Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

RST Top 40: #33. Carlo Bilotti Museum in Villa Borghese

We came across this gem of a museum accidentally one day - a year after its 2006 opening. It has a fascinating history and a small collection worth viewing.

So here's the story : Carlo Bilotti, big deal cosmetics guy, originally from Southern Italy but long a U.S. citizen and resident, goes to Rome's then Mayor, Walter Veltroni, known as a patron of the arts (and author of the introduction to Rome the Second Time) and they cut a deal - Bilotti contributes his collection, and Veltroni kicks a bunch of government workers out of a long-neglected building in the middle of Rome's largest and most famous park and restores it to house the collection. Bilotti died in late 2006, the year the museum opened.

Bilotti's collection features more than 20 works by Italy's premier artist of the 20th century, Giorgio de Chirico (de Chirico thought pretty highly of himself too), although some have carped Bilotti's are not the best de Chiricos. A de Chirico from from the collection is at right. The collection also has art by the famous U.S. artists Bilotti palled around with, including Warhol and Larry Rivers (some of them portraits of Bilotti and his family).

On its ground floor, the museum hosts excellent temporary exhibits, often of very large pieces of internationally known contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst and Jenny Saville. The New York Times' review of the museum's opening gives you the flavor.

The building is older than the park itself and served many purposes, including as an"orangery" - or "aranciera," beautifully restored after centuries of neglect and misuse (including bombardment during the French defense of the Pope in 1849). Picture at top is from the 18th century. You'll see signs in the Villa Borghese to "Aranciera" - that's it. The City of Rome's website on the museum has excellent background information in English, as well as opening hours, ticket information (you don't need a reservation) and directions.

So here you have it all - famous Italian paintings that will immerse you into 20th-Century Rome, top U.S. contemporary artists, and a fascinating building.

Of course, it's hard to be in the shadow of the incomparable Borghese Gallery itself - and Bilotti's museum is "due passi" (two steps) from the Galleria Borghese, which would be in anyone's Top 40, not their second top 40.... but once you've done the biggies, Museo Carlo Bilotti, we think, is definitely on the "second time" list.


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