artnet Asks: Miami Dealer Franco Valli on Italian Art, Advice for New Galleries, and His Plans for a New Chelsea Space
Valli, an Italian art dealer who immigrated to Miami in 2013, is committed to representing the art of his own country in the United States.
Valli Art has a more specialized agenda than many of the other galleries located in Miami’s Wynwood arts district. Founded by Franco Valli, an Italian art dealer who immigrated to the United States in 2013, the gallery is dedicated to showing the work of modern and contemporary Italian artists, such as Giosetta Fioroni, Alberto Biasi, and Michelangelo Pistoletto. Recently, Valli spoke with artnet about his gallery, what he’s learned in his years as a dealer, and his plans for expansion.
What is your litmus test for telling that something is a good work of art? How do you define the value of a work?
It is difficult to define the value of an artwork today. Unfortunately, in today’s art market the prices of the works of some artists are lower in comparison to their trajectory, career status, and the quality of their works. Today, the market defines the value of an artwork. In the end, collectors buy the artists they recognize and identify with.
What’s the work you’re the proudest of selling?
The artwork that satisfies my client’s expectations. I am particularly proud of selling works ahead of the market—those works that will eventually become sought after. I also enjoy giving my clients the opportunity to discover new artists whose works fascinate them and make them fall in love with art all over again.
As an art dealer, what are your favorite words to hear?
“Good job.” I’ve always had a special relationship with my clients. I become part of their family. We share our passion for art. They frequently call me to hear my opinion about the next piece of artwork they are interested in acquiring. We spend time together visiting art fairs, museums, and artist’s studios, and I truly enjoy helping them put together and grow their collections. I feel that I am responsible for advising my clients as well. It’s a responsibility that motivates me to give them the best of myself.
As a dealer, what do you fear the most?
To fall so in love with a piece that I decide not to sell it anymore. I put passion into the job I do and fall in love with the works of all the artists that I represent. Sometimes, though, I fall in love with certain pieces of art so deeply that I end up wanting to be able to see them and appreciate them always
What questions do you ask in an artist’s studio? What do you look for?
I visit the artists’ studios to plan the next steps together, to evaluate the work we have done, and to define strategies for future projects. Visiting the studios is an incredible learning experience. I learn not only about their creative paths, but also about the art market. I frequently discover new elements of their practices, as well as secrets of contemporary art history that are hidden for most of the public. The ties that I have developed over time with some artists and curators are some of the most valuable assets in my career—they help me to do my job and drive me to grow.
If you could own one work, what would it be?
I can’t decide on just one. There are several artworks that I love. I don’t have a favorite one. I enjoy increasing and diversifying my art collection and I am always looking for new works that will catch my interest.
If your house was on fire, which work of yours would you save?
In addition to saving my insurance policy, I would definitely grab my Lucio Fontana slashed piece.
When was the last time you laughed at something in your gallery?
I always laugh at my gallery. I think that laughing helps you live better. I like to keep a positive work environment. Valli Art demands excellence and professionalism from its staff, but I certainly believe that making people feel like they are part of a family produces better results.
I love the work I do. I create both personal and professional ties with important Italian artists from whom I continue to learn. I have clients who make me feel good. I think I have the best job in the world. I live unforgettable experiences and visit beautiful places, so I am always happy!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
There is so much advice I would give a young gallerist: Seek to specialize in a historical period or in certain artistic movements. Don’t get distracted by market trends. Give fair and respectful treatment to your artists and work to understand their needs. Artists are the origin and the basis of this job. Protect the relationships with customers because they are the result of your work. Learn from your mistakes since they make you grow.
I could go on and on, but three fundamental suggestions are: Believe firmly in what you do, do it with true passion, and never stop learning. Every day I learn something new. Always.
What’s coming up at your gallery?
We are developing many projects, such as a huge Italian kinetic art show and an exhibition of Italian Pop Art from La Scuola di Piazza del Popolo. In addition, we have planned lectures with curators, book presentations, and a special collaborative project with an Italian cultural institution. Next fall, we will start working with three new remarkable Italian artists.
Finally, we’re planning to expand outside of Miami and open a gallery in Chelsea, New York. We are working hard to get it up and running before the end of this year.
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