Michele von Büren (RvB Arts)

Meet one of the brightest sparks in Rome’s contemporary art scene! We’re tickled to bring you an interview with Michele von Büren, multi-talented owner of RvB Arts Gallery and champion of “accessible art”.

We read that you ‘followed your heart to Italy’; can you elaborate on your decision to move here?

I came to Italy in 1989 after graduating from university for a two-week vacation – and I’m still here almost 25 years later!!

What attracted you to RvB Arts and how does it differ from normal galleries?

I created RvB Arts four years ago, partly with the idea of bringing the concept of ‘affordable art’ to Italy.At the time, this was still a very foreign notion in Italy, along with its attendant ideal of encouraging young, novice buyers to take an interest in and invest in contemporary art.

But I specifically chose the term accessible art for the policy of my gallery because I wanted to offer a selection of painting, sculpture and photography that was not only affordable but ‘comprehensible’. I wanted to get away from the prevailing trends of conceptual, installation and video art and display art that people could easily imagine on their walls, at the same time overcoming the diffidence sometimes associated with contemporary art. My hope is for people to come to my gallery and be able to appreciate the artwork without the mediation of a critic or a complicated written explanation!

For this reason, the two locations of the gallery (Via delle Zoccolette 28 and Via Giulia 193) have a relaxed, informal approach and atmosphere. I share space with a charming antiques shop, the Antiquariato Valligiano, which provides a warm showcase for the artworks. I hope this will make my guests feel more at home than in traditional galleries, which can be cool and intimidating.

I obviously appreciate however that the investment side of art-buying is an important factor and I’m proud to say that my gallery is gaining a good reputation for talent-scouting. Many of my artists have won prestigious awards or come to the notice of important public collections and a growing number of them are no longer officially with the gallery in that they have ceased to fit its definition of ‘affordable’!

When you have a free Sunday, how do you like to spend it in Rome?

To be honest, I have such a hectic lifestyle that when possible, the thing I love to do most on a Sunday is lounge around in bed with a good book!!

To what extent is living in Rome as romantic as you imagined it might be when you were back in the UK?

I didn’t actually have any romantic visions of living in Rome when I was in England! I came to Italy by chance on holiday and just stayed on so I don’t fit the classic stereotype of a romantic soul moving to Rome with fixed ideas of how life in Italy would and should be.

Other than RvB Arts, which is your personal favourite gallery or museum in Rome?

One of my favourite museums in Rome is the little-known H. C. Andersen Museum, dedicated to the Norwegian sculptor and painter Hendrik Christian Andersen who died in Rome in 1940 and bequeathed his house and works to the Italian state. It makes a fascinating visit and a quiet retreat from hectic city life!

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