By DOM GALEON
Portrait by NOEL PABALATE
Video By ROC VERDERA
A family legacy can both be a source of pride and pressure. Pride because there is joy in celebrating a family’s past. Pressure because, well, it can be daunting to live up to a glorious legacy, particularly if you come from a family that has left an indelible mark in the history of the world.
That, perhaps, is how it feels to be Prince Lorenzo de Medici. Yes, of that same Medici family that made Florence and Tuscany and the rest of Italy flourish during the Renaissance— that same Medici family that invented much of the modern conventions in banking. Prince Lorenzo, therefore, is quite aware of the legacy of his forebears. But like his ancestors before him, he is taking a more innovative approach in finance.
“My family invented the three-way system safe,” the prince says. “Vaults during their time only had two keys, with each key kept separately by two individuals. But with our family’s vaults, there weren’t just two keys, there were three, kept by three people. It was very difficult to bribe three different people. Just as that reinvented the idea of secure banking, we believe that blockchain will take banking into a whole new level of security. And with blockchain, the key is kept by several people.”
Medici Bank International, which Prince Lorenzo co-founded with payments and digital banking expert Ed Boyle, will launch this month. “My family invented the check, the letter of credit or loans,” he says. “In the same way, I want to reinvent finance by using blockchain technology. Everything will be online.”
Aside from being a banker, the young Medici is also a patron of the arts. When we met him one afternoon at the Makati Shangri-la, he was accompanied by his good friend Ginés Serrán-Pagán, the Spanish artist who has built several sculptures all over the country—the statue of Gen. Martin Delgado fronting the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art and the impressively imposing Arco del Emperador at Arcovia in Pasig, just to name a few. He had spent several days in Boracay, upon the invitation of Ginés, before coming to Manila. It is Prince Lorenzo’s first time in the Philippines— it’s his first time in Asia, in fact.
“The sunset I saw in Boracay, I told Ginés, is the most beautiful one I’ve seen in my entire life—and that’s saying something because I travel a lot. I decided that now is the moment to see Asia, after spending most of time in Italy, in Florence, and in the US,” he says, adding that he had already visited Shanghai, Seoul, and Bangkok. “My family was very much involved with Asia i n t h e time of the Renaissance, from the 1200s to the 1400s. The Medici family from Florence was the biggest silk trader. Now, the new Renaissance is in Asia. If you want to do something big, if you want to do something new, if you want to have these emotions that are kind of lost in Europe and the US, you’ll find them here in Asia. It’s the new New York with the energy of the ’60s. So I wanted to go around Asia, to see it with my own eyes and to explore.”
Prince Lorenzo is also an artist. His Polish mother was a painter, he explains, and his dad is a collector— no surprise there, really. In true Medici fashion, his art is a combination of the classic and the modern, in the same way that the Renaissance was a revival of Greco-Roman culture infused with the style of the times. Prince Lorenzo art, in his collection called “Renaissance Pop,” plays around with the works found in the family’s collection of artworks but he puts a modern touch to them.
One example is his painting of Catherine de Medici, which is based on an older portrait of his ancestor who married the King of France. “She was a great woman. She brought to France etiquette, Italian food, and perfumes,” he says. “Chanel No. 5, for example, was inspired by Catherine de Medici. So I made a painting of Catherine with a Chanel necklace. It’s a way to show to the new generation how my family influenced the world today.”
In Shanghai, he had an exhibition of some of his works. His “Renaissance Pop” collection now has some 100 pieces. “I want to bring back the legacy of my family through the arts,” he says. “I’m bringing this collection, in honor of my family, all over the world. I’ve brought it to the US, to South America. I’m having an exhibit in Mexico in January.”
The prince plans to exhibit his collection to the Philippines by next year, bringing with him 10 to 15 artworks, depending on the location. “I will study the relationship between the Philippines and the Medici family,” he says. “It’s quite interesting because it serves as a bridge between two cultures, the Philippines and Italy. In my country, we grew up with mostly Filipino babysitters. Majority of our ‘mothers,’ therefore, were Filipinos. If we are kind now, we have only our Filipino ‘mothers’ to thank. This also makes me feel very at home here.”
Asked whether he considered himself more of a banker than an artist, Prince Lorenzo had this to say: “During my normal business time, which takes a lot of my energy, I am still in finance. But my soul is an artist’s soul. I love to spend most of my time as an artist. It’s what I love,” he explains.
“My ancestor, Lorenzo the Magnificent, was an artist himself. He was a banker because his father was the head of the bank, but he was an artist. He wrote a lot of poems. His most famous one has lines that go like this: Quant’è bella giovinezza / che si fugge tuttavia! / Chi vuole esser lieto, sia / di doman non c’è certezza. How beautiful is youth— when you are young!—but, you know, time goes so fast. So let’s enjoy today because tomorrow, we never know.”