Contemporary Art

Italy’s Hidden-Gem Art and Design Destinations

By Ahnna Lee

F rom Michelangelo’s David to Milan’s cutting-edge Fondazione Prada, Italy is home to many of the world’s greatest masterworks and museums. But away from the tourist-bustle of Florence and Rome are a treasure-trove of off-the-beaten-track sites for art and design — from dazzling private collections to museums housed in castles.

Interior of Villa Necchi Campiglio, Courtesy of Villa Necchi Campiglio

Villa Necchi Campiglio
Via Mozart, 14,
20122 Milan, IT

Villa Necchi Campiglio was once the private residence of Angelo Campiglio, his wife Gigina and her sister Nedda, but in the 1980s the Villa opened its doors to the public after it was entrusted to FAI (Natural Trust for Italy) to serve as a cultural landmark. The elegant modernist villa, complemented by a custom-designed pool and tennis court, was designed by Campiglio family-friend architect Piero Portaluppi between 1932 and 1935 and became the frequent site of Milanese aristocratic gatherings. Originally furnished with Portaluppi’s interior designs, the residence’s enviable geometrical composition was later re-envisioned by architect Tomaso Buzzi who incorporated luxurious drapery and decorative furniture. Portaluppi’s innovative marks remain integral however — seen in the unique travertine floor with its rich green marble bands; the remarkable glass partition walls; and an exquisite Lapis Luzuli low table.

The stunning home is redoubled by a remarkable art collection of art composed of the Campiglio family’s acquisitions as well as notable endowments added in the years since. Among these additions are works from the Alighiero and Emilietta de’ Micheli Collection as well as the Claudia Gian Ferrari Collection’s L’amante morta (Deceased Lover) (1921) – a striking piece by Italian 20th century sculptor Arturo Martini. Also on view are Venetian school paintings and masterpieces by Giorgio de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi, and Adolfo Wildt. In the home’s upstairs’ antechamber are works donated from the collection of Guido Sforni with drawings by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Mario Sironi and Piero Marussig hung adjacent to a dramatic Lucio Fontana work.

Dan Flavin, Untitled (1997), Santa Maria in Chiesa Rossa, Milano, Photo by Paola Bobba, Courtesy of Fondazione Prada, Milano

Santa Maria Annunciata in Chiesa Rossa
Via Neera,
20141 Milan, IT

Light artist Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light installation Untitled (1997) illuminates the interiors of the Santa Maria Annunciata church in Chiesa Rossa. Its vibrant hues of blue, pink, green and yellow ultraviolet light create a new perspective on the church’s Giovanni Muzio-designed architecture. The work was created in collaboration with the Dia Center for the Arts and the Dan Flavin Estate, and commissioned by Pastor Giulio Greco with the support of Fondazione Prada.

Daniel Buren, La Cabane éclatée n. 3, travail situé (La capanna esplosa n. 3, opera situata / The Exploded Cabin # 3, situated work), 1984, at Castello di Rivoli, courtesy of Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea

Castello di Rivoli
Piazzale Mafalda di Savoia,
10098 Rivoli, IT

Just outside the neighboring city Turin lies Castello di Rivoli, the exuberant former residence of the royal House of Savoy in the 11th century. The opulent abode is both a UNESCO World Heritage site and an exciting destination for contemporary art. Among their arresting permanent collection is Novecento (1900) – a taxidermy horse suspended from the ceiling by Maurizio Cattelan, as well as Daniel Buren’s large-scale geometric installation La Cabane éclatée n. 3, travail situé (1984) and a Steinway & Sons piano layered in acrylic by Bertrand Lavier. The castle-turned-museum organizes curated permanent collection exhibitions that offer unique discourse between the artworks.

Novecento ( 1900), 1997 by Maurizio Cattelan at Castello di Rivoli, courtesy of Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Gift of the Supporting Friends of the Castello di Rivoli

Villa and Panza Collection
Piazza Litta, 1,
21100 Varese, IT

In Varese the 18th-century Villa Panza has become a destination for contemporary art. The transformation began in the 1950s when Count Giuseppe Panza began collecting with a focus on sensorial and environmental artworks including those of Dan Flavin, James Turrell and Wim Wenders. The resulting collection is a unique kaleidoscopic dialogue between light and color. Currently installed with the permanent collection are sculptural works by Barry X Ball, a first retrospective for the American artist.

Barry x Ball exhibited at Villa Panza, courtesy of Villa Panza

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