Vincenzo de Cotiis: “There is hidden paint in everything I do”
My personal style signifier is a costume. I have always worn costumes. I like sewing and the âmade in Italyâ label and I make them to measure. The last ones I had were from Gucci and Prada but for everyday costumes i go Zegna In Milan.
The last thing I bought and loved was a work of art by Ibrahim Mahama. i got it at White cube in London – I had followed him from afar and once I saw his work in real life I fell in love. His style and technique are very similar to mine, as I also collect used materials. The piece I bought is a wall hanging that juxtaposes different textures in a patchwork style, interwoven with mother of pearl decorations.
And on my wishlist is a new space in Venice, which I am looking for now. I plan to exhibit in a private residence and create pieces specifically for this place. Venice can surprise everyone and it is the city in which I would like to live. I already have in mind that the house will face the Grand Canal, which was the old trade route.
The building that amazes me is the former Casa dell’Opera Nazionale Balilla here in Milan, built between 1934 and 1935 by Mario Cereghini and once used as a boxing hall. It is built in the rationalist style: very simple but beautiful. It exhibits all the main features of the architectural style of that time – from bricks to portholes and the use of marble. It is a very nice building. It was recently bought by a British company. I don’t know what they are going to do with it but I hope they will keep all these typical traits, and highlight them.
In my fridge you will always find carefully selected water in glass bottles. I love St Georges, which is the purest water I have ever tasted. Water in plastic is a no-no: it contaminates everything, including your thoughts. And there are usually a few Dom PÃ©rignon. My wife Claudia Rose and I love to drink champagne – not too much, but we love it. Even though we go out for pizza, instead of having a beer, we have it with champagne. It goes with everything. And I use a lot of Parmesan. I can’t do without it, often with simple pasta bianco: as long as there is Parmesan, we will never die of hunger.
My favorite room in my house is my room. The bed rests on a tatami-inspired fabric and resin platform that I designed, then there are two very large paintings that I made a few years ago, lamps that I designed for the bedroom and a screen from a 2015 collection. There is also an ebony armchair by Wendell, an artist I love and who has recently passed away; he had such a strong and precise style.
The place I can’t wait to return is Japan. I have been visiting for many years and the aesthetic is reserved there and yet always surprising. Two years ago, I dedicated my collection to Carpenters workshop gallery for the country. He was inspired by cherry blossoms. We also made parts with natural stones inside which are shaped like bonsai trees – very close to nature but modified nature, which Japan does so well.
The only artist whose work I would collect if I could is Dame Rachel Whiteread, whose sculptures are often inspired by architecture. I love the way she takes things apart and reassembles things – I identify with the way she thinks.
The best memory I took home is a Neapolitan horn, the traditional scaramantic lucky charm, by Ventrella, a company that produces objects in brass. I’m not superstitious, but my dad is from Puglia and superstition is something that has always been latent in my mind. You can find these horns all over the south, but for the Neapolitans, they are objects of worship. I bought quite a few because I wanted to give them to my friends.
I have a collection architecture, design and art books. I think the books will go away, but paper is in my DNA. My young colleagues don’t go through them as much as I do. I like to appreciate the work of all the actors: photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, there is a whole world behind a book. The favorites in my collection are The dell’arte scene by Ugo Mulas and Nevelson’s world by Jean Lipman.
An indulgence that I would never give up is the gin martini at Harry’s bar to Venise. You can feel a sense of tradition there that goes back a long way. You see it in people who look like they were born there, and they’re still there.
My favorite gadget is the record player we had when we were kids. It was one of those boxes where you put the record inside – in Italian it was called a mangiadischi or “record eater”. And to think that now we have 3D printing. I think Tesla will change the future and machines will replace us. I have a cinematic view of technology, but beyond what I need to use on a daily basis, I don’t get too close. I respect him from a distance.
My style icon is my wife Claudia Rose. It’s mostly the way she behaves, her style, the way she approaches people – her charm, I guess. She wakes up with a smile and we go to bed with a smile. Happiness for her is a natural and spontaneous thing, and her happiness is contagious.
An object that I will never part with is a trio of things that work together: glasses, a pencil and a notebook. Every time I take a flight I buy a black one, unlined Moleskine notebook for drawing on the go. My glasses, by Mykita, have been abandoned. They are Japanese and they are my favorite, classic but exceptional glasses, so I bought about seven pairs. When I like something, I have to hoard it, buy as much as I can, enough to have it forever.
The best gift I received recently is two arrays of Alex foxton offered by my wife for my birthday. I am fascinated by his use of colors but also by the subjects. They show parts of two people, so the work is well titled Frankenstein – they are almost in pieces but their body parts are linked in different ways. They are not large – I generally prefer large works – but they are very rare.
A recent “find” it is RenÃ© Boivin, jewelry designer from the beginning of the 20th century, whose work is refined and elegant. He started working in the 1890s and the best pieces in his house date from the 20s and 30s. I gave my wife a Boivin bracelet – I bought it from Pennisi, a jewelry store in Milan.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a pair of English shoes. I only wear English or American shoes, like John lobb, Tricker’s, Alden – I like their weight. Alden shoes are very structured. At first they break the feet a bit, then they adapt and become more anatomical, or maybe your feet adapt to the shoes. These are solidly made shoes that could be passed down from generation to generation.
The grooming staple that I never deprive myself of is the scent. I always use the same two: Ambre Nuit by Dior, and Winter Water by FrÃ©dÃ©ric Malle for the day. They are not spicy, they are very dry. I don’t like sweet scents. I like Ambre Nuit because it is direct and secret – the amber is softened by quite sensual velvety accents.
If I didn’t do what I do I would being a musician – I love classical music, which to me is unmistakably beautiful beyond any form of personal taste.
The best real estate advice I have ever received is to buy our new house in Tuscany, advice that came to me from my wife. She’s more careful than I am when it comes to investing, more thoughtful. We have just bought an 18th century house in Pietrasanta. It is an invaluable house: only two hours from Milan, near the sea, but not too close to the tourists of Forte dei Marmi; it is less crowded than being on the coast and the temperature is cooler. It’s an oasis, one of the best buys of my life.
The best book I read last year is The unfinished palace by Judith Mackrell. This is the story of the palace where the Guggenheim collection is located and is told through the story of three women, including Peggy Guggenheim. Claudia read it and then gave it to me; I usually read more non-fiction around architecture and art.
My grooming and wellness gurus are my hairdresser and my physiotherapist. When my hairdresser – Felisa de Aldo Coppola Rinascente – approaches, she cuts my hair near the living room window, because there is not much light in the house. And I need my physiotherapist, Alberto Galbiati – I never spared myself work, even when I was young, but I like having someone who realigns my posture. So many of our movements deform our body, so it is beautiful to see how with just a few movements you can bring your body back to well-being.
I recently rediscovered The painting. It was my first creative experience and as a boy I did a lot. But you really have to decide if you want to be a painter. Yet there is an element in my sculpture – my textures are hand made and painted. There is paint hidden in everything I do.