9 Art Exhibitions To See in Italy in Summer 2021

When it comes to Italy, there are two things I absolutely adore about it: the food, and the culture. Art is all around you everywhere you go; there are so many museums and galleries, it really can be mind-boggling. To help you decide which cultural venues you can prioritize this summer when you visit this astonishing country, we have put together a list of art exhibitions to see in Italy in the coming months. The shows on view range from contemporary Italian masters to the revolutionary artists on the international scale, offering a little something for everyone’s taste.

Of course, aside from the art museums listed below, we highly recommend visiting the famous institutions such as the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the unmissable Vatican Museums in the Vatican. After all, a chance to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel doesn’t come every day!

Damien Hirst at Galleria Borghese, Rome

Damien Hirst is known as the bad boy of British art, often using unconventional objects such as medicine cabinets, or even life animals, to create artwork. At Rome’s Galleria Borghese, there are over 80 of his pieces, ranging from small-scale to monumental sculptures, displayed alongside the museum’s own ancient masterpieces. The exhibition is showing the artist’s Colour Space paintings for the first time in Italy, while his colossal sculpture, Hydra and Kali, is displayed outdoors in the Giardino Segreto of the Uccelliera.

The exhibition “Damien Hirst, Archaeology Now” is on view through November 7, 2021. You can reserve tickets online.

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art exhibitions to see in Italy: Damien Hirst Neptune at Galleria Borghese Rome
Damien Hirst, Neptune, 2011. Lapis lazuli and white agate, 30.1 x 24.4 x 15 inches (765 x 620 x 380 mm). Edition of 3 with 2 artist’s proofs. Private Collection. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2021 / SIAE 2021

Aldo Rossi at MAXXI Rome

At Rome’s MAXXI, or the National Museum of 21st Century Arts, there is a major retrospective dedicated to Aldo Rossi. Described as “a poet who happens to be an architect,” Rossi gave life to buildings and structures across Italy and beyond, and contributed greatly to the theoretical studies of both architecture and design. On view there are famous drawings, projects, writings and a series of models from the MAXXI Architecture archive and collections from all over the world, painting a comprehensive picture of the world-renowned Italian creator.

The exhibition “Aldo Rossi, The Architect and the Cities” is on view through October 17, 2021. You can buy tickets online.

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art exhibitions to see in Italy: Also Rossi at MAXXI Rome
Aldo Rossi with M. Scheurer, Project for a new UBS administrative building, Lugano, Switzerland (1990). Model, paper, cardboard, wood. MAXXI Architecture Collection. Aldo Rossi Archive © Aldo Rossi Heirs

Maurizio Cattelan at Pirelli Hangar Bicocca Milan

Here’s another enfant terrible of art: Maurizio Cattelan, the man behind the sculpture of a kneeling Hitler, the middle finger sculpture outside Milan’s stock market building, or the duct-taped banana at the Art Basel fair in Miami. This Italian provocateur will be having a retrospective at Milan’s Pirelli Hangar Bicocca for more than six months, that will feature a project made specifically for this space, as well as new artworks dealing with the notions of the human existence, the fragility of life, and collective sense of loss. We are sure the show will not disappoint, and are looking forward to seeing what Cattelan has in store for us this time round.

The exhibition “Maurizio Cattelan, Breath Ghosts Blind” is on view from July 15, 2021 through February 20, 2022. Admission is free, but you need to book tickets in advance.

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art exhibitions to see in Italy: Maurizio Cattelan at Pirelli Hangar Bicocca Milan
Maurizio Cattelan, La Nona Ora, 1999. Polyester resin, wax, pigment, human hair, fabric, clothing, accessories, stone, carpet, dimensions variable. Installation view, Palazzo Reale, Milan, 2010. Courtesy Maurizio Cattelan’s Archive. Photo Zeno Zotti

The Shape of Time at Museo Poldi Pezzoli Milan

A true gem found in Milan city centre, a stone throw away from the Teatro alla Scala, Museo Poldi Pezzoli originated as a home to the private collection of Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli, an important Italian count. Today, you can visit the museum and see the exhibition titled “The Shape of Time,” which features about 30 items, clocks, sculptures, codices and paintings, made by artists such as Titian and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, among others. The show aims to examine the relationship between art and humans, from antiquity to the early Modern Age.

The exhibition “The Shape of Time” is on view through September 27, 2021. You can buy tickets online.

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art exhibitions to see in Italy: Gian Lorenzo Bernini at Museo Poldi Pezzoli
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Busto di Papa Alessandro VII, 1657. Private collection. Image via Museo Poldi Pezzoli

Enzo Mari at Triennale di Milano

The Triennale di Milano is situated in one of the city’s most beautiful parks, Parco Sempione, and is well worth the visit. Currently on view there is an exhibition curated by the famous curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, focusing on the artwork of Enzo Mari. One of Italy’s greatest masters and theorists of design, Mari died in October 2020. The show in Milan focuses on the six decades of his career, and is demonstrating the contributions of other artists and designers, such as Rirkrit Tiravanija or Tacita Dean.

