'Arte in Lugano. Giuseppe Panza stated: "Donating the Villa and the Collection it contains to FAI has meant that these assets have been able to remain permanently in Italy". It was an extraordinary gesture of generosity that allows ever-increasing numbers of people to access an important historic building while also enjoying direct contact with expressions of the main artistic tendencies in the recent history of art.