Museo della Permanente Milano

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Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente



Permanente – Historical Overview

The Società per le Belle Arti (Fine Arts Society) and the Esposizione Permanente di Belle Arti (Fine Arts Permanent Exhibition) were founded in Milan respectively in 1844 and 1869.

The two societies co-operated for the first time in 1881, when they organized the Esposizione Nazionale di Belle Arti (Fine Arts National Exhibition), which was part of the Esposizione Nazionale taking place in Milan in the same year.
In 1884 the two societies were merged, thus originating a new association, which took the current name of Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente (Fine Arts Society and Permanent Exhibition).

As ratified by a Royal Decree issued by King Umberto I in 1884, its nature was that of a free association of artists. On 25 April 1886 the Neoclassical building designed by Luca Beltrami was inaugurated in Milan, in via Principe Umberto (currently via Turati). An outstanding contemporary art exhibition marked the opening.
Between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century Permanente, together with Accademia di Brera (Brera Academy of Fine Arts), represented the most important venue in Milan for art exhibitions.

These two institutions collaborated frequently and, since 1908, Permanente hosted the exhibitions known as Biennali di Belle Arti, which had originally been held at Brera. During those years Permanente organized group and solo exhibitions by the most important artists (many of whom were members of the association) and movements of that period, including Divisionism, Futurism and Novecento.

Besides exhibitions of modern and contemporary painting and sculpture, Permanente hosted several displays dedicated to engraving and photography as well as concerts and literary events, which shows what a great variety of art and cultural events the association offered. During the Second World War, in 1943, the building was seriously damaged by the bombings.

In 1950 started the reconstruction, which would carry on until 1953 and was planned by architects Achille Castiglioni and Luigi Fratino according to rational and functional criteria. The remarkable exhibition La donna nell'arte da Hayez a Modigliani was organized to celebrate the new opening.
From that moment onwards, Permanente focused its efforts in two different directions. On one hand it devoted itself to the analysis of important periods, art styles and individual artists from the past, with particular attention to the 19th and 20th Century.

In 1966 a memorable series of exhibitions begun with Scapigliatura, followed by Divisionismo, Liberty in Italia, Arte e socialità in Italia dal realismo al simbolismo, Il Novecento, Stanze del paesaggio lombardo: da Boccioni a Morlotti, Una stanza a Montmartre: il paesaggio francese nella pittura italiana da Boldini a Birolli and also by solo exhibitions of famous artists, such as Daniele Ranzoni, Medardo Rosso, Giovanni Segantini, Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, Giovanni Boldini, Massimo Campigli, Arturo Martini, Achille Funi, James Ensor, Jean Arp and Frida Kahlo.

On the other hand Permanente has focused its attention on contemporary art, to which it has dedicated many temporary solo and group exhibitions, as well as developing a partnership with foreign institutions and conducting research on more recent art movements and styles.
For more than a century Permanente has strived to independently promote culture, not only in Milan but also nationwide and abroad, thus keeping true to its original intent.

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About the Art collection >

The Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente (Fine Arts Society and Permanent Exhibition) has its own private art collection with more than three hundred works including paintings, sculptures and about one hundred drawings and engravings.

Since its establishment in 1886, the collection has grown thanks to the paintings and sculptures it has been awarded during the exhibitions organized by Permanente and also thanks to donations by artists and art collectors.
All along the 19th Century important prizes were awarded in conjunction with contemporary art exhibitions organized by Permanente.
The aim of these prizes was to support and promote artists in a period, in which the art market was not as profitable as it is today.

Among the numerous prizes, particularly noteworthy are "Premio Fornara", "Premio Feltrinelli" and "Premio Bagutta – Orio Vergani per le arti figurative" and, furthermore, the prizes awarded during Biennale di Milano - an exhibition, which, since 1955, has been regularly held at Permanente every second year.
The collection offers an extensive overview of the different forms of art flourished in the last 120 years - especially in Milan and Lombardy - and is constantly increasing thanks to generous donations.
These have supplemented the original core of works by artists representative of styles and themes popular at the end of the 19th Century, such as Grandi, Gola, Alciati, Pellini, Chini and also artists from the Novecento movement, in particular Sironi, Carrà, Casorati, Rosai, De Grada, Bucci and Messina.

The collection includes several works by artists representing the most important art movements of the Fifties and Sixties, with particular attention to Milanese artists, such as Fontana, Milani, Cassinari, Chighine, Turcato and Francese.

One of the most significant art movements in those years was Realismo esistenziale (Existential Realism), well represented in the collection by the work of its main Milanese exponents: Banchieri, Guerreschi, Romagnoni and Vaglieri.

The collection also includes an extensive range of works from the Seventies to recent years, thus offering a wide overview of the most important art tendencies in the second half of the 20th Century. Worth a special mention are: the installation Omaggio all'America Latina (Tribute to Latin America) by Emilio Scanavino and Alik Cavaliere, a remarkable example of interaction between painting and sculpture during the Seventies, Abstractism by Reggiani and Veronesi, Pittura Analitica (Analytic Painting) by Griffa, Olivieri and Vago, different examples of Figurativism from the end of the 20th Century by Ossola, Tadini and Vangi and finally a selection of works by contemporary painters and sculptors, such as Bonalumi, Del Pezzo, Paladino, Ghinzani and Staccioli.

Years of war >

Drawings of Resistance of the donation De Micheli

The drawings exhibited here were now entering a part of the museum's permanent collection.
Having collected these works, often produced with the help and the authenticity of a witness "in live" by some of the protagonists of Italian art during the most tragic period, 1943-45, the last world war, is another confirms that Mario De Micheli has interpreted his role as historian and art critic without ever losing contact with the complex reality of his time.
In 1984 he wrote, during the presentation of his collection: "These drawings were performed during the years of Resistance by the artists who participated.
It is a memorable witness of art and civil commitment, unique in its character, patiently collected to remain a living and eternal memory of those heroic and dramatic days. "


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Toni Garbasso