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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.