UNITED STATES OF ART: Luciano Benetton is not only a successful entrepreneur, but also a passionate art collector and globetrotter. Benetton’s passions were celebrated on Friday at the “Casabella Laboratorio,” the Milanese exhibition space run by Mondadori’s Casabella architectural magazine, which hosted the opening of “The Suitcase of Signor Luciano,” a collection of paintings and pictures, which he collected during his travels around the globe.

The exhibition, open until Dec. 14, shows Benetton’s art collection, featuring 757 small paintings that he commissioned from local artists based in the countries and regions he visited over the years, including South America, China, Russia and Mongolia.

This story first appeared in the November 30, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Everything started from the idea of collecting little paintings, which could have served as ‘calling cards’ for emerging artists around the world,” Benetton said. “Initially this was just a game, but we understood the real potential of the project and we started publishing a catalogue, collecting both the art works and the curriculum vitae of the artist involved in this initiative.”

“When I succeed in building up an empire like Benetton, I’ll copy this idea,” quipped Diesel chief Renzo Rosso, who made a quick trip to Milan just for the opening. “When I was a child Luciano was my aspirational model and I hope to become like him one day.”

Rosso also said that he is getting ready to leave for Miami to attend the Art Basel show. “I’m becoming an art fanatic and I hired a teacher who introduces me to artists and explains me what is behind each work of art,” Rosso revealed, adding that he is creating his own private collection, which currently counts works by Andy Warhol, Haruki Murakami, Julian Schnabel, Maurizio Cattelan, along with “tons of stuff” by Francesco Vezzoli. “I also have three Jean-Michel Basquiat, but they are totally fake,” he said. “They were a gift from my girlfriend because Basquiat is the dream of my life, but too expensive.”

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