Founding partner of Arthemisia, the major Italian exhibition organiser, Katy Spurrell moved to Rome 23 years ago and is the Director of International projects coordinating with all major museums worldwide. She also co-curated the major Mark Rothko retrospective in Rome in 2007 and coordinated the recent Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe exhibitions.
What made you decide to move to Italy?
LOVE! I was born in a small town near Cambridge in the UK and I moved here in 1989 to be with my partner who I later married and we have two children who are now 15 and 20.
What is your opinion of the current art scene in Rome?
In terms of private galleries, it’s dynamic and innovative. Due to the structure and despite the fantastic collections, the public museums and galleries tend to struggle to make major international impact in terms of exhibitions. MAXXI has been disappointing despite the fabulous architecture. The Azienda Speciale Palaexpo has always had a very high level international program, which included the wonderful Antonello da Messina show some years ago and Mark Rothko (obviously!). MACRO is also very innovative and have recently had the very popular Steve McCurry show. My favourite in terms of the classic space and the collection is the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, which was so incredibly dynamic on the international art scene in the 50s and 60s.
What were your preconceptions of Italy before living here and how have your opinions evolved since then?
I had no preconceptions as it was all so spontaneous – I fell in love and moved within five months and have lived here now for 23 years! I did, prior to coming, resolve never to live the life of a traditional ‘ex-pat’ and my opinions have not changed since then to the extent that I have also acquired Italian citizenship. I think it is vital, if you do choose to live elsewhere, that you respect the good and bad in that country and try to integrate and live the life of that country.
Do you believe the dolce vita exists here or is this simply a classic day-tripper perspective of Italy?
Six of one and half a dozen of the other. It has been very hard to WORK here, especially as I have never been employed and have always had to create my own opportunities. The bureaucracy is disastrous and hampers freedom of ideas. But it has been easier to LIVE here – on a social level, the weather and the standard of life one can have despite earning a lot less. I am very glad my children were able to grow up here and go to school here rather than in the UK but now, as they are older, I think that there are more opportunities in the UK than here.