Where to Find Spaces of Contemporary Art in Italy

The Embassy of Italy in Manila recently invited art curator and critic Ludovico Pratesi to Manila for an enlightening discussion about contemporary art in Italy.

Spaces of Contemporary Art in Italy. A Lecture by Ludovica Pratesi Italian Curator and Art Critic

Renowned for its medieval and renaissance art, Italy is home to a number of spaces – both public and private – dedicated to these historic and enriched periods of art. But aside from the popular and typical art attractions in the country, Italy also has a developing contemporary art movement. In this day and age, with how fast everything moves, contemporary art gives a glimpse of the prevailing issues and problems that artists – and the people around them – grapple with.

Photo courtesy of Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

“People are familiar with contemporary art even if they do not realize it. Contemporary art is the art of today, the art linked to the facts we all read in the newspapers or on internet, art which emerges from today’s life,” shares Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino of the Embassy of Italy.

L-R Ambassador Giorgio Guglielmino of Italy and Ludovica Pratesi Italian Curator and Art Critic

Ludovico Pratesi shortlists a number of spaces for contemporary art across the country that travelers can visit; from national museums and regional galleries, to private foundations established by influential local brands.

Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin; Photo by Paolo Pellion


MAXXI is the first Italian national institution founded for contemporary creativity. Found in Rome, the name of MAXXI is a play on words; the word means very big in Italian, but it also stands for “Museum of Art from the 21st century,” using the Latin numerical “XXI” for 21. MAXXI has a dynamic and unconventional design home to contemporary art and architecture. It has a collection of 300 works of artists and architects from 1960. Zaha Hadid designed MAXXI’s spectacular architecture.

Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna is one of the most important and prestigious museums in Italy. The National Gallery has a collection of more than 20,000 works from 1850 to 2000. It has the biggest collection in the country, which includes contemporary and modern art; which tackles works from the 20th century. Unlike other galleries that place works chronologically or by movement, the exhibits at the National Gallery are in thematic order. In one room, visitors will see diverse works focused on the idea of “the laying woman.”


MAURIZIO CATTELAN; Novecento (1900), 1997; taxidermized horse, leather slings, rope; 200 x 70 x 270 cm Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin; Gift of the Supporting Friends of the Castello di Rivoli, 1997

The Castle of Rivoli or Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Torino was built by architect Filippo Juvarra in 1714. Restored in 1984 as a contemporary art museum, the first two floors of the castle maintain its 18th century design. It serves as interesting juxtaposition to the contemporary pieces displayed in the castle.

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto, also known as “The Mart”, currently operates through three different sites: the museum’s main campus in Rovereto; the Casa d’Arte Futurista Depero, also in Rovereto; and the Galleria Civica in Trento. It identifies itself as a “cultural hub” that constantly displays exhibitions, and hosts events and workshops.

Found in the historic heart of Naples, Museo Madre was originally a monastery in the 19th century before transforming into a museum in 2002. It is home to a permanent collection, with specific site-installations, and also temporary exhibitions.


Fondazione Prada in Milan and Venice opened in 2015 as a private contemporary art foundation. It has a collection of more than 3,000 works from 1945 to today.

New Milan venue of Fondazione Prada; Architectural project by OMA; Photo by Bas Princen; Courtesy of Fondazione Prada

Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (FSRR) in Torino was the first foundation made for contemporary art. In 2002, Architect Claudio Silvestrin specifically created FSRR as a center for contemporary shows. It also hosts many temporary exhibitions, and highlights young international artists.

Photo courtesy of Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Today, there are more than 20 foundations in Italy. According to Pratesi, this has been a very good influence, in the context of the local contemporary art scene. There is a growing interest in the younger audience, especially since contemporary art resonates deeply with the issues people face today.