Home / Around DB Articles / From the Hip: The Gaudente!

From the Hip: The Gaudente!

Posted in : Around DB Articles, Profile on by : Around DB , , , , Comments: 0

A multi-hyphenate well-versed in the finer things, Franco Savadori’s instincts led him to Discovery Bay and his next chapter as a dealer in fine art. Elizabeth Kerr reports

PHOTOS BY Richard Gordon – www.richardgordonphotography.com

It’s late-morning in ifc Mall and Franco Savadori is lounging, as much as you can, in Starbucks. He’s easy to spot in the crowd, with his silver-white hair and funky graphic print shirt. It’s also easy to see how Franco came to dealing in art. He’s gregarious and literate, a story for every little comment; the picture of a life well-lived. Though a resident of Discovery Bay for two years, he’s been in Hong Kong for 11, first laying down roots in Peng Chau with a musician buddy Franco Valussi, the saxophonist who made a name for himself playing at Ned Kelly’s in TST. It was Valussi who told him to bypass Hong Kong Island.

“It was like being 20 years old again,” Franco recalls with chuckle. “Then in 2015 both of us happened to get married, so of course we went our separate ways. He went back to Italy four years ago. After years at Ned Kelly’s it was time. That kind of musician’s life catches up.”

franco savadori


Born in Trieste, in the northeastern corner of Italy, in 1961, Franco’s run the career gamut, from musician himself to, now, art dealer. A percussionist trained at the Conservatorio Musicale Giuseppe Tartini, he performed in Europe with leading orchestras before deciding he didn’t quite have the chops. After that, in no particular order, he called himself a writer, restaurateur (with bars and restaurants in Gorizia, about 35 kilometres from Trieste), sommelier – he swears by an inexpensive Valenician white from 759 – autodidact gallery owner (in Udine) and art dealer. Franco is founder and curator of Classic Fine Art (www.classicfinearthk.com).In 2006 he found a partner in Alberto Annesi, and together they started curating and dealing art. Franco was in his hospitality phase at the time, and like many do now, he combined his fine dining establishments with gallery aesthetics and displayed art. Their first sale was to a German regular to the restaurant who asked about a purchase. “That was a signal,” Franco says. “I’ve always been driven by instinct and intuition and I’ve always listened to it. It’s worked out so far.”

There was some good fortune to go with that instinct. Around 2007, Alberto stumbled upon a painting – which they authenticated – by Slovenia painter Zoran Mušič, famed for his drawings of life in Dachau. They picked it up for US$5,000 and struck an agreement with the seller, who had just been bequeathed a trove of 40 or 50 other artworks by a wealthy collector. It was just the kind of foundational material they needed, and the collection also included a few pieces by Chinese-French artist Zao Wou-ki.

“When we started out, we were the only dealers of Zao in Italy,” Franco explains. “No one really knew who he was. But then we realised Hong Kong was turning into a strong art market so we started to make regular trips, in 2009, 2010, 2011. Every time we made a new connection, and eventually we decided this was a good place to work from.”

Profile 400x400 (1)


It was in 2012 that Franco made the leap to relocate permanently. He was having recurring dreams about selling art in China, he and Alberto agreed that Italy was changing in a way that didn’t suit them, and a relationship ended tragically. “For me that was a clear signal too; when you realise something is ending,” he says. “So we came here and we found George Wong.” Wong, the renowned private collectortycoon-philanthropist, who founded Parkview Art and who the duo curated for starting in 2013. Their knowledge of European masters was unique and Franco recalls Hong Kong supporting that knowledge, which led to the founding of Classic Fine Art. The firm focuses on European art from the mid-19th century to 1930: a rich period that covers the Impressionists, the Expressionists, Cubism and Dada, and artists such as Monet, Degas, Matisse, Munch, Van Gogh and Picasso.

Along with new professional horizons came new personal ones. A bachelor until 54, Franco met his eventual wife in 2014. “She’s from Beijing and we are very different in the way we think,” he laughs. “But it works. We do have a lot in common.” Like an appreciation for nature, which Franco was pleasantly surprised to find so much of when he first got to Hong Kong, and particularly now in DB.

Profile 400x400 (2)


When Franco says he works that doesn’t mean he’s wheeling and dealing all day. Selling an artwork like the ones he does is a long, complex process that sometimes, after years, doesn’t even happen. He describes a current client, who’s looking for a specific artist, in a specific style, in a specific size. It’s rare, and when you’re talking about work that’s no longer coming off the assembly line, the market is limited. Luckily, Franco has a solid circle of connections that usually get the job done and a patient clientele willing to wait for their dream piece; less investors than simply art lovers.

“With a great deal of modern art, we’re no longer talking about the intrinsic value of the art; we’re talking about it as a phenomenon. There is a concerted effort to monetise and commercialise it. Few work like the old masters,” he theorises, before pointing out that contrary to popular belief, an artist doesn’t need to be dead to be “worth” anything. “People forget that Picasso was famous while he was alive because he changed his form five times. Dali and Magritte were famous because they connected dreams with surrealism and psychology. Bacon was famous for his strength in the face of psychopathy.”

Monet and Picasso are high value because they’re so-called brand names (don’t get Franco started on marketing). But plenty of “minor masterpieces” are out there, waiting to be found. And like wine, there is value at all price points, Franco explains. Not everything that’s worthy is necessarily HK$100 million, and value is more often than not a personal metric, one that shifts and changes along with us.

“Picasso said art is the best mirror of ourselves. Nowadays we study neuroscience and why we have emotional responses to things. But artwork has that deep impact and we often don’t quite understand why. It’s emotional, and this is the core of art,” Franco finishes. “It’s a representation of life. We change and we grow, but it still tells us about ourselves. That’s what Picasso meant by a mirror.”

Tags: , , , ,

Add New Comment


× Thank you for your comment. Your feedback has been submitted to an administrator for approval.