Eternal Graffiti in the Eternal City? I like the sound of that.
The entrance is one of the coolest things about this museum. As you walk past the ticket counter, the floor turns into broken mirrors with classic sculptures placed on top. It’s a gorgeous and delicate design that encompasses both the experimentation of modern art with the grace of classical sculpture.
Right after, you walk into a beautiful open room with some of the museum’s permanent collection, including a few Marcel Duchamp pieces. Beyond is a courtyard, replete with a sculpture, fountains, and the undeniable sunshine of Italy. It’s a small oasis that serves as an excellent resting point for any weary, traveling modern art lovers.
One of my favorite pieces in the museum was Il bevitore by Arturo Martini. A sculpture of a man drinking on his hands and knees, it’s reminiscent of the plaster casts in Pompeii. Because of the position of the drinking man, there is an element of pleading or begging that is striking – and considering that it’s also called Il sete, or Thirst, it’s easy to see this stone man as a symbol of need or desperation.
There is also a single room dedicated to Giorgio de Chirico, showing a great variety of his work beyond his well-known minimalist landscapes. While I get lost in de Chirico’s surreal and disquieting piazzas, I also enjoy the poetry of his paintings that incorporate classical elements and symbolism.
All the way on the right side of the museum is a special exhibit by Emilio Isgrò, an Italian artist and writer. Modello Italia is a retrospective of his work, spanning from 1964 to today; and it’s hilarious, critical, tongue-in-cheek, and shocking. In many pieces, he takes classical symbols of Italy and covers them in ants, even spelling out “Viva Garibaldi” in ants on the wall in one of the installations. In other pieces, he takes the Italian constitution and crosses out every word in big, black marker, leaving only absurd sentences, like “The Fiat is forbidden.”
Upstairs is a noisy room filled with clocks – at least two dozen of them. The clocks are embedded into photographs with the faces whited out, and they begin with a whispering tick tock tick tock. Slowly, the speed and volume of time passing becomes louder and louder, until the seconds are clanging as a loud bang bang bang. The lights begin to flicker on and off, building an incredible sense of suspense.
I spent a few hours in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, but it wasn’t nearly enough. (Do I say that about every museum? I think so.) From the impressive entrance, beginning in the Borghese Gardens, all the way through to the unique exhibits and collection of modern Italian artists, this is one of my favorite museums I’ve ever had the chance to visit. It’s true, I may be just a little bit in love with the Galleria.
The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Modern is on Viale delle Belle Arti 131 and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM.