Paolo Frattini has to show a piece of art seven or eight times on television before someone buys it.

Padua, Italy

Paolo Frattini does not like television sets, people who confuse the various kings of France, or modern art. “I can’t sell it,” says Frattini of the last. “I can’t use my feelings, so maybe I can’t push it enough. My feelings are for antique art.”

Always dressed in white, Frattini has heaped praise on furniture, jewelry and art for the past 15 years on Telemarket, Italy’s biggest shopping channel on public television, open for business 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. He specializes in antique consignments with prices starting in the thousands of euros, so regular television shoppers tend to wait him out before calling in. “I usually talk about a painting on television for seven or eight episodes before it sells,” says Frattini. In 2005, he and the rest of the Telemarket sellers charmed €111 million (US$146 million) from Italian homes with a mix of perseverance and stagecraft: to open one episode, Frattini roared into the salesroom on a motorbike, parking cavalierly on an antique carpet.

But by 2012, two-thirds of Telemarket buyers had vanished, and annual sales had dropped by €79 million ($104 million). “They even stopped watching the channel,” says Frattini. “Looking at something you can’t afford makes you suffer.” Giorgio Corbelli, the owner of Telemarket, blames government austerity measures, and announced in February 2013 that Telemarket would relocate to China. Frattini has now launched his own shopping show, but times have changed. “People no longer buy for the pleasure of collecting art, but to invest money,” says Frattini. “And I don’t like money.”


From the pages of COLORS #87 - Looking at Art.