Interview with Clarenza CATULLO Registrar at MART of Rovereto –

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    She is Clarenza Catullo Registrar at MART of Rovereto.

    Five questions to get a preview of the great art professionals, the daily challenges to face, the choices that have determined their path in the system and in the art market, the changes under the banner of digital and the advice for those who want to undertake the same career in collaboration with

    Being aware of holding “the most beautiful and exciting position that a museum can offer” is not for everyone.

    Clarenza Catullo, Registrar at the MART from Rovereto , professional figure still very underestimated in Italy, if not really taken into consideration, on the contrary of what happens abroad, where this figure was born and is an integral part of the staff, the pivot around which any exhibition event in a museum revolves. 

    In this timely interview Clarenza Catullo presents for the first time and in detail the Registrar , what he does and what he should do inside a museum, with which interlocutors of the art world does it relate and the path to be taken to become one.

     Born in Venice, she graduated from the School for Translators and Interpreters of Trieste and graduated in Foreign Languages ​​and Literatures at the Ca University ‘Foscari, Venice.

    In 1981 she joined the Friends of the Venice Museums, she joined the VAMI (Volunteers associated for the Italian Museums) group. She collaborates as a volunteer with the Peggy Guggenheim of Venice from 1981 to 1986, creating the didactic section of the Museum which was then reopening after the death of Peggy Guggenheim.

    Hired by Palazzo Grassi spa (FIAT Group) as assistant to the artistic director (Pontus Hulten / Paolo Viti), she creates the exhibition office and manages the exhibitions as exhibition officer and registrar.

    In 2004 she was appointed branch manager of SATTIS / Arteria (national art transport company), creating the Venice office until 2006 when she was called to the MART in Rovereto as technical curator.

    In 2008, following a specific competition launched by the Museum, she held the position of registrar and collections manager, coordinating the temporary exhibitions of the museum both internally and externally. In this function she coordinated the work of 5 people.

    Associated with ICOM since 1989, with Registrarte, ARCS USA and AAM USA.

    1. How did you path in the art world started?

    In fact my career should have been another, I graduated from the Interpreting School of Trieste and graduated in Foreign Languages ​​and Literatures at Ca ‘Foscari , so I’m potentially an Angloist having chosen English as my first language, besides French and German.

    With my return to Venice, after Trieste, I enrolled in the Friends of Museums and Monuments in the VAMI section, therefore as a volunteer, and I was assigned to the free service at the Guggenheim Collection where we laid the foundations for the didactic section of the museum in 1981. I stayed in this area for a long time, until in 1986 they called me from Palazzo Grassi (Fiat) to work as Pontus Hulten’s assistant , the artistic director.

    2. How would you describe your profession today?

    My profession is very underestimated for obvious reasons, in reality it is the most beautiful and exciting job that a museum can offer. I remember art historians in tears in front of works they have seen from afar over many years, and everyone envied me for having had such close relationships with the greatest masterpieces of art and international archeology.

    The Registrar is the pivot around which any exhibition event in a museum revolves.

    Talking about the profession of the Registrar compared to what I carry out daily and how much this profession can be changed over time is not very simple. The profession of the Registrar was born in the United States still in nuce in the nineteenth century and then clearly recognized by the American museological system in the 50s of the twentieth century. In Italy this profession is not officially recognized since, with an all-embracing vision, the art historian, archaeologist and archivist, have been called to be competent also on issues that concern only and exclusively the Registrar.

    This indication, together with economic problems, means that all those who act as curators of an exhibition, in museums and galleries, often take on managerial responsibilities that are not their responsibility. What does a Registrar do or should do? This professional figure deals with the management, protection and conservation of the works of art as regards all aspects related to the logistics and handling of the works themselves. Whether it’s temporary exhibitions or works in public and private collections. A registrar can have a background that is not purely artistic historical, and therefore come from non-specific sectors.

