In the land of the blind, blessed are the one-eyed.
This is the English translation of the Latin proverb.
Having an incomplete culture, with some gaps, is still better than none.
Nobody in the world can boast knowing everything, possessing all human knowledge; it would be plainly impossible.
Having lived long, having travelled the length and breadth of the planet, does not guarantee a total culture.
There is a saw in Rome: “…that’s why the old woman did not want to die!”
It is used when something new is discovered, something that takes us by surprise, so that we understand why that (imaginary) old woman stubbornly refused to die… because she had not learned enough in her life, and she wanted to know ever more.
On the other hand, a remarkable number of humans decide to stop learning, and choose to live blessed in their placid ignorance.
A questionable choice, but it can be respectable if this share of humankind does not claim to know more than those who pushed their limits and continued to stay informed, kept studying for life.
Regrettably there is yet another category of people, a particular breed of those who reach a given level of professional and personal culture, and then stop, deciding that their partial vision is worthy of being divulged, diffused, and turned into a business.
I spent the last 13 years in Switzerland, where I currently live and work.
I met many people, of different cultures and backgrounds.
One of the things that impressed me most was how some people of pseudo-Italian origin pretend to dictate the rules of taste and art to the locals, when they have lost their own cultural connection to their homeland.
That they try to do so is admirable – as long as they act with intellectual honesty.
However, it becomes execrable when they try to pass off art practices like the highly popular “Farbkonzept” (“Colour concept”) as something incredibly creative, or even worse as something in line with the aesthetic canons of Italian art.
The Swiss have great admiration for our natural intuition, familiarity and skill in matching colours, and using hues and nuances to express contents with a strong and well-balanced emotional impact.
It comes natural to us; it is passed on to us as if through our mother’s milk.
The point is, the more you move away from the origin, the more diluted are taste and refinement in art.
Although Italy borders with Switzerland, taste for art does not have the magical property of crossing the border, infusing itself in the hearts and minds of our Swiss friends.
It is the task of us Italians to bring art to them, introducing it as best we can, engaging them and enabling them to enjoy what we received by birth.
In this kind of environment, who has even a partial Italian art culture has an advantage over who has none at all.
From my point of view, this person has a moral and ethical duty of diffusing the culture of beauty.
Therefore, the MONOCULI IN TERRA CAECORUM, those with a partial vision, are certainly better than those who cannot see at all, but say they see perfectly!
The peddlers of pseudo-Italian art often get away with it, and succeed in convincing their clients that what they foist on them is the result of Italian culture, when they do not even speak themselves a single word of the language of this art.
In this case, it is like if a blind person had the pretence of showing the way to someone who is trying to see clearer: the result is that they both end up in a ditch.
The one who wanted to be guided, only realises the truth when it is too late, when he has fallen into the ditch, when he shows the design artwork he has just paid for, passed off as Italian art, and one of his illustrious guests exclaims: “but this is not Italian art, it’s a botch-up! A true Italian artist would never have made something like this!”
It stings and hurts; and in the meantime, you have spent your money, you have invested, and you need to do away with the misdeed.
I always smile when one of the locals, someone with whom we are on familiar terms, tells me: “one can see that you are Italian, anything you wear is well matched, even when you are in jeans and sneakers.”
Or maybe when guests are visiting:
“we can tell you are Italian, look at the warm and snug furnishing, everything matches!”
“Feels like walking into an art gallery!”
There is consistency between being and appearing. Being Italian and appearing Italian.
Clients get ever more confused when someone, working outside of Italy – and not only here in Switzerland – wears an Italian-sounding name or logo.
Like those Italian-named restaurants, claiming to serve Italian cuisine, but in practice no one is truly Italian: not even the cooks.
“Italian” is cool; but words are one thing, facts are another.
Make sure that the artist you choose can see well from both eyes; or choose an artist with at least one good eye.
Otherwise, if you place your trust in some Mr. Artsy who is totally blind, do not be surprised if you find yourself sitting in the ditch, croaking with the frogs.