Museo del Novecento
The Museo del Novecento is the newest museum in Florence with exhibitions of paintings donated to the city after the Florence flood of 1966.
A New Home for Art in Piazza Santa Maria Novella November 4, 1966, was an infamous date in Florentine history. The Arno River broke over the banks of the city engulfing one of the world’s most beloved art capitals with 600,000 tons of oily mud and sewage and destroying over 14,000 artworks and 4 million rare manuscripts and books. Worldwide public awareness was raised by Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti, a renowned art historian who created a committee headed by Piero Bargellini, the mayor of Florence at the time. While young people from all over the world poured into Florence to help with the clean up, Ragghianti was approaching local and international artists to convince them to donate art to replace that destroyed in the flood. Some of the most important twentieth century artists responded enthusiastically; Baccio Maria Bacci, Lucio Fontano, Antonio Bueno, and Corrado Cagli were just a few of the Italians, as was the German sculptor Genni Mucchi, the English artist Daphne Maugham Casorati ,and Edita Walterowna Broglio the co-founder of movement “Return to Order” and “Valori Plastici” an important art journal that started the debate between the avant-garde and the traditional principles. Today, 48 years after the flood, unfortunately all of these donated pieces are still locked up in Florence’s storage facilities. Despite their completely different styles these artist were united by the City of Florence’s promise that their donated works would become part of a permanent exhibition for contemporary art. A portion of the works was put on exhibition in the Sala dei Dugento of Palazzo Vecchio in February of 1967. Three weeks later, Ragghianti opened his exhibition, Modern Art in Italy 1915-45 at Palazzo Strozzi where more than 2,100 works were displayed. With these first exhibitions, Ragghianti wanted to create an “Uffizi of Modern Art” to complete the Modern Art Gallery at Pitti Palace. He worked on this project until his death in 1980. Without a doubt his most important achievement was being able to convince Alberto Della Ragione to donate his incredible collection of 241 paintings and sculptures to serve as the core of the new museum. Upon offering his collection to Florence in 1969, Della Ragione told locals, “I give you my life”. Finally on June 24, 2014 Florence’s Museo del Novecento was inaugurated. Located in the former Scuole delle Leopoldine in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, next door to the Alinari photography museum, this huge five-floor venue can be recognized by its loggia embellished with lunette reliefs by Andrea della Robbia. The 6 million euro renovation was funded by the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze and features a beautiful glass-protected cloister as well as 20 exhibition rooms. Here you can admire approximately 230 works of art which include paintings by Filippo de Piscis, Giorgio Morandi, Giorgio de Chirico and Renato Guttuso. There are many works from the Della Ragione collection as well as donations from Bruno Saetti, Sepo, Cagli, and Rosai. The new museum will also highlight contributions of women to Florence’s artistic heritage. Of seven works by top twentieth-century artists recently restored by the AWA (Advancing Women Artists Foundation), five of these will be on permanent display. Visitors will see View from Olevano by Antonietta Raphael Mafai, as well as her life-sized bronze sculpture Maternity and her portrait of Emilio Jesi. Mafai, a Lithuanian painter and one of the founders of Rome’s Scuola di Via Cavour, was praised by the art critc Roberto Longhi as “Chagall’s foster sister”. She had a fundamental role in placing Italy at the head of the European art scene between the two wars. The restorations by AWA are only the beginning. As one of the museum’s partners, AWA plans to bring many other works by women to light. They plan to restore another 27 paintings and sculptures by 2016, completed in time for a temporary exhibition at the new museum to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the flood. The City has already approved AWA’s request that these works may be sent abroad on loan for exhibitions otherwise they are destined to return to storage when the exhibition is finished.