Emerging art collector Mauro Mattei discusses ‘golden showers’ and eating well at fairs

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Not all collectors maintain a constant physical presence in the art scenes they patronise, but Mauro Mattei is nearly as ubiquitous at openings of emerging art shows in London as an ice bucket of Peroni beers. The Milan-born tax adviser began his art-buying journey in earnest 11 years ago, when he learned to “navigate the delicate system of international galleries”. Today his collection, housed between his east London apartment and two storage units—one in London and one in Milan—is filled with works by young artists, many of whom are yet to have an institutional show. A fan of “the social side of the art world”, he typically meets artists in person at events and studio visits.

Every month at the events space 9 French Place in Shoreditch, Mattei holds a “golden shower”. This is his intentionally risqué name for an exhibition-cum-members club, which provides a solo show for an emerging artist. The gimmick is that the name of the artist is kept secret until the day of the show, and only those in the club are allowed access to the works at the VIP opening, which features a champagne breakfast. “It’s a cheeky way to create engagement,” Mattei says.

But art is not all fun for Mattei: it is business, too. His first art-world venture was a crowdfunding startup, “similar to Kickstarter”, which he has now closed. Because of his line of work he is “constantly approached by people in the industry wanting to discuss tax”. This has encouraged him to specialise part of his firm, BeAdvisors, into an art tax and law advisory. (The company also runs an art advisory arm, and sponsors an annual prize for an emerging artist.)

At its core, however, Mattei’s collection is based on relationships:“I fall in love with artists, with their smile, as much as their work. It’s about people.”

The Art Newspaper: What was the first work you ever bought?

Mauro Mattei: The first proper acquisition from a gallery was a piece by Oscar Giaconia from Thomas Brambilla Gallery in Italy.

What are you looking out for at Frieze this year?

Always the Focus section, as my passion is for work by artists born in the 1980s and 1990s. Some favourite galleries at Frieze are Nicoletti, Ginny on Frederick, both from London, and the Milan gallery Clima. Honestly, I get bored in the other parts of the fair.

How quickly do you decide to buy a work of art?

It’s a long process. I want to study and get the full picture of the artist and of the gallery.

What was the last work you bought?

The latest acquisitions are a Ty Locke work from his show at Copperfield and an Aidan Duffy work from South Parade’s booth at the Art-o-rama fair
in Marseille.

What do you regret not buying when you had the chance?

So many I can’t even count them. But it’s no real regret; I’m rather proud to have spotted them before they became successful.

If you could have any work from any museum in the world, what would it be?

Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love from the Galleria Borghese in Rome.

Mauro Mattei would love to get his hands on Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love (1514), from the collection of the Galleria Borghese in Rome

Creative Commons

Where do you like to eat and drink in London?

I’m very local when it comes to eating and drinking. In east London I’m a regular at the Spurstowe Arms and I love the Wilton Way Deli’s vibe, from breakfast to aperitivo. My absolute favourite restaurant in the area is an Italian-Japanese marvel called Angelina.

Do you have any parties lined up?

ArtReview’s party on Friday night at the Edition. And the Monday night party of Minor Attractions, a new fair for emerging galleries in London.

What’s your least favourite thing about art fairs?

The food. Eating at fairs nicely and properly—especially at Frieze—is always a nightmare.

Where do you go in London to get away from it all?

To Italy!

What tip would you give to someone visiting London for the first time?

Plan to stay for four weeks if you want to see everything.

Besides art, what else do you collect?

I’ve collected ever since I was a kid. It started with empty beer bottles, and then I graduated to old signs from shops, hotels, old cinemas etcetera. I have an entire garage full of them. One day I will do something with them.

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