For long years I have overlooked Milan. The second-largest city in Italy can be harsh at first, and it takes some time to get used to it and start enjoying it.
But once you overcome the initial feeling, Milan is thrilling and charming, partly old-fashioned and partly hyper futuristic.
Contemporary art galleries in the Lombard city are no different. In Milan, you can find ultra-modern galleries, white cubes that would perfectly fit in any XXI century metropolis. But you can also visit secluded galleries, almost hidden gems, located in amazingly opulent palaces.
And to me, the true essence of Milan is precisely that. Milan is the city of the future, where Italy develops and generates the most avant-garde ideas. But it is also an unbelievably rich city, with a solid bond to its past and history.
So, without any further ado, here are 4 contemporary art galleries in Milan to taste the authentic flavors of the city.
Galleria Massimo De Carlo
Very unsurprisingly, the first, top of the top, destination on my list is Massimo De Carlo. I already spoke at length about my appreciation for this gallery, its artists, and its multiple locations around Europe and the world. Here in Milan, the gallery has its headquarter and first gallery space. Nowadays, it actually has two, both equally jaw-dropping.
The first location is the so-called Casa Corbellini-Wassermann. Built in the early 1930s as one of the finest examples of Milanese rationalist architecture, the palace is located slightly outside of the city center, and the gallery occupies its marble-filled rooms.
Nonetheless, my favorite location is the second one. Located inside Palazzo Belgioioso, it is possibly the best gallery in Milan. The spectacular palazzo that houses the gallery was completed in 1787 by Giuseppe Piermarini, who also designed La Scala Theatre. Its rooms are finely decorated, and they create a beautiful contrast with the sometimes minimal and sometimes flamboyant pieces on show in the gallery. Peek inside the silent courtyard from the main facade of Palazzo Belgioso and ask the “portiere” for the gallery. I promise you won’t regret it! But remember to check opening hours with the gallery well in advance, as they sometimes are open only by appointment.
Not too distant from Massimo De Carlo and equally as visually appealing, Tommaso Calabro is a much younger gallery. Nevertheless, in less than 5 years, it has become one of the most exciting galleries in Milan and Italy in general, thanks to its artists and impressive exhibitions.
Founded in 2018 by the young gallerist Tommaso Calabro, the exhibition space is located inside a Neoclassical palace right in the center of Milan and just steps away from the Duomo. It displays both modern and contemporary art, working with well-established artists from the XX century as well as contemporary masters.
Quintessentially “Milanese”, the gallery is located in a silent building overlooking a quiet little square. When you get there, you could be anywhere in Italy. But, on the other hand, and most incredibly, it feels like you are hundreds of kilometers away from the hustling and bustling center of Milan. Which is, in fact, right behind the corner. Nonetheless, the gallery has this charming and noble allure, with its wooden floors and refined decorations, making it one of the most beautiful contemporary art galleries in Milan in my opinion.
Don’t be shy, ring the front doorbell, as the gallery is located on the first floor of Palazzo Marietti, and take the magnificent XIX century marble staircase. You don’t want to miss this gallery!
Tired of cracking wooden floors, plaster moldings, and neoclassical buildings? Look no further than Lia Rumma gallery. The complete opposite, at least style-wise, of the two previous galleries, Lia Rumma is hosted in a minimalist, modern three-story building.
The gallery was originally founded in Naples in 1971, and it opened a second exhibition space in Milan in 1999. Later on, in 2010, the gallery moved to its current location in the Brera district. With 2000 square meters on three levels, the gallery is a massive white cube, entirely dedicated to hosting exhibitions and monumental projects conceived by its represented artists. Among others, the Milanese space has displayed works by Marina Abramovic, Vanessa Beecroft, Alfredo Jaar, William Kentridge, Anselm Kiefer, Joseph Kosuth, David Lamelas, Luca Monterastelli, Reinhard Mucha, Ugo Mulas, Thomas Ruff, Haim Steinbach, Tobias Zielony, Gilberto Zori, and the list goes on.
Among the top 5 galleries in Italy, Lia Rumma is not only an incredible commercial gallery but a true cultural institution, fostering exchanges and encouraging collaborations with curators, critics, and collectors who have led to the realization of prestigious projects in museums and institutions both in Italy and abroad.
Come here if you are looking (or you miss visiting) a New York-like gallery space with high ceilings, massive windows, and thought-provoking, museum-quality exhibitions.
Moving outside of the city center towards Linate, you can visit the M77 gallery. Opened in 2014, this huge white and semi-industrial space is a real gem. They work both with emerging, up-and-coming young artists fresh out of the Accademia and with some of the most interesting established artists in Italy. The thing I like about this gallery is its approach to exhibitions. They are always well-curated, and frequently they feature site-specific installations and works.
They also host book presentations, talks, and temporary events, turning the gallery almost into an art museum rather than just a gallery.
Needless to say, the artists they work with and the exhibitions they host are top quality and always provide new ideas and food for thoughts on the contemporary art galleries scene in Milan and Italy.