Museo del Novecento (Museum of the 20th century), Milan
The Museo del Novecento in Milan is a museum of 20th-century art, mostly Italian, located in the Arengario palace in Piazza del Duomo.
Visiting the museum to see its remarkable collection of 20th-century Italian paintings and sculptures is also an occasion to discover its historical building and look at Milan’s Cathedral Square from an unusual point of view.
The Museo del Novecento from Milan’s Piazza del Duomo; photo © Inexhibit
History and architecture
The Museo del Novecento opened to the public on December 6, 2010. The renovation of the Arengario palace – built between 1936 and 1956 after a design by architects Griffini, Magistretti, Muzio, and Portaluppi – was designed by Studio Italo Rota & P., after winning an architectural competition organized by the Milan City Council with a view to establish a new home for the city’s collection of 20th century art.
The renovation project involved both the architectural restoration of the historic building and the creation of new exhibition spaces. The building’s tower, which has been restored to its original state by removing incongruous elements added in the ’50s, contains a large spiral stairway which, from the subway level, leads to a panoramic roof terrace overlooking the Piazza del Duomo.
The main part of the Arengario building, to which two new levels were added during the renovation, accommodates most of the exhibition galleries and is connected to the historical Palazzo Reale nearby by a covered footbridge.
Project for the Museo del Novecento, Studio Italo Rota & partners, longitudinal section of the Arengario building; source: Architects Registration Board of Milan
Museo del Novecento, spiral grand stairway; photos: Jason Paris
Museo del Novecento, the Fontana gallery with the artist’s ceiling decoration for the Hotel del Golfo; photo: Marco Capitanio
Collection and permanent exhibition
The Museo del Novecento permanent exhibition, which features about four hundred works arranged chronologically, begins with a room, opening on the already mentioned spiral grand stair, reserved to The Four Estate (Italian: Il Quarto Stato) painting by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo.
Museo del Novecento, The Four Estate (Il Quarto Stato) by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo, 1902
Overall, the exhibition covers the entire 20th-century art.
The first section begins with pieces by international Avant-garde artists of the early 20th century – Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Amedeo Modigliani – and continues with works by Italian Futurists, such as Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero, and Carlo Carrà. Two small rooms – dedicated to Giorgio de Chirico, and Giorgio Morandi – complete the first section which spans a period extending from the beginning of the century to World War Two.
The second section opens with a sequence of spaces featuring abstract expressionist works by Alberto Burri, Emilio Vedova, and Giuseppe Capogrossi followed by a gallery dedicated to Lucio Fontana, located on the top floor of the Arengario. The Fontana gallery is conceived as an immersive experience featuring the large ceiling painting Fontana made in 1956 for the Hotel Golfo on the Elba island, his Neon installation, and various Spatial Concept paintings the Italian artist made in the ’50s.
Through the footbridge, the visit continues into the Palazzo Reale which accommodates the last section of the exhibition, which includes sections dedicated to Kinetic and Programmed Art, to works of the Gruppo T, and Italian Pop Art.
Finally, a room with works by artists of the Arte Povera movement, including Mario Merz, and Giuseppe Penone ends the museum’s permanent exhibition.
Museo del Novecento, Umberto Boccioni, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio), 1913; photo: Paolo Rosselli.
The program of events and activities of the Museo del Novecento comprises temporary exhibitions focused on Italian and international modern and contemporary art; artist talks, special events, children’s workshops, concerts, and presentations.
Cover image and below, the Neon lighting sculpture by Lucio Fontana on view on the upper floor of the Arengario Tower.
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