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In the Driver's Seat

Ginerva Elkann shapes her famous family’s museum.

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Ginerva Elkann

Ginerva Elkann

Photo By Dave Yoder

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Scoop issue 11/24/2008
It's a good thing that Ginerva Elkann learned to multitask early on. In her role as vice president of the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli in Turin, Elkann splits her time between the museum and her own projects, including screenwriting and directing. A self-described “film buff,” with a master’s degree from London Film School, Elkann, 29, is producing Frontier Stories, filmed in Iran’s Northern region of Gorgan. Due out next year, the movie captures “daily life in Iran,” weaving together five different stories.

“I couldn’t believe my luck. It was a dream come true,” recalls Elkann, who, in the past, assisted directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci and Anthony Minghella. “There are plenty of good directors out there, but there aren’t real stories [they can work with],” she adds.

Her quiet, understated ways are a complete U-turn from those of her brother, the more flamboyant Lapo. And, though she is less visible than her other sibling, John “Jaki”, the president of Fiat, this young Agnelli heir is as determined and focused as the rest of her famous family.

Elkann is shaping the Pinacoteca, whose mission is “to provide a space for private collections, which can range from art to fashion and jewelry or books.” And her choices are anything but mainstream. The Pinacoteca’s first exhibition under Elkann’s supervision in October 2006 was somewhat groundbreaking for the city of Turin.

“Why Africa?” was made up of a selection of contemporary artworks—including pieces made with rusty motorbikes and masks made with plastic tanks—from the private collection of Jean Pigozzi, and curated by André Magnin. “People were nervous about this exhibition,” says Pigozzi, a longtime friend of Elkann and whose Contemporary African Art Collection, based in Geneva, is the largest such private collection in the world. “But Ginevra has immense charm, which is always useful; a very good eye, and is not stuffy nor pompous, which is very often the case with people in her position.”

In October, Elkann gave the green light to “Prehistory to the Future. Highlights from the Bischofberger Collection,” a unique juxtaposition of prehistoric hatchets; the most comprehensive collection of naïf paintings from Switzerland’s Appenzell region; furniture by Le Corbusier and Gio Ponti; Man Ray and Irving Penn photos, and works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel and Andy Warhol. The exhibition, which highlights pieces owned by collector Bruno Bischofberger, will run until March 1. “Anything that is connected to the private sphere, flavor and vision of one person” is what interests Elkann.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Scoop issue 11/24/2008
Coming up next, a collection of Iranian contemporary art. At the opening in October, Bischofberger praised the inquisitive nature of Elkann: “When she doesn’t know, she asks questions, and she is always interested in so many different things.”

The Pinacoteca, located on the rooftop of Lingotto, Fiat’s former car manufacturing plant, was inaugurated six years ago after renovations by famed architect Renzo Piano. The space is named after Elkann’s grandfather, the late Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, who, along with his wife, Marella, donated pieces from their art collection to the gallery, including scenes of Venice by Canaletto; masterpieces by Henri Matisse; portraits by Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Amedeo Modigliani; futuristic and abstract canvases by Gino Severini and Giacomo Balla, and two Picassos. A new, high-tech reference and research center will open next year.

“I like to think that the Pinacoteca opens up new worlds,” says Elkann, who is based in London and Turin and indulges her natural curiosity traveling extensively around the world. Recent trips include visits to Syria and Lebanon, in addition to Iran, for her film and for the theme of her next exhibition.

And, while her destinations aren’t exactly fashion-forward, Elkann still has a penchant for clothing— Dries Van Noten and Alberta Ferretti, in particular. Elkann, who is usually press-shy, is a regular guest at Ferretti’s runway shows. “Attending a fashion show  is not different from being behind the scenes of a movie—with similar dynamics and the same amount of stress,” Elkann says. “In the end, you tell a story, whether you are painting or directing a movie.”


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