    Personally, I believe that knowledge of languages ​​is fundamental in this field since our interlocutors abroad certainly do not speak Italian. The Registrar is in continuous training, therefore updating is essential for those who manage exhibitions that often range from archeology to contemporary art. The languages ​​are very useful is also true from a content point of view. All the terms used daily by a Registrar in the management of checks on the state of conservation, packaging, cases, transport, insurance, fittings and anything else is often, if not always, in English precisely because this job was actually created by the Americans. A Registrar will therefore have very in-depth knowledge of issues related to restoration, packaging, transport, insurance, safety, set-up methods and tools, budgets, contracts, public administration, customs procedures and ministerial procedures for the needs related to loan authorization and requests for export/import. And so on. The registrar is therefore the figure who, in an exhibition context, receives a list of works to be brought to the site for an exhibition and manages its logistics and handling in maximum safety.

    The Registrar must therefore collaborate closely with an Exhibition Officer and with the Head of the Installations. Provided that these positions obviously exist in the context of his work.

    The most interesting aspect of this work is that a Registrar must be in a position to know as much information as possible about the works he will host and he will have to know what to do in the event that even a single link in the production chain does not exist. This means that a Registrar is not called to perform Condition Reports, but must know how to do them if there is no Restorer to do them on an accrual basis. He must therefore have knowledge of conservation / restoration. A Registrar must know how to handle a work, but must not touch it, it is the job of the Art Handler.

    A Registrar must know how a work of art is packaged, but he does not actually do it. And so on for all the various aspects related to an exhibition event. Unfortunately in Italy we are still at the beginning, in Anglo-Saxon countries the chances of professional growth for a Registrar are much greater, also because in the great international museums, the position of the Registrar is of primary importance in the productivity mechanism of a museum and often the point of sight of a Registrar has more weight than that of a director.

    3. How has your profession changed over time?

    When I started in 1986 I was absolutely unaware of my role, I had the privilege of growing in the profession thanks to the proximity of great art historians, restorers, architects, editors and all the major professionals in the field of safety, packaging, transport and productions.

    I stole a lot from everyone, but nobody has ever taught me anything, I am curious by nature and I have always observed, asked many questions, memorized and applied. It is precisely in the relationship with American museums that I realized then that the figure of the Registrar existed and I tried to follow and use their standards. Only in 2000 thanks to an invitation from a friend, did I realize what I was doing … she asked me to take part in a conference on the profession of Registrar.

    Unfortunately in Italy my profession is still mysterious to most people and this is obviously a limit, but I must say that awareness is certainly greater than in 2000. Already the fact of having a trade association I think helps (Registrarte9)

    Today many Italian museums have people who apply themselves in this sense in their institutional positions. However, we are far from the everyday life of the United States or in any case of the Anglo-Saxon countries, where the museum professions have a real reverberation in the staff organization chart.

    Quando ho iniziato nel 1986 ero assolutamente inconsapevole del mio ruolo, ho avuto il privilegio di crescere nella professione grazie alla vicinanza di grandi storici dell’arte, restauratori, architetti, editori e tutti i maggiori professionisti nel settore della sicurezza, degli imballi, trasporti e allestimenti.

    The MART of Rovereto

    4. What Sort of Impact is the digital having on your sector?

    I fear we cannot yet talk about applications, we still have to understand what a Registrar does in a museum in Italy, so I don’t think digital can have a great influence before it would be possible to metabolize the profession as such.

    A good application is certainly the one connected to the various software for the management of exhibitions and collections, as well as the use of the tablet for the execution of digital Condition Reports by the restorers who work with us.

    If we talk about digital in an artistic sense…. then it’s another matter. Fortunately, you never stop learning …

    5. What would you suggest to someone who aims to pursue your career?

    To all those who come to do internships in my office I always recommend going abroad, to American, English, Australian museums where there is a demand for this type of position and learn from them.

    In the meantime, we hope that someone here will notice that this profession also exists and officially recognize it.

    The Registrar has the responsability of  tracking the movements of the artworks – Clarenza Catullo


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