Eleonora Santin | Founder of Conceptual Fine Arts

Introduction

Success leaves clues.

Finance Strategists sat down with Eleonora Santin, founder of Conceptual Fine Arts. She shared her thoughts on the past, present, and future of the company, as well as the insights gained from running the business.

Who is Eleonora Santin?

Q: Who are you and what’s your background?

I am 32 years old Italian woman who, after several working experiences, decided to create her own business in Milan. Passionate about art and culture, I have always been convinced that the Italian cultural sector was lacking administrative and managerial skills. For this reason, I graduated in Economics and Management of the Cultural Heritage in Milano, at that time a very innovative university degree, before then proceeding with a MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy at Goldsmiths University in London.  

I did my first professional experiences abroad, working for international art fairs and contemporary art galleries, dealing with the more managerial and organizational aspects of these organizations. After three years as gallery manager for one of the major art galleries in Italy, I then decided to establish with my business partner, Stefano Pirovano, Conceptual Fine Arts, becoming the CFO and Producer of the organization. 

Q: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?

Knowledge and network. These in my opinion are the key elements for a successful career. My advice would then be: always keep up to date, go beyond what you are taught in class, and create a strong network with as many cultural stakeholders as possible from the beginning. 

Last but not least, do not accept the first job offered. In the arts, it is critically important to have a high-quality curriculum. 

Business

Q: What is Conceptual Fine Arts?

Founded in 2019, Conceptual Fine Arts (CFA) is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Milan, Italy. It consists of three entities: an online publishing platform (CFArts), a gallery visiting program in Milan (CFAlive), and a communication agency (CFAgency).

CFArts is an online platform that creates, contextualizes, and broadcasts art writing. We investigate the various aspects of contemporary art and art from the past centuries with the belief that the present is informed by the past, and the past remains open to understanding. In our opinion, contemporary artists are always looking for inspiration from Old Master’s work and, at the same time, ancient art can grow and be understood in different ways depending on the culture that is flourishing at a specific time.

CFAlive is a curated residency program for art galleries who want to build or reinforce their presence in Milan. The residence – by invitation only – takes place in an exhibition space located in Via Rossini 3. The residency period lasts approximately one month, during which the gallery is invited to present one or more artists. In this way, CFAlive pursues a double purpose. Besides presenting the gallery in Milan, CFAlive also intends to introduce Milan to the gallery, especially to the extraordinary network of artists, curators, journalists, institutions, and collectors that the city currently offers.

CFAgency is the operational unit of Conceptual Fine Arts, providing consultancy services for the promotion and management of artistic and cultural activities. We support our clients in building effective and efficient communication and design strategies. Among our services, we help with audience analysis and engagement, social media curatorship, web development and SEO, and fundraising.

Q: What makes Conceptual Fine Arts different from its competitors?

In Milan, Conceptual Fine Arts is the only organization offering this spectrum of services.

With regards to CFArts, in Italy there are several art platforms, some of them even bigger and more renowned. However, we believe that what really distinguishes us from our competitors is the type of writing we publish. They do not deal with passing news, but deeply analyze important cultural aspects of our present; all of them are destined to persist over time. 

Concerning CFAlive, after three years, the program is still unique. In Italy, and as far as we know even in Europe, there is no other residency program designed and conceived for art galleries – usually, they are addressed to artists. What we peruse with our program is the internationalization of Milan in contemporary art and, in the city, there is no other organization with this mission.

Q: What led you to start Conceptual Fine Arts? 

I met Stefano Pirovano, my business partner, while I was studying at university. At that time, I attended an extra evening course in Curatorial Studies in Milan and Stefano was one of my professors.

We met again at the end of 2018 while I was working in Turin. He told me about CFA – at that time there was only the online magazine. We talked about the possibility of further developing the platform and the opportunity to rent a space in Milano, making it an exhibition space for contemporary art. In January 2019 I quit my job, giving myself to the cause, and in April we were able to launch the first exhibition. At the end of the year, we established Conceptual Fine Arts S.r.l. Impresa Sociale.

What pushed me to join Stefano in developing Conceptual Fine Arts is mainly related to the mission and the wide range of projects we have set ourselves to pursue through the organization, something completely new that no one tried to realize before. After Expo, Milan started to become a multicultural city, but there was still the need for something different, and CFAlive, but even the online platform, had the characteristics to meet this need. I wanted to make a difference and we are working hard in doing so. 

Q: What has the experience of building the business taught you? 

First and foremost, I learned that it is imperative to believe in the project you aim to realize. If you are not your first supporter, no one else could be. On the way, there will always be negative moments and several obstacles to overcome, but it is important to go ahead believing in what you have built before. 

Another lesson I learned is to be prepared for unforeseen variables. Contingency forces you to go further, to be more flexible, and be always ready for rapid and unexpected changes. Sometimes I had to evaluate alternative ways in order to realize the desired project. At the same time, it is deeply important to predict future possible problems or criticalities that may come along the way.

Last but not least, it is fundamental to be objective in what you have and want to realize. In my opinion, this is the hardest part when developing a new project because when you strongly believe in something, you are not keen on seeing its critical aspects. Despite this, only with objectiveness we can grow and obtain the best from ourselves.

Q: Where do you see things headed for you and the company in the next five years?

Stefano and I strongly believe that human capital is the fundamental aspect of a successful organization. For this reason, our primary goal for the next years is to become economically sustainable to expand our team. 

To reach this goal we are looking for major collaborations with public administrations and private companies. Recently in Italy private companies are increasingly moving towards the development of a social corporate responsibility framework inside the business, looking for collaborations with non-profit organizations in different fields, including the cultural one. For this reason, we are developing projects able to meet this new need, keeping at the same time the cultural level high.

The second main goal is to become the point of reference in the Milanese artistic and cultural scene. We are currently developing two main projects, based in Milano, which will be able to intercept all the main stakeholders, from artists to collectors, from private cultural institutions to the public ones, and from art critics to art historians.

 

Learn more at conceptualfinearts.com

Published on: May 11, 2022