Late Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Hoarded A ‘Monstrously Entertaining’ Art Collection. Now His Heirs Must Decide What to Do With It

He bought much of it from TV auctions.

Silvio Berlusconi, the late prime minister of Italy, is pictured in 2022. He has left behind a "worthless" collection of art bought in televised auctions. Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Silvio Berlusconi, the late prime minister of Italy who died in June, hoarded an essentially worthless art collection of 25,000 works that he bought in late-night telephone auctions as he battled insomnia.

The works in the collection include paintings of nude women as well as portraits and statues of Berlusconi himself, local media reported. The collection was stored in a warehouse near his villa where he hosted his famous “bunga bunga” parties. The warehouse reportedly costs around $846,000 a year to maintain.

Art critic Vittorio Sgarbi, a close friend of Berlusconi, called the politician’s collection “monstrously entertaining” in La Repubblica.

“There was no research, he worked with the idea of buying a bunch of artworks indifferent to what they were,” Sgarbi told RAI’s Report program, as cited by Reuters.

When Berlusconi would call in to bid, Sgarbi said, the auctioneers on TV would not believe it was him.

“He would start saying ‘I am Berlusconi’ and they would hang up the phone thinking it was a joke.”

One of the first experts to receive a call from Berlusconi during a late-night TV auction was Lucas Vianini, who became the billionaire’s chief curator, according to the Guardian He said that he first received a call from Berlusconi in 2018.

“Berlusconi liked everything to be in order,” Vianini said. “It wasn’t a warehouse, it was more of a boutique.”

After earlier reports that the family intended to burn much of the collection, a spokesperson for the Berlusconis told Reuters that each of his five children would keep some of the works with “the most appropriate destination” to be determined later.

According to The Guardian, the family is considered turning Berlusconi’s Villa San Martino into a museum.

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