The Gondola

Date: 02/02/2012 21.51
Subject: re: gondola
Hey guys,
I bought your gondola… right now it is on an old table in a visible spot. Like you, I love vintage objects, I have my own collection of plastic souvenir ashtrays with views of Italian and foreign sights, about 120 in total. When I saw the gondola, I realized immediately that it had been waiting for me… and when I found out what you two do (the sofa series is beautiful), I decided to write you this e-mail. I would really like to meet you, and, if you are interested, my house is full of “junk” that could be photographed. I am an “artist” as well.. if that isn’t too strong of a word. I make works of art similar to those by Rotella. I walk around different cities, rip down advertisement posters and put them together as collages … Two things become one thing… I am not as young as you are, I am 55 years old, but everyone says I seem younger. In the attached files I am sending you a couple of works. I look forward to hearing from you.
Rossella Ricci


Souvenir Tondo Doni
Tondo Doni, Souvenir Ashtray

We can now say that everything started with this email, which arrived on 1 February 2012 after the exhibition project Personal Effects On Sale, organized in the Esprit Nouveau Pavilion during Arte Fiera. A group of curators asked 100 artists to donate 3 personal objects each. The objects were meant to be sold anonymously during the event at a symbolic price of about 10 euros.
Rossella bought our “donated gondola”. From our point of view, it was a mere provocation. “Let’s donate this gondola, no one will ever buy it”.
Not only did Rossella buy the gondola, she was so fascinated by it that she took a picture of it in her garden, just like we had with “David in the Garden” for our project “Souvenir d’Italie”.
She looked for us and contacted us.

This email laid the foundation for our friendship, collaboration, a constant exchange of objects, wish lists, buying on commission (never stealing though), exhibitions and going to flea markets together. And here we are, with the first volume of our project 99objects, dedicated to her collection of “plastic souvenir ashtrays with views of Italian and foreign sights”.
In these years the 120 ashtrays have become 300. And it is definitely our fault as well. When one is a collector and has friends who collect, one starts looking for the objects for the collections of others. It seems so natural! You have to be attentive and try to keep a distance, otherwise you may risk starting a parallel collection. That is why we are making a book out of it! And here below is the interview with the collector herself:

Interview with Rossella Ricci, a collector.

Hi, who are you and what do you collect?
Hello, my name is Rossella and I collect “souvenir ashtrays” made of bakelite or melamine, or simply plastic, as well as some other objects made in Italy. I also collect tin boxes, matches, stickers with mountains, miniature houses, old illustrations, old books, advertisement objects and many other things!

What does collecting mean for you and why do you collect?
The word “to collect” comes from Latin “colligere” which means to tie together (to connect). Collecting is a connection that has been formed between me on the one hand and the object and its story on the other hand. Why do I collect? There is no reason that drives me… it could be the instinct. It is definitely not for investment reasons. My collections don’t have an economic value, they are memories of former times. “They are hooks, traps that we fall into throwing ourselves into the sea of suggestions” (Travel trophies by Duccio Canestrini.)

How does finding a new piece for your collection make you feel?
Each time I find a new piece I am very satisfied and I feel joy when holding it… But the research continues, because collecting is a never-ending process.

Where do you usually find the “missing pieces”?
I usually find the missing pieces in flea markets.

Could you tell us about a particular episode that you are attached to or a story of some object that is “different” from the others?
There are no objects I am more attached to, but all the souvenirs with the views are very important to me, since they are the material representations of places I visited or I would like to visit.

Rossella's home, interior
Rossella’s home, interior

The first volume of 99objects is dedicated to some of the souvenir ashtrays from your collection: how many of them do you have?
About 330

Why do you collect them, when did you start and which one was the first one?
The first souvenir ashtray I found and which inspired me to collect ashtrays, was a souvenir ashtray from Florence (Uffizi Gallery) representing the figures from the famous “Doni Tondo” by Michelangelo. That is how the relationship with an ashtray was born, paradoxical in away, since I don’t smoke. Why do I collect? In order to keep the memories, to communicate my passion, connection with and the love for objects.

Are there any collections that you are envious about, collections you would really like to create but you can’t?
A collection I envy and would really like to have is a collection of original sketches of Italian advertising posters (from the end of the 19th century to the 60s). I think they are enchanting, but unfortunately it will always be just a dream.

Have you ever done anything crazy in order to get something?

Do you talk to your objects?
Yes, I talk to the objects in my collections, because this connection based on belonging is rewarding.

At some point a collector has to confront the problem of space: how do you handle your relationship with space and how have you resolved it?
The collected objects find their place in ridiculously stuffed cabinets, huge boxes, shelves filled with various objects. But they all look happy and grateful for being collected. How have I resolved the space problem… I haven’t.

Are your family members collectors? How do they coexist with your objects?
They don’t understand it, but they put up with it.

What do you reply when people say “you are crazy, what do you do with all that”? Each collector has heard this question at some point..
It is true, I am crazy for my collection. Psychoanalysts have written a lot about the things that make people collect, but the most amusing explanation is the sexual one: that it is an expression of the anal phase… is that right?

What future do you want for your collections?
The future is in the present. The first volume of 99objects has been dedicated to my collection of souvenir ashtrays and I predict … a great future.

A piece of advice for a young collector.
Collecting is an asset which lets one to obtain knowledge and competencies while having fun and spending time in a constructive way. It’s important though not to become paranoid and anxious about finding new pieces. When done in a right way, collecting can be a great means of socializing with people who share your passion.

Rossella's home, interior
Rossella’s home, interior