Artphilein Library 9

Interview with Caterina De Pietri

Who is Caterina De Pietri?

I was born in 1960; I grew up in Rome and then in Switzerland. I graduated in law in Zurich. As well as my professional activity, I spend a lot of time and energy developing and implementing the activities and initiatives of the De Pietri Artphilein Foundation, of which I am the director.

My curiosity for art, in all its various manifestations, has been the common thread running through my existence ever since adolescence. I have a particular interest in contemporary art, in which I see the key for an understanding of what is happening today. In my free time, I investigate the themes dearest to me, through my reading, travels, visits to exhibitions and other cultural events.

When did your love of photography emerge?

My first memory of photography is linked to two publications on the world photography show of 1968: for hours, on various occasions, I browsed through these two volumes over and over again. From there, my journey through the world of photography continued over the years, with two key moments for my interests: when I saw the lightbox titled Milk by Jeff Wall (a work from 1984) for the first time, and my discovery of artists’ photobooks. Since then, apart from documentary photography, I have also developed a keen interest in conceptual works, especially in book form. In this sense, I am particularly receptive to the book as an independent expressive medium for a photographer, and therefore I deal with their necessary elaboration and creation processes.

The library is part of a much broader project characterised not only by our passion for contemporary art and books but also by a major patronage component.

We are talking about AF and the direction taken by the Foundation that you and your husband Gianfranco are the founders of.

Together with my husband, we have collected artworks and books for decades (be they antique volumes, artists’ books, ones on photography, documentation, etc.). In order to share this passion of ours for art, to open up our research and collections to dialogue and comparison, and in order to continue over time with our support for contemporary art, the De Pietri Artphilein Foundation was created at the end of 2005.

In all its forms, the book is a key element for us and for our Foundation. In 2013, the Foundation created Artphilein Editions, through which we continue to publish books every year, in collaboration with artists and the Choisi bookshop, which carries out a special programme of support and promotion of the contemporary photobooks among other things.

Why a library? With what kind of approach?

When we found a suitable space in Lugano, it came naturally to us to open up a part of our collection to the public, i.e. the books of and on photography and artists’ photography books: the Artphilein Library. This is a dynamic library which will evolve over time, and which as well as conservation, is dedicated to the understanding and investigation of the photobook.