GAM: An Escape From the City

Words by Wanda de Rosa

Milano, Galleria d'Arte Moderna

Milan’s modern art Gallery (GAM) is an unconventional and characteristic museum of the city; only 20 minutes far from the center, between the commercial district of Corso Buenos Aires and the elegant avenue of Palestro. Here it rises, out of the blue, one of the most beautiful gardens in town as well as the majestic and monumental building of Villa Belgiojoso where now the gallery is located. An unexpected yet pleasant step into this neoclassical residence, which seems popped out one of Jane Austen’s novel, it’s definitely what you need to dust the city center pollution off your coat. For an incredibly modest price (5 euros- full, 3- reduced) you can enjoy a visit ,arranged on two levels, through the decades of what is now considered modern art. 

As the artworks disposition and the mansion itself have been object of restore and rearrangement works, what you’re now going to see is probably “at its best” compared to previous years, even though it must be said, for this reason some pieces are still missing or not yet placed permanently.

On the first floor you can see an astonishing collection of neoclassical and romantic artworks, with both well known artists (Antonio Canova, Andrea Appiani,Francesco Hayez) and minors, in such an interesting combination which almost turns your visit into a time travelling experience. Each room doesn’t look like an art gallery hall, as it isn’t indeed; you’re actually walking through rooms in which the paintings and the furniture are displayed as close as they can get to its original location. 

The parquet, the wallpaper, the ceiling, all appears so well preserved that the antique luxurious mansion it was once comes alive, as if you were a lord walking through the rooms and now and then peeping into the garden - the immense wood/garden which hardly restrains from swallowing the villa - and enjoying the quietness of a dreary afternoon. 

Still playing this role, while now on your way out ,at the same time amazed and bewitched by this place, you spot a staircase to an upper floor, which hosts two private collections acquired by the gallery in recent years representing the most intellectual and creative part of your visit. 

If wearing the clothes of the 1800 milanese nobility might look too stiff and boring to you, now you can truly range from impressionism to expressionism, modernism to art nouveau, from Chinese pottery to Renoir. 

An accurate selection already started by the collectors Grassi and Vismara -who in life had already sorted several artists together- is now turned into a true visive experience thanks to the recent reallocation of the artworks. Only in 2014 this two collections can appear to the public as one; as a matter of fact, they now can offer a most accurate perception of styles through different artists and movement.

Collection Grassi, focuses on XVIII century italian art and all its different movements; Fattori, De Nittis, Boldini, as Milan’s Scapigliati, and Previati, Segantini, Pellizza da Volpedo as Divisionisti. While following this chronological path, you can see as this exposition naturally merges with Collection Vismara, which, indeed, seems to start precisely where the previous has stopped. As a reflection of Giuseppe Vismara’s (1903-1975) artistic passion, its homonym collection shows several international artists (Modigliani, Dufy, Matisse, Picasso just to name some), as well as other pleasantly unpredicted choices ,some of them very rarely shown by other contemporary collectors. Mosts were chosen out of a personal interest, like the attention dedicated to Gino Rossi and Pio Semeghini (known as the Ca’Pesaro group) as well as Filippo De Pisis, Giorgio Morandi and Mario Sironi, focusing on a return to Italian Traditions. 

As approaching the end, a sudden yet fluid mix of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec illustrations and Arturo Tosi irregular production, paves the way to an even more unexpected glimpse to some collectionist’s treats; Chinese and Thai XIV- XVIII century rare paintings and antiques, a colorful triumph that closes the exposition. 

At the end of the day, going down the staircase and already starting to breathe fresh air again, you’ll rethink of what you’ve seen and learned, maybe with a relaxing stroll through the gardens or sitting by the pond; one of the best ways to fully capture and enjoy the calm and peace only nature can give. 

Sometimes living in a metropolis like Milan can make people become estranged , but that’s why these beautiful places still exist. It doesn’t matter how many years they have been abandoned or how long people didn’t even know they were there, it inevitably comes a time in which people feel the urge of seeking something comforting them. 

Some find therapeutic going far away from the city, others spending a weekend close in a spa to relax and escape from anything, but it’s reassuring to know that you can have both of them without spending much or driving hours to get there; in the middle of the city for everyone to see, so when it’s calling you can go, definitely much better than shuffling your feet along the same old Sunday routes!