Fondazione Rovati, Etruria in shades of fuchsia

Teresa Scarale
Teresa Scarale
Read Time: 3'
A new foundation that is not just a museum. In the old palace on Corso Venezia in Milan, we discovered a cultural and gustatory hub in which the mystical austerity of a past civilization is not afraid to dialogue with the multicolored pop of the contemporary
There was no family collection. There was no palace. There were, however, ideas, means, and culture. That of Cavaliere del Lavoro and Cavaliere di Gran Croce dell'Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Luigi Rovati (1928-2019), a doctor and researcher, but also a humanist and collector, founder in 1961 of Rottapharm, a biotech that over the years became one of Italy's first pharmaceutical multinationals. And today, after a substantial purchase of artworks and a major real estate deal, at number 52 Corso Venezia in Milan, in what was once the palace of the Rizzoli-Carraro family, stands the Rovati Foundation, officially born in 2016. The museum (more than 250 works) occupies two of the palace's seven floors, a space that is therefore also "very other," as Monica Loffredo, the foundation's director, puts it.

Ipogeo. All photos belong to Giovanni De Sandre per Fondazione Rovati


Indeed, it houses a café-bistro, chef Andrea Aprea's starred restaurant, a garden with a pavilion for temporary exhibitions, an educational space for children, a library, a conference room, offices, and the first single-brand bookstore of publisher Johan & Levi, a company founded in 2005 by Giovanna Forlanelli Rovati, president of the foundation. As the director explained, the intention was to give the city a month-long celebration by sharing, until September 30, free access to the museum, "a place of research, experimentation, and knowledge," which, in the words of Giovanna Forlanelli, president of the foundation, "responds to the principles of social utility that guide all the foundation's activities."

Giovanna Forlanelli Rovati

The exhibition spreads into two floors: the main floor and the hypogeum. The underground part welcomes the mystery of Etruscan civilization in its everydayness and spirituality in a room whose Cerveteri tumuli inspire severe and gentle domes. Greeting us is a cinerary travertine urn, probably depicting a priest. "It is not a didactic space; Italy certainly does not need it," we are told.

Under the vaults of the laser-cut Florentine stone "grottoes," the floor is propped up by glass cases displaying classic buccheri (Etruscan ceramics): vases, votive offerings, antefixes, and small bronzes connected with contemporary works by William Kentridge, Lucio Fontana, Arturo Martini, Pablo Picasso, and Alberto Giacometti. Why the love for Etruscan art? "It is a family love. Luigi Rovati also loved the Lombards. On the other hand, his son Lucio has always loved Etruscan art," they reply.

The museum's symbol is the Cernuschi Warrior, an Etruscan votive bronze, so named because it belonged to Paribas banker and founding patriot Enrico Cernuschi (Milan, February 19, 1821 - Menton, May 11, 1896). Italian patriots were fascinated with the Etruscans as the first critical Italian people. The austere darkness of the hypogeum - which induces whispering as if one is in a place of worship - gives way to the sparkling, purple colors of the second floor exhibition.

Here, wood paneling, gilded doors, floors, marble fireplaces, and 18th-century mirrors from the original rooms of the dwelling have not only been recovered and restored (respecting the work of architect Filippo Perego) but enhanced by a careful study of the chromatic impacts on the works of art on display, for a continuous visual and conceptual stimulation. The intent, Giovanna Forlanelli confirms, is "to give specific stimuli to the visitor" who, in visiting the architectural spaces, must be able to live "an emotional experience"; in fact, they "like the artifacts and works, in the continuous variation of forms, light, and colors, are not containers but parts of the experience of the visit."

Sala Kennedy, Specchiera Marianna Kennedy


Here, artists such as Luigi Ontani (1943, Grizzana Morandi), Giulio Paolini (Genoa, 1940), and Francesco Simeti (Palermo, 1968) have intervened with site-specific works, mixing their poetics with Etruscan imagery. The constant dialogue with ancient art other than classical Greco-Roman also leaves room for ancient works from "other" countries such as Iran and Mexico. The centerpiece of these rooms is Andy Warhol's canvas The Etruscan Scene: Female Ritual Dance (1985), celebrated by Paolo Gioli's Etruscan series (1984) and the drawings and watercolors of Augusto Guido Gatti (1863-1947). Giorgio de Chirico's large canvas Le Cheval d'Agamèmnon, (1929) from the Giuseppe Merlini (Busto Arsizio, Varese) collection, stands out in one room, while Diego Giacometti's Lanterne à quatre lumières (1983), commissioned from the artist by American collector and philanthropist Rachel Lambert (Bunny) Mellon, can be seen at the entrance.

The Rovati Foundation, whose committee includes Professor Salvatore Settis, imprints its philosophy of action on eight "codes": knowledge, expansion, inclusion, creation, space, aesthetics, relationship, and social utility.


*Article previously appeared in issue 50 of We Wealth magazine.
Editor-in-chief of Pleasure Assets. A professional journalist from Gargano, she holds a degree in Economic and Social Disciplines from Bocconi University in Milan. She writes about finance, economics, art, and luxury markets. Teresa has been part of We Wealth since its founding.


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