Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s eye for art has landed her among the world’s top collectors. But the seed was planted when a friend introduced her to American costume jewelry back in the late 1980s. Sandretto Re Rebaudengo’s impressive cache now numbers more than a thousand pieces. “They are not only amazing, beautiful, glamorous and glittery,” she says, “but there is also the story that they were produced in America in a very difficult period—for example, after the Second World War, when many designers realized fantastic jewelry with very humble materials.” Taschen is set to publish a book on her trove this year.
That same friend brought her to London in 1992 to learn about contemporary art. Sandretto Re Rebaudengo fell hard for the artists she met there and launched the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in her hometown of Turin, Italy, just three years later. An exhibition celebrating her 30 years immersed in art, Reaching for the Stars, is on view at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in Florence until June 18.
“For me, it’s very important to buy something that can capture the present but is also able to anticipate the future,” she says. “I never bought work thinking I need a painting for the wall above the blue sofa. Art is a way to talk about the moment in which we live.”
What have you done recently for the first time?
I bought an island, San Giacomo, in the Venice Lagoon between Murano and Burano. It was last used during the Napoleonic period—for gunpowder warehouses. One of these warehouses will be our home, and the other buildings and all the outdoor parts will become the third venue of the Fondazione. We want to produce creative projects around not only art but also environmental sustainability. We don’t have electricity on the island— we’ll create all the renewable energy.
What apps do you use the most?
When I’m traveling, I use See Saw gallery guide to keep up to date with exhibitions. And thanks to Libib, I have all the books of my libraries at my fingertips. I have around 20,000 books in two libraries. I just put the title or the name of the artist, and in a moment I know if it’s in my library in Guarene or if it’s in Torino and exactly which shelf. I love all my books, and I love to know where they are, so this is perfect.
Do you have any personal rituals?
Every morning I wear a necklace or pin a brooch from my American costume jewelry on my dress because I never go out without one.
What advice do you wish you’d followed?
I will always gladly listen to many opinions, but then, I have to say, I decide for myself. Maybe you make mistakes. But these are your mistakes.
What do you most crave at the end of the day?
A glass of rosé from my vineyard in Guarene. We don’t sell our wine, StellaRe; it’s for us, for our friends. We also use the name for an award for women—a big ring designed by Maurizio Cattelan, the Italian artist.
How do you find calm?
Just a walk in my park among the vines. We have all these site-specific sculptures, chestnut trees, Madernassa pears. Everybody can go, there is no ticket. The sunset is amazing. All around are the Langhe hills.
Who is your guru?
Ever since I started collecting, the figure of Peggy Guggenheim seemed mythical to me. Her life was so dedicated to art.
What’s your favorite cocktail?
A Rosita: reposado tequila, dry vermouth, red vermouth and Angostura. It’s very well structured, very flavorful.
What was the first artwork you bought?
A work by Anish Kapoor. It was May 1992, and the gallerist Nicholas Logsdail from Lisson Gallery in London spent at least two, three days with us visiting studios. Anish Kapoor was one of the first artists I visited, and I still remember I entered this huge loft, and on the floor there were yellow, blue and red pigment sculptures. Anish explained his work and it was really something special.
What’s the most recent addition to your collection?
I bought a wonderful necklace by William de Lillo. It’s very big, realized in the ’60s. Talking about art, I just bought a new work by Tauba Auerbach from 2022. I saw it at Art Basel in Basel [Switzerland] last June, and now it’s hanging on the wall of my home.
What is the most recent thing you regret not buying?
I would love a work by David Hammons, the American artist. He really dismantles the stereotypes of capitalist society, but every time I try to buy one of his works, I never succeed. It’s a pity. But never say never.
What is your exercise routine and how often do you do it?
I have a small swimming pool in my home, so two, three times a week at 7 o’clock in the morning, my personal trainer comes and we do one hour of water aerobics. For me, it’s much easier than to go to a gym. I’m a bit lazy.
If you could learn a new skill, what would it be?
I’ve been around art my whole life and never have had any abilities. I’d love to sculpt, to paint, but I’m sure that will never happen.
Are you wearing a watch?
I used to have my Rolex. But now I wear an Apple Watch that allows me to keep track of my daily step count, my heart rate. I have a dress watch by Vacheron Constantin. It’s a nice size, gold with diamonds. It was a gift from my husband that I really like.
What’s your favorite hotel?
In Italy, in Capri, it’s Punta Tragara. It’s an amazing hotel; it was realized by Le Corbusier. It’s a place that takes your breath away with wonder. The owner is a friend of mine.
What car(s) are you most attached to?
We still have my Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow that we used when we married and then when we had the baptisms of my kids. I also have cars realized by artists. In the Fondazione, we have hung a Fiat 126 by Simon Starling. Then in my collection, I have a Mercedes by Tobias Rehberger, a Peugeot by Julian Opie and a Jason Rhoades.
What music makes you happy?
What puts me in a good mood is ABBA.