The Fondazione Guido ed Ettore De Fornaris was set up in Turin in 1982 in accordance with the will of the patron of the arts and collector Ettore De Fornaris. Later that year it received legal recognition from Regione Piemonte. Since then its work in the field of art has involved many initiatives: purchasing nineteenth- and twentieth-century and contemporary works, organising exhibitions of its own collection, putting on programmes of meetings, publishing catalogues, and carrying out studies and research.
In the world of Italian art foundations, the De Fornaris is a rare example of one that works in close contact with a museum, GAM -Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino, with the specific purpose of expanding its collections.
The Foundation owns more than a thousand paintings, sculptures, engravings, drawings and photographs. Further to an agreement with the City of Turin, these works are now kept and exhibited at GAM. The Foundation is governed by a Board of Directors, accompanied by an advisory committee that has the task of selecting the works to be purchased.
Relatively little is known about Ettore De Fornaris, an unassuming, reserved man.
He was born in Turin in 1898 into a wealthy family, and although he graduated in Law, he chose to work mainly in the world of art. And indeed he devoted himself to art personally, creating paintings, drawings and engravings, which he exhibited in a number of exhibitions. In as early as 1954 he started creating a collection of his own. Among others, this included works by Fontanesi, Delleani, Casorati, Morandi, Rosai, Gemito and various Italian and foreign engravers.
In the same year he also wrote the first draft of his will, in which he stated his desire to make use of his assets taking inspiration from art, which he referred to as the “ideal of my life, pursued with the utmost fervour of spirit”: this was the first time he had suggested the creation of a foundation, which was later to be named after him and his father Guido.
De Fornaris died in Turin in 1978.
The Foundation is inspired by the wishes expressed by Ettore De Fornaris in his will: first and foremost, that of striving for the “artistic education of the community” through the love and study of art.
To achieve this, the income from his assets was to be used to “endow the Gallery of Modern Art in Turin with new works of the highest quality”. The criteria to be respected, to the letter, were “the true pictorial dignity and value” of the works and their display and permanent conservation in the Gallery. As part of its mission, the Foundation also has the task of promoting studies, conferences and exhibitions, and instituting awards.
Through purchases and donations, the Fondazione De Fornaris now owns more than a thousand works, ranging from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Decisions concerning acquisitions are inspired by policy guidelines that take into account the quality of the works, but also the needs of the GAM collection. Particular attention is paid to nineteenth-century Piedmontese works, to artistic movements of national importance in the twentieth century and the most significant contemporary trends. As well as valuable collections that ran the risk of dispersion (including the contemporary art collection of the Einaudi publishing house), the Foundation collection has been enriched over the years with invaluable pieces by artists such as Palagi, Hayez, Morbelli, Pellizza da Volpedo and works by artists of the most successful periods, such as Balla, Boccioni, Casorati, de Chirico, de Pisis, Morandi, Leoncillo, Vedova, Melotti and then Pistoletto, Paolini, Anselmo, Merz, Zorio Mainolfi, Parmiggiani Cragg, Penone and others. In the case of the younger generations, works that in recent decades have epitomised the dominant trends, mainly in Piedmont, have been selected and purchased.
Through the publication of catalogues with scholarly information, every year since it was first set up, the Foundation has documented the works it owns. In addition to these publications, the Foundation also promotes a series of studies that combines historical research and collecting in order to analyse artistic aspects related to its collection, placing the works correctly in contest. Among others, these publications include:
- “Venticinque anni d’arte: 1982-2007” / (ed. Marina Paglieri) – Turin, Fondazione De Fornaris, printed in 2007 – 91 p.: ill.; 28 cm. Published for the exhibition in Turin in 2007-2008
- “Arte Moderna a Torino. 200 opere d’arte acquisite per la Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna di Torino”, ed. Rosanna Maggio Serra, Turin, Allemandi, 1986
- “Andrea Gastaldi (1826-1889). Un pittore a Torino tra romanticismo e realismo”, by Rosanna Maggio Serra, Turin, Allemandi, 1988
- “Mario Sturani 1906-1978”, ed. Maria Mimita Lamberti, Turin, Allemandi, 1990
- “Culture fotografiche e società a Torino. 1839-1911” by Marina Miraglia, Turin, Allemandi, 1990
- “La scultura monumentale negli anni del fascismo. Arturo Martini e il monumento al Duca d’Aosta”, by Flavio Fergonzi and Maria Teresa Roberto, ed. Paolo Fossati, Turin, Allemandi, 1992
- “Arte Moderna a Torino II. Acquisizioni 1986-1992”, ed. Rosanna Maggio Serra, Turin, Allemandi, 1993
- “Repertorio delle opere su carta acquisite per la Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino 1982-1992”, ed. Rosanna Maggio Serra, Turin, Allemandi, 1994
- “Arte Moderna a Torino III. Acquisizioni 1994-1998”, ed. Riccardo Passoni, Turin, Hopefulmonster, 1999
- “Il ‘900 in fotografia”, ed. Marina Miraglia, Turin, Hopefulmonster, 2001
- “Angelo Morbelli tra Realismo e Divisionismo”, Edzioni GAM-Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin 2001
- “Acquisizioni 1999-2006”, Fondazione De Fornaris, Turin 2006
- “2005 Fondazione De Fornaris. Venticinque anni d’arte 1982-2007”, ed. Marina Paglieri, Fondazione De Fornaris, Turin 2007
- Giuseppe Penone, “In limine”, Fondazione De Fornaris, Turin 2011
- “Trent’anni d’arte. Celebrating 30 Years of Art. 1982-2012”, ed. Marina Paglieri, L’Artistica Editrice, Savigliano 2012.
