March 14 2011
On a trip to Milan recently I discovered that the city has a very smart and rather beautiful new attraction. For years, mysterious hoardings had surrounded the Palazzo dell’Arengario, but now they had been removed to reveal a new art museum standing in the Piazza Duomo, close to the soaring cathedral – which is itself a dazzling sight now that its renovation is almost complete.
This was the Museo del Novecento, the museum of 20th-century art. I had to take a look inside, and was impressed. The interior, designed by Gruppo Rota, draws visitors up a spiral ramp to the entrance then through narrow galleries linked by steep escalators (or lifts), finally offering a magical cityscape view at the top.
A collection of around 350 works, selected from nearly 4,000 pieces belonging to Milan’s Civic Art Collection, is displayed on five levels, and this journey takes you on a chronological voyage through primarily Italian art and sculpture, from the early 20th century’s avant garde through Futurism, the Novecento movement, Spatialism and the Concrete Art and Arte Povera movements. It concludes symbolically in 1968 when a shift towards new forms of expression emerged, but the baton will be carried forward by a future Museo d’Arte Contemporanea currently being planned.
Highlights for me included Lucio Fontana’s huge, swirling neon light installation (first picture) – in a top-floor room visible from Piazza Duomo – and galleries that grouped multiple works by single artists, such as Giorgio Morandi’s quietly pleasing still-life paintings (second picture: Morandi’s Natura morta, 1940). But there was far too much to absorb in a single visit and I will definitely return.
Oh, and the museum also boasts a good bookshop and an excellent restaurant (with direct access from street level) where I enjoyed drinking in fantastic views of the Duomo while forking up a fine risotto.