Inti Ligabue, entrepreneur

Anacleto, Giancarlo, Inti. Three self-made visionaries who invent new perimeters of a business (the food supplies in remote places and not all over the planet) thanks to an intuition and a city, Venice, which becomes the home for the forefather, rooted in Emilia Romagna region origins.

A hundred years after the founding of a company that together with innovation in logistics has made of the innovative support for the well-being of employees, the dissemination of culture, the support for scientific research its deepest reasons for existing, I meet Inti Ligabue (1981) who is recently father and we visit his last exhibition in Venice in the very wide Scuola della Misericordia.

La Grande Impresa (until November 3) tells of the history of the 1900s – from the economic turmoil to the wars to the dizzying scientific innovations – and of company Ligabue that crossed it all. In a moving way it also tells of the passions of a man, his father Giancarlo – the archaeologist explorer, as well as the company captain. And of the endless cultural projects that the Foundation has brought and carries forward not only in ancient art and in scientific dissemination.

This short and intense conversation lasts only ten minutes as we move on to observe the multimedia islands on which the exhibition deploys. This chat happens on the eve of his next trip to Helsinki. Where for the first time a large part of their vast collection of pre-Columbian art is shown at the National Museum.



In a recent meeting with the press in Italy, at the end you presented your daughter Diletta, five months old, as the next managing director of Ligabue. 

I thought it was a wonderful endowment not only because she will be the first female ‘business captain’ of your family. But I also thought that your whole life you had to feel predestined to your role, your job. What were the Init’s years still free from this feeling?

It is something anyone have asked me several times.

I never felt the pressure, I knew I had to make a journey and I think I always accepted it. What has changed is when I returned to Venice, after university.

My studies were in economics, I graduated in Bologna: that was a bit of a compromise, getting my identity out and going back to Venice.



You’ve come back to your origins a bit because Bologna is located in the region where your grandfather Anacleto comes from …

I would never change anything in my choices so far.

There was perhaps a bit of doubt but I never felt overwhelmed by a path that some have already defined as written or obligatory.

It was such a privileged journey, why not try to catch it with all the strength and passion possible?

Passion is a common thread that holds everything together in a person’s life: work, cultural commitment, civil commitment and is something that, as far as we are keen of, united us along three generations.



You are tireless travelers and you are Venetian by chance, you are truly Venetian having been born here (in this city being born is a serious qualification to being considered Venetian!), Indeed for me you are even more Venetian than a hundred generations of Venetians ..: what do you think as a citizen of this city?

I know it is difficult to isolate the entrepreneur and the philanthropist from the simple citizen but I would like to know you as a citizen: what you feel to give and receive from your city since you commit yourself very seriously even in the typical local sport (Venetian rowing).

I think there are several civic commitments, I’m slowly trying to embrace them all. Which ones are they? The social commitment, the sports commitment, the one to keep the traditions alive, the cultural ones even if it is the first thing in which we succeed and always succeeded. I would add the commitment to research, one of the public conversation we will soon make possible is with Ennio Tasciotti (the Houston based Italian scientist) whose research we support. What I do and what I have done in the past has always been very sincere and it is necessary to find the right room for it, it is not something immediate because there are different activities that you always shake in your head!

I am very grateful to the city but I don’t expect anything because when you expect something you get always disappointed.

Even my father never expected anything and always gave a lot.

But what can I say more than the dedication of the Museum of Natural History to Giancarlo Ligabue? It is the most important gift the city could give to me, to my father, to Diletta, to Anacleto. I have no words…



Could they have thought of it a few years earlier, perhaps?

No, instead this is the best year: the year of the centenary, the year in which his niece is born. I’m really excited to think about when I’ll take her to meet her grandfather in the museum named after him.



You are right. 

Regarding Venice again, your company deals with the most important asset for every human being – food, nutrition. More than a business like any other. And you also provide food for the mind; do you think your cultural company, Ligabue Foundation can find a home in the museum sense?

This is another open topic. I am evaluating a lot of possibilities including an outpost in Palazzo Erizzo where I live, this is perhaps the simplest and the truest but some of the exhibitions cannot be placed there because we lack the spaces and then there are a whole series of regulations to respect.

Another solution I am thinking of is to maintain a location there and then continue with our current flexibility by choosing the best space for the exhibition that we plan from time to time.

Not all exhibits can work in the same place. An example: a show on tribal art can work in a more aseptic environment precisely to give maximum emphasis to its artistic expressiveness while an exhibition on idols is perfect in a more intimate place….



And not having a fixed space, for example, would give you the chance to bring your exhibitions abroad more often

We are going to open an exhibition on the ‘world that was not there’ on October 17th in Helsinki in the National Museum, and it is also the first time we go abroad with our collection of Meso-American art after a tour in important Italian cities.



Today there is a lot of talk about you and how you understand business culture in a very ramified way between governance and responsibility towards your territories, given that Ligabue has always made it ante litteram for a matter of nature and ‘animal spirit’ of its founder, your grandfather.

You are going even further, embracing many other social and business aspects together.

Little is known about the private Inti, what are the passions for example of you as a collector outside the perimeter of the family collection?

I am very eclectic, I move from modern photography – like that of Bernd and Hilla Becher – to contemporary photography like that of Vera Lutter and other German authors. I love modern Venetian art, for instance Giuseppe Santomaso, Tancredi, Vedova, Mario de Luigi therefore I collect this strand of ‘pure’ Venetian. Then I collect tribal art and I am better known for that sector: the next exhibitions will focus on this type of visual culture but also everything that my father collected is in my passions. We will soon be showing an exhibition of ancient drawings and caricatures. I also like classical antiquity.

I can’t tell you about the first real great passion … I also struggle because art is so indefinable that defining it is already an understatement.



Not only do you practice rowing (alla veneta) but other sports …

Sport is an important component also to keep your physical and mental health. I am a kite-surfing fanatic, I love running, mountaineering.



Which music you listen to, which the book you have with you or that has impressed you the most?

What most impressed me most recently is “The religions according to the mathematics’ by Odifreddi …

Well, to tell you what music I follow, I invited Franz Ferdinand to play here at the Misericordia to open the exhibition on the 100 years of Ligabue.

Welsh, they’re indie rockers, a genre that I have been listening to since 2005, they are wild but it was to give you an example because even for the music I am omnivorous and I could not “categorize” my tastes.

Music is also an important component of passion.



The food or drink that the “people of this world” that we tell love is fundamental for us to ask: it is a way to feel them and imagine them even if our readers do not know who we meet …

A mineral white – from sauvignon to pinot grigio: I like biodynamic ones also but I want to taste the minerality that at this point I would accompany with a nice dish of raw fish.



Do you still see yourself here in Venice in 10 years?

Of course.



Have you ever thought of approaching politics too? And then to improve the national and local political arena?

I am very far from politics, so was my father who also chose to make an experience in this area by being elected to the European Parliament. I remember that he left on the morning of Monday at six and returned on Friday at midnight, I didn’t see him for five long turbulent years – my mother had been missing in 1997, among other things – and he wasn’t satisfied. He had started with all good intentions, he was also president of the Italian Parliamentary Group and therefore in a sense he represented us all … No, I don’t have this spark.



So you think you can give in a different way …

Yes, in a more autonomous, concrete and fast way. In my way and on my way.




La Grande Impresa, enriched with a documentary screening program, also presents a cultural program, free as the exhibition: lectures, meetings, debates and presentations both at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia and in a public theatre.

The World that Wasn’t There, from October 18 2019 to March 15 2020, is showing more than 200 pieces of art from Collezione Ligabue in the main building of the National Museum of Finland

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