The exhibition “Enzo Mari” is on view through September 2021. You can buy tickets online.

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Enzo Mari, The Nature Series No. 1: the apple with Elio Mari. Silk-screen print on texilina paper, 112 x 112 cm. Danese Milano. Photo: Danese Milano

Women Artist Exhibitions at Royal Palace Milan

Right next to the Duomo in Milan, the Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale) is a must-visit art venue, at any point in time really. At the moment, the museum is focusing on women artists, through three extraordinary exhibitions spanning three continents.

Until September 25, there is a retrospective dedicated to Margaret Bourke-White, one of the icons of photojournalism. Alongside her impressive photographs, the “Prima.donna” exhibition is also showing a series of personal documents and images, videos, and autobiographical texts, which give a priceless insight into this great artistic mind.

Through September 12, “Divine and avanguarde. Women in Russian art” consists of around 90 masterpieces by Russian artists, most of which were never shown in Italy. Divided into two sections, the exhibition will show the way major art-makers such as Kazimir Malevich depicted Russian women and their role in society, but also how the women artists themselves created art as part of the country’s avant-garde.

Last but not least, a display of over 130 works by 34 women artists working in Italy in the 16th and 17th century. This amazing overview of the Italian artistic production of the period is showing masterpieces by Artemisia Gentileschi, Sofonisba Anguissola, and Lavinia Fontana, among others, painting a picture of how these women found their way beyond the conservative roles imposed on them.

You can book and buy tickets online.

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Fede Galizia, Giuditta with the head of Oloferne, 1596. Oil on canvas, 141 x 108 cm. Galleria Borghese, Roma

Botticelli at MART Rovereto

Not only is the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto showing the art of one Sandro Botticelli, spanning various phases of his life (examples: his “Pallade e il Centauro” masterpiece, on loan from the Uffizi, or “Venere” coming from Turin’s Galleria Sabauda), as well as the domains of his well-known workshop, but it will also put on display contemporary masterpieces from the 1960s to today that pay homage to the great Italian artist. Newer generations of artist sushi as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Fernando Botero, David LaChapelle, or Oliviero Toscani, pay him an homage through a series of artworks that show Botticelli’s immense influence on the contemporary visual art production.

The exhibition “Botticelli. His time. And our time” is on view through August 29, 2021. You can buy tickets online.

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Sandro Botticelli, Venus, c. 1495-1497. © MiC – Musei Reali, Galleria Sabauda

Italian Art 1920-1945 at GAM Turin

In Turin, the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea is presenting an exhibition dedicated to Italian art between the two world wars. A selection of 130 works made during the 25 years (1920-1945) focuses on the therapeutic role of art, as a tool for the healing of mind and body following the atrocities that hit the Old Continent twice in a short span of time. The show is a nice overview of an important period in the art production in Italy.

The exhibition “A JOURNEY AGAINST THE TIDE Italian Art 1920-1945” is on view through September 12, 2021. You can book and buy tickets online.

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Renato Birolli, Taxi rosso nella neve, 1932. Oil on canvas, 56 x 48 cm. Private collection

American Art & JR at Palazzo Strozzi Florence

The exhibitions currently on view at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence aren’t exactly Italian, but the building itself is an excellent reason alone to visit! This 15th century palace was built by Filippo Strozzi, a rival of the Medici, who wanted the house to reflect on his own political powers and influence, which he very well managed.

First up on display is a marvelous review of American art between the years 1961 and 2001, with more than 80 works by 53 artists, including the beloved Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, and more. The visitors can witness the way art was used as a tool for addressing topics such as consumerism, mass production, feminism and gender identity, racial issues, and the struggle for civil rights.

On the façade of the Renaissance building, the French artist JR installed a site-specific paste-up artwork titled “La Ferita” (The Wound), cleverly providing a window into the inside of the building. With this photographic collage, measuring 28 per 33 meters, JR wished to comment on the accessibility of cultural venues in times of COVID-19, and the way these suffered, and continue to suffer but also persist, during the pandemic.

The exhibitions “American Art 1961-2001” and “JR The Wound” are on view through August 29, 2021. You can buy the tickets online.

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JR, La Ferita, 2021, Firenze, Palazzo Strozzi. Photo by JR

You may also enjoy reading:

Helidon Xhixha’s “Luce, la Rinascita di Venezia”
Where To Find Modern Art in Venice

Angie Kordic
Angie Kordic

Visual Arts Contributing Editor

Angie Kordic is a 30-year-old Serbian currently based in Stockholm, Sweden. She holds a BA in Photography from the Istituto Europeo di Design from Milan, where she lived for five years. Her rich experience in the field of contemporary art includes work she did for an arts PR agency in Bari, Italy, as well as the six years she spent at Widewalls magazine, as both Junior Editor and Editor-in-Chief. Currently, she is working for a US-based arts PR agency and does freelance writing on the side. Although she is an avid traveler, Angie's heart will always belong to Italy - perché la vita lí è semplicemente più bella.

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