Ex-Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, whose demise occurred last June, was a prolific art collector. His extensive anthology, encompassing a staggering 25,000 pieces, is stored in a vast warehouse occupying 3,200 sq m (34,400 sq ft) near his mansion just outside Milan. Regrettably, this collection has come under fire from one of Italy’s leading art critics, Vittorio Sgarbi.
Comprising of a variety of art forms, the eclectic collection includes sculptures, cityscapes of Paris, Venice, Naples, the depiction of Madonnas, and vibrant nude women, reports La Repubblica. However, Sgarbi has dismissed the conglomerate as “croste,” translating to poor quality work, containing little to no value. He snidely suggested that the collection might appeal to those with limited art knowledge.
From Berlusconi’s grand conglomeration, Sgarbi highlights a mere six or seven pieces that potentially carry artistic merit. The entire collection had been valued at approximately €20m (£17.4m), averaging about €800 a painting. Considering Berlusconi’s estimated net worth of around €6bn at the time of his passing, this yields a surprise. He was a figure that dominated Italian politics throughout the early 1990s.
Yet, amongst the cynicism, Berlusconi’s main residence boasted artwork of superior quality by notable artists such as Renaissance painter Titian and Dutch grand master Rembrandt. Berlusconi was noted for his penchant for portraitures of women, which he enthusiastically bestowed as presents to his acquaintances, as revealed by Cesare Lampronti, a London-based art dealer, and confidante of the billionaire politician.
The latter part of Berlusconi’s life saw him investing in art pieces from TV auctions and Lampronti stated that Berlusconi was aware of the negligible worth of these acquisitions.
The immense collection now a legacy, is proving to be an albatross around the neck for Berlusconi’s heirs. The maintenance of the warehouse alone drains nearly €800,000 annually from the coffers, according to La Repubblica. Further, woodworm infestation has wrought havoc on a portion of the collection, with the cost of pest extermination, ironically, surpassing the value of the afflicted artwork.