Italian Masterpieces

Excerpt from ‘Masterpieces arrive in Australia’
from the July 2014 issue

In celebration of Italian Masterpieces, renowned Melbourne restaurateur and patron of the arts, Ronnie Di Stasio, has installed a larger than life representation of an artwork being featured at this exhibition in one of his iconic venues, Bar Di Stasio.

Ronnie has chosen to display a print of an artwork titled Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence by Spanish artist Jusepe de Ribera, who had spent time living and working in Italy. Owned by NGV, the original oil on canvas was completed between 1620 and 1624, and measures over 2 metres wide.

Ronnie initially had a discussion with Ms Victoria and Tony Ellwood to decide what he wanted to do, and that is how it all began. “Tony is very gracious and humble. He keeps thanking me for promoting the exhibition, but the honour and privilege is all mine. I knew Prado had a great exhibition and these Renaissance paintings really interest me.”

Ms Victoria also praised Ronnie for his work in helping to promote the exhibition. “Ronnie is one of those cultural icons of Melbourne. He is everything Italian. He lives Italian and breathes Italian, and the Italian community are very lucky to have him. Ronnie is also very generous. When he heard about the exhibition, he said he wanted to promote it – and he has done this out of the goodness of his heart.”

Ronnie decided to develop a centrepiece for the Italian Masterpieces exhibition, which now forms a stunning backdrop at Bar Di Stasio. Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence was chosen by Ronnie, together with graphic designer David Pidgeon and NGV’s head of marketing, Jane Zantuck. This piece “was an instant decision”,  says Ronnie.

“NGV came out to view the space and arrange the installation of appropriate lighting. I am not an expert in art and I don’t claim to be. I didn’t want to just hang the piece as if it were a poster. It had to be showcased professionally and properly. It was really exciting to have NGV staff and curators involved in setting this up.”

Professional lighting was also installed to illuminate a second print displayed in the front window of Bar Di Stasio. It is of a famous piece by Italian artist Raphael called Holy Family with Saint John or Madonna of the Rose. Ronnie describes it as priceless. “I don’t think you can put a value on this Raphael.”

To mark the opening of Italian Masterpieces, Ronnie also hosted a cocktail party attended by the directors of Museo del Prado and NGV. This will be followed with an exclusive invitation-only closing event.


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