Collector and patron Valeria Napoleone announced today that she is launching Valeria Napoleone XX, which will bring work by female artists to museums in England and America. Begun as an effort to equalize the representation of male and female artists in museum collections, Valeria Napoleone XX will have two initiatives—Valeria XX SculptureCenter and Valeria Napoleone XX Contemporary Art Society.
Napoleone, who is based in London, is known for collecting art by women. In a phone conversation, she told ARTnews that she began Valeria Napoleone XX because she wanted to continue her relationship with institutions while working to correct the gender imbalance in so many collections. “I’ve been thinking about how to engage with institutions, how to continue my dialogue as a collector,” she said. “I’m not just interested in sitting there as a collector, warming the seat. I’m a very hands-on person.”
When asked why the project would be trans-Atlantic, Napoleone explained that New York was where she began collecting, and that, with her home now in London, she feels very connected to two art scenes. “The U.S. and England are two very different landscapes,” she said.
In New York, Valeria Napoleone XX SculptureCenter will sponsor one major commission at the Long Island City nonprofit museum every 12 to 18 months. Its first commission will be a work by Anthea Hamilton, whose first U.S. solo museum show is set to open at SculptureCenter in September. The commissioned work will be based on an unrealized model for a Manhattan skyscraper doorway made by Gaetano Pesce in 1972. Pesce’s doorway was framed by a male buttocks—visitors to the building could walk between the man’s legs. Hamilton’s large-scale project, which will reinterpret this doorway, had previously been announced, yet it was not known that Valeria Napoleone XX would fund it.
Napoleone said she chose SculptureCenter because she is particularly comfortable with the museum’s staff, which includes curators Mary Ceruti and Ruba Katrib—two curators who have historically aligned themselves with exhibitions about female artists. “They’re very courageous,” Napoleone said. “They take risks. That is all that I believe in. They give artists total freedom.”
Across the pond, over in London, Valeria Napoleone XX Contemporary Art Society will donate one significant work by a living female artist to a different United Kingdom–based museum each year. Museums will apply for Valeria Napoleone XX’s support; one institution will be selected. The work given to the selected museum will be previewed at the Camden Arts Centre, and then the artist of the chosen work will also have a solo show at the museum. Unlike the SculptureCenter work, which would be created specifically for a solo show at that institution, the Contemporary Art Society work would come from the artist’s existing body of work and be tailored to the museum Napoleone selects.
“We’ll see what makes sense for them,” Napoleone said. “It could be ceramics, anything. We’re going to work around the museum’s collection.”
In particular, Napoleone hopes that the works she sponsors will come from early- and mid-career artists. (Age, she explained, can sometimes have little to do with where female artists are in their career.) “There is a vast range of mid-career women artists that get ignored,” she said, citing statistics about imbalanced British art scene.
“I would like to show more film and video,” Napoleone said, when asked if there were any artists in particular she wanted to show. “But I would not want to get into the specifics of the type of art.” Finding the right work by the right artist, she explained, can often be “a journey.”