The Italian publisher Francesco Conz was a man with two faces. On ‘normal days’ he was warm, generous and an outstanding host, but when he had been drinking too much he became nasty, rude and a troublemaker.
Conz had a legendary collection of fetishes. His treasures were stored in an enormous warehouse on the outskirts of Verona: cars used by artists, typewriters on which they had written poetry or music scores, objects used during performances, clothes they had worn, painted piano’s, fridges and a lot more. Somebody once said, ‘Francesco doesn’t collect art, he collects artists.’
During one of my last visits to Conz, we went to see a man who hadn’t washed himself for over forty years. He had a gaunt face, his jacket was far too wide for his bony shoulders, his trousers were held up with a rope and his bare feet were stuck in self-made sandals. Everything in the room, including the man himself, had acquired a greenish patina. The man didn’t smell too badly, just rather mossy. According to Francesco, he was an artist.
We will probably never find out what happened exactly on one of the platforms of Verona’s train station on the 6th of January 2003. Did Conz maybe get a good shove after an argument with a bystander? How else did he end up under a train that was just leaving the station?
Anyway, on that fateful day the temperamental publisher changed into a helpless man forever. He had become paralysed, even needing help with feeding. Still, his passion and willpower never left him. From his bed and wheelchair, he continued publishing books and portfolios and kept organising exhibitions.
Francesco Conz passed away on the 5th of April, 2010.