THE GENERAL AND THE MAJOR
They are like fire and ice, but as partners in life and work, the Asian art world’s golden couple Maria Elena and Lorenzo Rudolf are the perfect composition
What immediately strikes you when you first meet Lorenzo Rudolf and his wife Maria Elena is the couple’s very different sense of style and mannerisms. While Lorenzo, who’s Swiss-Italian is in staid attire and has a reserved demeanour, Maria Elena has a visibly more eclectic taste that one might expect of a Latino. Decked out in a fiery red Zenchi gown, the Ecuador native has a larger-than-life personality to match. It’s easy to ascertain who’s more rational and who’s more emotional, too. Lorenzo describes, “I have a more German part, and that part is ‘ice’. She has the Latin part, and that’s ‘fire’. What happens when you bring fire and ice together?”
But it’s these contradictions in their personalities that have made their relationship thrive over the past 18 years. Not only are they partners in life, having lived all around the world while raising a family together, they are also partners at work. As co-founders of the noted Asian art fair Art Stage, Lorenzo and Maria Elena have assumed the roles of president and vice-president respectively. With over 30 years of experience, Lorenzo oversees the business and artistic side—the “brain work”, as he puts it—and defers to his wife when “heart work” is required. Having spent over two decades in the international art scene, Maria Elena is in charge of VIP relations and organises social events for guests of the fair.
“She’s the one who brings people together,” says Lorenzo. “I’d never be able to do that.” In turn, Maria Elena describes her husband as “the best art fair guru in the world”.
Despite their differences, the couple share similar beliefs and principles. “We’re very curious. We’re very openminded,” says Lorenzo. “We believe in letting others live the way they want, and being tolerant and respectful.”
To illustrate this, they talk about freedom. “We fight for freedom in every way,” says Lorenzo. “That’s the basis of our common ground, where we can still be individuals, but we understand and support each other.”
Indeed, when asked about the most romantic thing he’s done for her, Maria Elena confesses: “I feel free. Free to love him, to live my life, to be me,” she says.
But they are practical, too. “We have a clear rule about how we handle our marriage: I’m the General and she’s the Major. I make all the general decisions, and she makes all the major decisions,” says Lorenzo. And to make that work, some may say, is an art in itself.