Like the acquisitions catalogues, the exhibitions too have the primary purpose of presenting and documenting the expansion of the collections.
The first exhibition of acquisitions was put on in 1982 in the foyer of the Teatro Regio in Turin. This was followed four years later by a show at the Promotrice delle Belle Arti, also in Turin, with 200 works that had entered the collection between 1982 and 1986.
In 1990, in collaboration with the City of Turin, came a retrospective of works by Mario Sturani in the Mole Antonelliana. This was followed in 1994 by an exhibition at GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea with works on paper acquired by the Foundation from 1982 to 1992. In collaboration with the Galleria Civica of Turin, the Foundation showed a selection of works at the Casa del Mantegna in Mantua, from December 1998 to February 1999. In the spring of 1999, the temporary exhibition hall of GAM showcased the works that the Foundation had acquired between 1994 and 1998.
In 2001, Fondazione De Fornaris and GAM organised a retrospective of works by the pointillist painter Angelo Morbelli in the Gallery’s exhibition rooms. At the Promotrice delle Belle Arti in November and December of that year, the Foundation’s most recent acquisitions of contemporary art were shown as part of the “La GAM costruisce il suo futuro” exhibition.
In 2006, the Foundation took part in the Museo Museo Museo. 1998 - 2006. Otto anni di acquisizioni per le raccolte della GAM exhibition at Torino Esposizioni. In 2007, an exhibition in the museum in Via Magenta celebrated the first 25 years of the De Fornaris with Fondazione De Fornaris. 25 Years of Art. Acquisitions 1982-2007 for GAM di Torino, curated by Riccardo Passoni.
In recent years, the Foundation has devoted considerable space to a series of lectures on topics related to the art world. The “Lunedì dell’arte” series of Monday meetings was launched in 1996, with great names from various fields of art, becoming a regular encounter with the city. The speakers invited for the first series were personalities born in Piedmont who were active in the field of art, architecture and design and well-established at the international level. This was followed by a series devoted to disciplines such as design and photography or to specific topics such as the management of contemporary art museums in Europe and in Italy, the restoration of ancient and modern works, and great private collections. In November 2005 three meetings, involving art, cinema and fiction, were devoted to Mario Soldati. In November 2006, three meetings introduced the world of design, in anticipation of 2008, when Italy was to be the World Design Capital. Three of the great names of contemporary design took part: Andrea Branzi, Gaetano Pesce and Patricia Urquiola.
Over the years there have been lectures on art, the economy and information (“Arte Economia Informazione”, 2007), sculpture (“Parliamo di scultura”, 2008), ancient art through modern eyes (“Moderni che guardano all’Antico” (2009)), and the Risorgimento (“L’immagine del Risorgimento tra pittura e fotografia”), in 2011, to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy. In April 2013 there were two meetings on photography (“Fotografia. Visione e missione”).
Turin was the first city in Italy, together with Florence, to set up a public collection of modern art. This was in 1836, when the Museo Civico showed contemporary sculptures and paintings next to ancient works of art in its premises near the Mole Antonelliana.
The collection expanded over the years, until a new home was requested, but war damage to the pavilion on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II where it was housed meant that it had to wait until 1959 before it could have a permanent place of its own, and one that would be more suited to the functions of a museum in the modern sense of the term.
The complex was built, to a design by the architects Carlo Bassi and Goffredo Boschetti, on the same site as the original pavilion, at the beginning of Corso Galileo Ferraris. Today GAM – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino – which became part of Fondazione Torino Musei in 2003, is one of the most important public collections of modern art in Italy.