Elkann’s mother is currently locked in battle with her family (and their advisers) to uncover the extent of Gianni’s foreign assets and full net worth. Lapo’s near-fatal overdose in 2005, and his subsequent battle to overcome drug addiction, made headlines worldwide. Elkann’s eldest brother, John, 32, has taken over the Fiat fiefdom: an $11 billion holding company that owns the automotive group and the Turin soccer club Juventus. Being an Agnelli, Elkann insists, has been “an adventure—and a privilege,” and adds that she refuses to pay attention to negative press about her family. “She is totally committed to the family and to its traditions,” says her cousin Marella Caracciolo Chia. Indeed, Elkann declines to comment on her relationship with her mother, which is reported to be under serious strain since Margherita filed suit in May 2007 against Gianni’s three long-standing advisers. Having sparked a very ugly—and public—family feud, Margherita, the Agnellis’ only surviving child, is now a pariah within the usually discreet clan.
Elkann is equally tight-lipped about her personal life, although she can’t deny that there will be some momentous changes this year. She plans to marry Giovanni Gaetani in April, and the couple are expecting their first child in July. Gaetani, whom Elkann started dating last year, is based in both Rome and Tuscany, where he manages his family’s agricultural estate.
While Elkann still lives most of the year in London, Turin holds a particular place in her heart. Three of her grandparents lived there, and she has especially fond memories of her paternal grandmother, an Italian Jew. “You can’t do more mama than Italian Jewish mama,” says Elkann with a smile, recalling her grandmother’s vegetable garden and their trips together to the local market. The town also reminds her of hanging out with Gianni, watching and discussing films. “He loved movies—especially ones with Rita Hayworth,” she says wryly, referring to one of her grandfather’s former girlfriends.
The Pinacoteca’s next show is “State of Mind,” which features contemporary art on loan from Ebrahim Melamed, a Tehran-based private collector with a special interest in young Iranian artists. Previously Elkann organized “Prehistory to the Future: Highlights From the Bischofberger Collection.” Those works were drawn from the trove of the Swiss art collector—and pal of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat—Bruno Bischofberger, a longtime family friend and a neighbor of Gianni and Marella’s in Saint Mortiz. Elkann has childhood memories of watching Julian Schnabel and George Condo painting chez Bischofberger while she played hide-and-seek with the collector’s children.
Since she joined the gallery in March 2006, Elkann has developed its vision as a showcase for private collections from around the world. “We were born from a private collection,” she says, referring to her grandparents’ paintings from the 18th to the 20th centuries, which are on permanent display. “I think it’s a very subjective, very personal way of seeing art.” (Elkann has her own stash of drawings by such artists as Francis Alÿs, Mamma Andersson and Pietro Ruffo.) She is considering shows on Islamic, Coptic and Greek works, and believes that collections of everything from jewelry to skateboards are fair game for the Pinacoteca. “It’s nice having that freedom, but in the end these shows need to be good enough to take to New York,” says Elkann, who sees her work at the gallery as a tribute to Gianni. “He gave me a sense of discipline and of duty. Not for Fiat necessarily, but for the Pinacoteca.”