Some of the most acclaimed art exhibits to have taken place in Rome in recent years have been held at the Scuderie del Quirinale. These have included works from quintessentially Italian artists, such as Antonello da Messina and Giovanni Bellini, as well as international collections on loan from from their permanent homes. Such were the 100 Masterworks of the Hermitage and the masterworks of the Guggenheim, of which more later. Notable other exhibits were Birth of an Empire, the Ottocento, Pop Art, Metaphysics, and Futurism.Over a scant 10 years the 32 exhibits hosted at the Scuderie have been characterized by uncompromising professionalism and unflagging passion, with the result that this former Museum of the Carriage has been indelibly etched in the memories of artists, art historians, and of the public, as one of the more prestigious venues of its kind in the world. The physical building is itself interesting, and, as is true for many buildings in Italy, has a somewhat mysterious history which is well worth recounting.
Built in the first half of the 18th century, the building is located between the Piazza del Quirinale and the Salita di Montecavallo. For the first two centuries of life its quiet purpose was to provide logistic support to its more imposing and important neighbor, the Palazzo del Quirinale, which is the Italian equivalent of the American White House in Washington. One of the roles played by the Scuderie was to serve as a garage for the conveyances of the Pope, and, later, of the Italian royal family. In the 80’s it was turned into a museum, the Museo delle Carrozze, in recognition of its early role as a rimessa.
A new life for the Scuderie began in1997, when the Office of the Italian Presidency, to which the building belongs, gave permission to the Commune of Rome to remodel and use the historic building for major art exhibitions. Following an international competition, the architect Gae Aulenti was selected to restore the structure and design the exhibition spaces. The work was performed in record time, just in time to inaugurate the new millennium. On December 21, 1999, this most recent addition to the world’s top-tier exhibition halls was officially launched with the attendance of the President of the Republic, the Mayor of Rome, and the Italian Minister of Culture. At its launch the Scuderie featured the 100 Masterworks of the Hermitage, obtained on loan from Saint Petersburg, the largest outpouring of art in that museum’s history. Included were masterworks by Degas, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, Rousseau le Douanier, Vlaminck, Derein, Vallotton, Vuillard, Sisley, Pisarro, Matisse e Picasso. They were to remain at the Scuderie until June 2000. Five years later, in 2005, there followed an equally important exhibit, the Masterworks of the Guggenheim, which definitely solidified the position of the Scuderie as one of the premier artistic centers of international collectivism.
Another important paradigm that animates the choice and programmation of exhibited material derives from the expressed goal to enhance the public’s understanding and appreciation for Italian classical and modern art. This goal has been amply supported by great exhibits dedicated to such figures as Botticelli, Alberto Burri, Antonello da Messina. Entire historical periods, such as the Renaissance and the Risorgimento, have been featured. The place of Italian art in the larger context of international art has been explored in a series of thoughtful and innovative shows (Maestà di Roma, Rembrandt, Metafisica, Velazquez, Bernini, Luca Giordano, Da Giotto a Malevic. La reciproca meraviglia, Dürer e l’Italia.)
Not least of the Scuderie’s endeavors is carrying out a mainly summer program dedicated to the great figures of the international cultural scene (Sebastiāo Salgado, Wim Wenders e Santiago Calatrava.) These are extraordinary events that manage to deliver maximum enjoyment and comprehensibility to the public, while retaining maximum historical and artistic rigor and innovation.
The Scuderie, after 10 years of uninterrupted successful exhibitions, represents simultaneously the realization of an ambitious artistic goal and a departure point for similarly important endeavors in the future.
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