The 7 Best Contemporary Art Museums in Rome

When you think of Rome, a few things come to mind: millenia-old structures and landmarks such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Renaissance art, even rigatoni alla carbonara. But contemporary art museums in Rome? Maybe not. 

However, there are some marvelous modern art museums in Rome that you should make time for. You can dig into the past, going back thousands of years into the city’s history, making pit stops in the Renaissance and Baroque eras, and any other eras you want, and then do a deep dive into the art of the 20th and 21st centuries.  

So if you want to indulge in some contemporary art—and solidify just how great the Eternal City actually is—here are the best spots.

people walking in front of a museum entrance
The Galleria Nazionale di Arte Moderna—one of the most famous contemporary art museums in Rome—features significant international artworks, ranging from impressionism to abstract expressionism. Photo credit: Massimo Materni

Chiostro del Bramante

Located on Arco della Pace, in the tangle of streets between Piazza Navona and the Tiber River, Chiostro del Bramante marries the Renaissance and contemporary art. It’s  housed in a former religious building designed by Bramante in the year 1500. The museum usually hosts temporary exhibitions and has done shows featuring everyone from Banksy, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Marc Chagal, and Basquiat.

people walking through courtyard of museum in Rome
Bramante’s design of Chiostro del Bramante is a blend of classical elements, including Doric and Ionic columns, creating a serene space for museum-goers. Photo credit: trolvag

Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna

Not to be confused with La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, this small art space near the Trevi Fountain boasts over 3,000 art works and is housed in a space that was once a convent. For almost a century, the museum has exhibited 150 works at a time. It’s collection consists of work between the early 19th century and the middle of the 20th century. Most of the artists in the collection are Italian and include art by Mario Mafai, Giacomo Balla, Alberto Savinio, and Giorgio de Chirico.

museum in rome
The Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna should not be confused with La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. Photo credit: Lalupa


Also known as the Museum of Contemporary Art, MACRO is a cutting-edge museum dedicated to young and emerging artists. Housed in an old Peroni brewery, the museum opened in 2002 north of the center of the city in Salario. French architect Odile Decq led a renovation of the space a few years later. The museum’s collection is mostly Italian artists with a few international artists thrown into the mix.

inside Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome
MACRO: short for Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma (Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome). Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra


Located in the Flaminio district north of the historical center, MAXXI is one of the first big museums that is dedicated to art of the 21st century. The museum first flicked on its lights in 2010 and was built on the site of a former military barracks. Architect Zaha Hadid’s award-winning structure incorporated some of the military structure into her stunning design. The collection includes works by Aldo Rossi, Kara Walker, Ed Ruscha, Kiki Smith, Anish Kapoor.

outside of big modern museum in rome
MAXXI is renowned for being Italy’s first national museum dedicated to contemporary art and architecture. Photo credit: Francesco Di Capua


Located southeast of Termini and just below Sapienza University, Monitor is one of the most cutting-edge galleries in the Italian capital. The gallery has put on exhibitions by Duane Zaloudek, Ian Tweedy, Ursula Mayer, Maja Escher, and Eric Bainbridge, among other artists.

girl looking at painting inside a museum
Monitor is known for showcasing cutting-edge works by both established and up-and-coming artists. Photo credit: PickPik

National Gallery of Modern Art

La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, or the National Gallery of Modern Art, opened its doors in 1883 for one sole purpose: to show off the artwork of the newly unified Italian state. Located just north of Piazza del Popolo and the Villa Borghese, the museum houses over 5,000 paintings and sculptures starting in the neoclassical period and ending with abstract works from the 1960s. Here you’ll find works by Van Gogh, Canova, Monet, and Cezanne, among others.

The National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome
The National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome opened its doors in 1883. Photo credit: Krzysztof Golik

Palazzo Esposizioni Roma

The Palazzo Esposizioni is a grand neoclassical building that puts on a lot of temporary exhibitions. They lean more towards photography and there’s even a cinema inside for the occasional art house flick. They also do exhibitions at their alternative space in the former slaughterhouse in Testaccio. Located on bustling Via Nazionale.

Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome
Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome is renowned for its diverse offerings like art exhibitions, film screenings, theatrical performances, and educational programs. Photo credit: Paolo Rosa
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About the author

David Farley is a West Village-based food and travel writer whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC, and Food & Wine, among other publications. He’s the author of three books, including “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town,” which was made into a documentary by the National Geographic Channel. You can find Farley’s online homes at and

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