A guide to Contemporary Art Museums in Rome

May 14, 2018

Although Rome is famous mainly for its Baroque masterpieces, the Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Ancient ruins and the Hellenistic pieces of art, it is also an important Italian and European center for contemporary art. Especially after two new contemporary art museums MAXXI and MACRO were opened and reconstructed with public funds, requalifying old industrial spaces.

This increasing opening of new local commercial private galleries and foundations is followed by the launch of several important international galleries, already present worldwide, like Lorcan O'Neill, Gagosian Gallery, and more recently Gavin Brown’s Enterprise.

So if you’re passionate about contemporary and modern art you shouldn’t miss these museums: The National Gallery of Modern Art - GNAM, Maxxi, Macro and Mattatoio. 

The National Gallery of Modern Art | GNAM

National Gallery of Modern Art Rome

La Galleria Nazionale is the oldest and the most important Italian public institution dedicated to both modern and contemporary art. It hosts the main collection of modern post-unification Italian art, from neoclassicists, and futurists to Arte Povera and contemporary artists. In 2016 they’ve updated the interiors of a classical style building and changed the permanent collection by creating a nonlinear exhibition “Time Is Out of Joint”, based on dialogs between artists from different art movements and periods.

Museum of Contemporary Art Rome | MACRO

Inside Macro Museum Rome

Macro is a multifunctional center for contemporary art located in the Roman neighborhood Salario, with its classic buildings, small local stores, and trattorias. The museum’s central part, first opened in 1999 in the former Peroni brewery. After ten years the building was more than doubled with the new additional wing, designed by Odile Decq. Although stylistically very contemporary, it blends in with its neighborhood. Large areas of the museum are open to the public, including the terraces, with a cafe and a large bookshop on the ground floor. The site is constantly and actively involved in supporting contemporary artistic and cultural productions and runs numerous independent artistic and educational programs. 


Mattatoio Museum Rome Exhibition

Since 2003, Macro had an additional outpost for exhibitions in a former slaughterhouse in a very popular district of Testaccio, initially called MACRO TESTACCIO. The original buildings, built by Gioacchino Ersoch between 1888 and 1891, are considered one of Rome’s most important industrial buildings, as well as one of the more interesting examples of industrial archaeology that survived.

Starting in 2018, this unit began operating independently of the MACRO, changing its name to MATTATOIO (Slaughterhouse). The shows and artists supported by this place have been always less conventional, giving an opportunity to emerging national artists. MATTATOIO is in the same complex as the CAE, an alternative space, with an organic food market, a vintage bicycle shop, and a near continuous calendar of events from concerts to festivals.

The National Museum of the XXI Century Art | MAXXI 

Exterior of MAXXI Museum in Rome by Zaha Hadid

Opened in 2010, this is a real architectural gem, designed by Zaha Hadid and located in the Flaminio neighborhood. Incorporating former military barracks, the building is a unique creation with an interesting use of space but is architecturally more detached and remote from its surroundings than Macro. This is Rome’s first national museum dedicated entirely to contemporary art and it consists of two museums: “MAXXI art” and “MAXXI architecture.” The MAXXI also hosts revolving exhibitions, workshops, conferences, shows, projections, and educational projects.

Currently, it is reconfiguring and tripling the space devoted to its permanent collections "The Place to Be". The presentation of the collection begins in the museum piazza featuring three new large-scale installations: Mareo Merz by Elisabetta Benassi, Senza titolo (aereo) by Paola Pivi and Winter Moon by Ugo Rondinone.

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