When Emanuele Bonomi left the finance world for the art world five years ago and opened the ProjectB gallery in Milan, he was met with a rude awakening. “I remember phone calls where an artist would nonchalantly tell me that the artwork commissioned by a client wasn’t ready because he was having a ‘creative block,’ ” Bonomi says. “It would take me a half hour to unwind once I hung up [the phone].”
Since then, Bonomi has found his footing within the industry and with his artists. And tonight, he; his partner in ProjectB, Gilda Moratti, and their pal Lapo Elkann will host a dinner in honor of the gallery’s latest show, “The sun will shine on your rotting corpse while your bones glimmer in the moonlight,” an exhibition by Jake and Dinos Chapman. Coco Brandolini, Gaetano Pesce, Martina Mondadori and Francesca Tronchetti Provera are expected to attend.
Bonomi negotiated with the Chapmans for three years to secure this particular production, which includes 15 years of their work, including the ProjectB-commissioned “Unhappy Feed.” As a member of Milan’s privileged upper crust — Bonomi’s late grandmother was Anna Bonomi, who ruled Milan social circles for years — the gallery owner was likely expecting, or at least hoping, this acquisition would come easier.
His co-owner Moratti is similarly pedigreed. She grew up in a home filled with exquisite 18th-century Venetian antiques, and her mother, Letizia Moratti, is the current mayor of Milan. For seven years she worked at Sotheby’s, developing a Rolodex rich with clients, but eventually was in the mood for a change. “Emanuele and I were good friends,” she says. “I wanted to work closer to the artists and less with clients seeking a pink painting to match the color of the ceiling of their yacht.”
As such, Keith Tyson, Zhang Huan, Bettina Rheims and Marc Quinn are just a few of the artists who’ve hung their creations at ProjectB, which is wedged inside the courtyard of an 18th-century Milanese palazzo. “The importance of a gallery is not its owner but what it contains,” says Bonomi. “It’s our job to fill this box with high-quality art.”
And they think the Milanese make for an ideal customer.
“It’s a very understated city, but its clients are innovators,” says Moratti.
“They are the least ostentatious,” Bonomi adds. “I’ve seen some amazing private collections that the owner only shares with a restricted circle of friends.”