Just a couple of weeks ago I was rambling about going to Rome this year, and after publishing that article I thought, “You know what? Let’s book a train to Rome now”. Rome is very easy to reach from Florence by train, it only takes one hour and a half and you can easily go there on a day trip. But the city is so stunningly beautiful that I decided to stay 3 full days and enjoy a weekend packed with contemporary art and eternal beauty.
As I said in my previous article, over the years Rome has become a vibrant city for contemporary art. Don’t get me wrong, it has always been a great art destination, but recently the city has become a real hotspot for independent artists, art centers, and artist-run spaces. So much that I will have to go back soon because 3 days were most definitely not enough to visit all the spaces I planned for my tour.
Unlike Milan, where it is easier to find big galleries and more structured spaces, Rome is fast becoming a much younger and alternative place for contemporary art. But that doesn’t mean that galleries are not top quality here. In fact, being it for the long traditions of international collectors and patrons, or for the never-ending attraction that the city has, Rome hosts several international galleries as well as Italian new and promising ones.
Just to give you a glimpse of what Rome is like, and to help you plan your next trip, here are four contemporary art galleries for the perfect art tour. No big names here, like Gagosian or Galleria Continua, just well-curated, with great artists and wonderful spaces that will show you the best side of Rome!
Galleria Lorcan O’Neill
Just discovered during my last trip to Rome, it jumped straight at the top of my list. Lorcan O’Neill is an amazing gallery, nested in a secluded courtyard. You need to know where it is there to locate it, because you can’t see it from the main street. And once you enter the courtyard, don’t be distracted by the fountain and statue. It is Rome, those things are everywhere here!
Instead, head over to the gallery entrance and marvel at whatever they have on display. When I visited, they had an amazing solo exhibition by Gianni Politi that left me in complete awe.
Galleria Lorcan O’Neill is indeed one of the best and most important galleries in Rome. Opened in 2003, the gallery works with a group of established and emerging artists, many of whom the gallery has had deep engagements with for decades. They operate mainly showcasing new works by represented artists, working closely with them to bring unique experiences to the gallery space and visitors.
With artists such as Martin Creed, Tracey Emin, Anselm Kiefer, Richard Long, Kiki Smith, Jeff Wall as well as emerging Italian and international artists, this is the gallery to visit to taste the best contemporary art Rome has to offer.
z2o Sara Zanin
Equally as important for the contemporary art scene of Rome, the z2o Sara Zanin gallery is a much smaller space, but with an equally interesting program and roster of artists. The gallery, established in 2006 and originally located near the Colosseum, moved to its current location near Piazza Navona in 2012.
z2o Sara Zanin pays attention to experimentation and research, both on individual and socio-anthropological issues, focusing on all the aspects related to the artists’ practices through an annual programme of exhibitions and events. The gallery works with interesting artists, offering exhibitions that are not just aesthetically pleasing but reflect on crucial themes, such as identity, space, architecture, anthropology and nature. They work both with international and Italian artists, and are a stable presence at all the most important Italian art fairs, while also sharing important projects with national and international institutions.
Here is another gallery located in a narrow lateral street, that leads you to a real gem. The gallery has a huge window on the street that is guaranteed to catch your eye and a tiny wooden door that will open on a world of wonders.
Monitor has 3 locations, one in Rome, one in Lisbon, and a third one in Pereto, in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Originally opened in Rome in 2003, the gallery has a focus on video art and figurative painting.
They work with mid-career artists and are a great example of what Italy has to offer to the art market and the contemporary art scene from a broader perspective. The gallery opened a second location in Lisbon in 2017 and has operated in New York between 2013 and 2015, with a gallery space in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, opening up a fruitful exchange between Italy and the NYC market.
Located in the center of Rome, just like Galleria Lorcan O’Neill and z2o Sara Zanin, the three galleries can be easily visited all together as part of a nice walk tour of Rome.
Lastly, the fourth gallery you need to visit in Rome is the Gilda Lavia gallery. Located in the San Lorenzo area, the gallery is much younger than the previous ones but it is equally as enjoyable.
Gilda Lavia gallery was founded in 2018 by Gilda Lavia and is hosted in a young, vibrant and up-and-coming area, where you will find other galleries, as well as art centers and independent exhibition spaces.
The gallery aims to represent and promote emerging and mid-career artists from Italy and abroad and is focused on artists with conceptual research which reflect on our society and its interactions or highlight poetic and hidden aspects of everybody’s life.
They are just making a name for themselves, participating in art fairs around Italy, and launching exhibitions both in their space and in partnership with important institutions. Considering the research they do on artists, I am sure this will become a key player in the Italian market.
Visiting the gallery, you will have the chance not only to enjoy their beautiful exhibitions and artists, but to also visit a much less touristic and much more authentic area of Rome. It is a double win!