Rossana Pittelli

A day in the life of… Rossana Pittelli

To meet Rossana Pittelli is to encounter a force of nature – barely contained in her tiny frame. “It is a great sin to waste time in this city,” she declares, talking in rapid-fire staccato from her office overlooking Belgrave Square.

You’d think as the art expert at the Italian Cultural Institute she would be inclined to rest on her laurels – after all, how hard can it be to promote the likes of Leonardo da Vinci? “But Da Vinci is dead!” she exclaims. “I want to introduce to London emerging artists, the next Da Vinci. The ICI isn’t a museum; it is contemporary, living, breathing…”

With 30 years experience of teaching art behind her, Rossana arrived in London wanting to open up new paths at the ICI. Since then she has produced a head-spinning series of exhibitions – on opening night each one has been packed to the rafters with crowds that would be the envy of any cultural attaché.

Her secret? Ninety per cent perspiration; 10 per cent inspiration. It takes a lot of work to put on a show – a partnering of public institutions, private galleries, both in the UK and in Italy, and sponsors, both large and small.

What really excites Rossana is cultural collaboration: “Here we are in this wonderful building, on this beautiful square, in the belly of the world’s cultures. We can’t just dig our own little plot – we must join together, we must seek out connections.”

So to introduce the brilliant Italian illustrator Emanuele Luzzati, she paired him up with world-famous British illustrator, Quentin Blake. During Wimbledon, she hosted an exhibition called Time Please, with photographs of the history and mood of Wimbledon by Italian photographer Paolo Araldi.

But her greatest achievement to date has been the exhibition, Mediterraneo – A Sea That Unites, a huge collaboration weaving together contemporary art from 21 Mediterranean states. Rossana reached out to a host of cultural attachés and the result was a landmark exhibition unveiled by 20 ambassadors.

It was an all-consuming undertaking, she admits. “But I feel it in my blood. I feel I have to open up the horizons.”

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