Valeria Napoleone and Brita Fernandez Schmidt
“I don’t do politics, I do philanthropy,” stated the patron and collector Valeria Napoleone, during an in-conversation with Women for Women International’s Brita Fernandez Schmidt during an all-woman gathering hosted at the Napoleone family home in Kensington to celebrate and support this important organization, which supports women in countries affected by war and conflict. Yet although she might not see it in these terms, Ms Napoleone can also be said to epitomise the personal-as-political in her tireless championing of either young or often overlooked female artists and her crusade to see their works better represented in institutions both at home and abroad.
During their talk, both women realised that they shared a desire to “look at realities overlooked and forgotten” and each emphasised the importance, even at times when things seemed insurmountable, of “just showing up”. Among the enthusiastic crowd that had gathered for the talk were the artist Goshka Macuga, the Frieze magazine editor Jennifer Higgie, the Frieze director Victoria Siddall and the ICA’s Katharine Stout.
There was much amused approval when Brita revealed that on quite a few occasions the women assisted by Women for Women International’s programmes have gone on to employ their husbands. However, when it was suggested that Valeria’s annual dinner might in future be opened up to a few (carefully selected) men, the audience response was not so positive. In this instance, the consensus still seems to be that sisters are better off doing it for themselves.