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Dealer’s Choice: Maurizio Canesso

13 November 2013

The art market is full of personalities, but dealers and gallerists often seem little more than names when the market gets covered in print. In a new series, Apollo asks art dealers to introduce themselves and their businesses.

Tell us a bit about the history of your business

In 1981 when I was a 20-year-old student of economics I met an art dealer who transmitted his passion for the field to me. He pushed me to buy my first painting, which was followed by many others. Then Piero Corsini asked me to work with him in New York, which I did until 1988. I came back to Europe to start my own business and opened my gallery in Paris.

What are your specialist fields?

Italian Renaissance and Baroque painting.

What’s the most exciting work you’re currently offering?

I am currently offering a magnificent recently rediscovered painting by Domenico Piola, The Triumph of Divine Wisdom over Satan, Avarice and Heresy. It will be on show at Paris Tableau.

What’s been your greatest triumph as a dealer?

I think my greatest triumph has been to find different paintings from the same artist and gather them in a monographic catalogue, as I did for Cambiaso and Tassi. These were followed by significant sales. I also discovered the corpus of an anonymous painter, ‘the Master of the tela jeans’ who has now entered the anthology of art history.

And your greatest professional regret?

I really don’t have any regrets. Perhaps this French painting by La Tour, a St. John the Baptist in the desert presented as an anonymous work at Drouot but removed just before the sale. It was finally sold in Monaco for 10 million francs and is now in a museum.

How has the market in your field changed since you started dealing?

In former times we could make mistakes on an attribution without being ruined. The prices were lower and we could easily get back the money we invested. Nowadays prices are more substantial and it must be difficult for a young dealer to cope with that.

Do you collect yourself? And in the same field as you deal?

I decided not to get in competition with my clients, so all old master paintings that I buy are for sale. My wife and I collect some European paintings from the beginning of the 20th century.

Which work have you been sorriest to part with?

A St John by Tanzio da Varallo.

If you weren’t an art dealer, what would you be?

I would be a sports journalist, a truck driver Paris-Vladivostok, or in transport logistics.

Maurizio Canesso is the founder of Galerie Canesso in Paris, and the president of Paris Tableau.

Paris Tableau is on at the Palais de la Bourse from 13–17 November 2013.