Mart's Collections, established in 1987 from the public art collections of the Province and the Municipalities of Trento and Rovereto, have been integrated over the years with contributions from private individuals and foundations.
Developed around the original collection of nineteenth-century painting and sculpture, they now comprise a corpus of around 20,000 works spanning the last two centuries. In the Collections, avant-garde and tradition coexist: from Futurism to Novecento Italiano, from Arte Povera to Transavanguardia, up to the most recent artistic research.
Watch the series dedicated to the Collections as told by Mart's curators
The history of Mart through the Collections
The Collections tell the story of Mart itself: over the years the Museum has enacted its institutional mission by developing strategies to protect and increase its holdings. Through donations and long-term deposits, private collectors and foundations have helped make the Museum's holdings more cohesive. Mart has always exhibited its works on rotation in the exhibition rooms; this dynamism enables in-depth thematic studies and fresh perspectives.
The collections also embody Mart's identity; their evolution reflects a history of critical analysis and passion for research that you’re invited to explore.
Nineteenth-century painting and sculpture
Mart houses a painting that caused quite a scandal when it was first exhibited: "Venere che scherza con due colombe (Ritratto della ballerina Carlotta Chabert)" [Ballerina Carlotta Chabert as Venus] (1830) by Francesco Hayez, a masterpiece of Italian 19th century. At the time, this painting attracted criticism for its erotic overtones and stylistic innovation, which broke with the canons of classicism in favour of a strong realism. Depicted as Venus is ballerina Carlotta Chabert, a portrait commissioned by Trentino count Girolamo Malfatti.
The work comes from the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Trento e Rovereto.
Francesco Hayez, “Venere che scherza con due colombe (Ritratto della ballerina Carlotta Chabert)”, 1830
Francesco Hayez, [Ballerina Carlotta Chabert as Venus], 1830, oil on canvas, Mart, Deposit of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Trento e Rovereto
Trentino artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries
Mart has extensively studied the way the experiences of major national and international artistic centres were received in Trentino. Painters such as Eugenio Prati and Bartolomeo Bezzi, who trained in Venice, initially showed a preference for everyday subjects, but later moved towards a symbolist poetic style.
Another painter from Trentino also had a close relationship with Venice: Umberto Moggioli. In Burano, where he had been living since 1911, Moggioli painted lagoon landscapes influenced by French Symbolism, which he absorbed through his friendship with Gino Rossi, a painter with direct knowledge of the Pont-Aven School.
Umberto Moggioli, “Campagna a Treporti”, 1913
Umberto Moggioli, [Countryside at Treporti], 1913, oil on canvas, Mart, Provincia autonoma di Trento - Soprintendenza per i beni culturali, donation by Francesco Moggioli's estate.
Among the works that the Municipality of Trento donated to Mart is the plaster casts collection of sculptor Andrea Malfatti. They are over 300 clay and plaster models created by the artist for sculptures that would subsequently be realised in stone. The subjects range from Orientalist themes with a patriotic message (such as “Schiava Ribelle” [Rebel Slave], an allegory of Trentino under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) to others that simply reflect the taste for exoticism in vogue at the time.
Another painting that evidences the connection between Trentino (a borderland) and Central European culture is the triptych "La leggenda di Orfeo" [The Legend of Orpheus] (1905), painted by Luigi Bonazza in Vienna, where the artist trained. Bonazza's painting combines the influence of the Viennese Secession, especially recognisable in the ornamentation of the frame and in certain details, with Mediterranean classicism and pointillist technique.
Luigi Bonazza, “La leggenda di Orfeo/ Rinascita d’Euridice/ Morte d’Orfeo”, 1905
Luigi Bonazza, [The Legend of Orpheus/Rebirth of Eurydice/Death of Orpheus], 1905, oil on canvas, Mart, SOSAT Repository
Following the French example, Italian Divisionist painters continued their research into the optical rather than physical mixing of colours. The work of Giacomo Balla and the younger Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini was based on this central concept. The Mart Collections document these painters' beginnings within Divisionism, in the years before the birth of Futurism, with a series of portraits that explore light effects.
Umberto Boccioni, "Nudo di spalle (Controluce)", 1909
Umberto Boccioni, [Nude with Back to Front (Contre-jour)], 1909, oil on canvas, Mart, L.F. Collection
Mart is an international point of reference for the study of Futurism, thanks to a corpus of works and documents preserved in the Archivio del ’900, where the International Centre for Futurism Studies is based.
After the bequest of Fortunato Depero's works — around 3,000 pieces to which many others have been added over the years — Mart acquired masterpieces by Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Enrico Prampolini, Luigi Russolo, Gino Severini and other signatories of the Futurist Manifesto, including the father of the movement: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.
While he invented the term "Futurism", the movement's development can be credited to many others, who introduced new imagery and new icons: above all the industrial city, teeming with crowds, clattering construction sites and trams that embody the frenetic pace of modern life. All these themes are represented by Carlo Carrà's painting "Ciò che mi ha detto il tram" [What the tram told me] (1911): one of the masterpieces of the first wave of the Futurist avant-garde.
Dynamism and modernity, the themes at the heart of this poetic, are interpreted by means of a new formal synthesis. The principle of simultaneity unites in the same painting memories and visions belonging to different moments and places. This is evidenced in Giacomo Balla's work “Velo di vedova+paesaggio (Corazzata+vedova+vento)” [Widow's veil+landscape (Battleship + widow+wind)] (1916), or in the multiple viewpoints represented by the fragmented figure in Gino Severini's “Ritratto di Madame M.S.” [Portrait of Madame M.S.].
Gino Severini, “Ritratto di Madame M.S.”, 1913-15
Gino Severini, [Portrait of Madame M.S.], 1913-15, pastel on cardboard on canvas, Mart, L.F. Collection
Balla's painting reached abstractionism in "Compenetrazioni iridescenti" [Iridescent compenetrations] (1912-1913), the result of his studies into the deconstruction of light, and "Numeri innamorati" [Numbers in love] (1920).
The Mart's Futurist collections privilege above all the movement’s interpretative approach of Balla and Depero, who authored the manifesto "Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe" (1915): the manifesto extended Futurist aesthetics from art to life, planning the radical transformation of human environment — from furnishings to fashion, from cinema to theatre, from cooking to advertising, from music to dance. The new universe of which the two artists speak is "exceedingly colourful and bright" and finds form in every detail of everyday life. In this climate of total renewal, of note is the sound research of Luigi Russolo, painter and musician, author of the manifesto "L'arte dei rumori" (1916) and creator of "Intonarumori", instruments producing innovative sounds.
The performing arts also played a fundamental role in Fortunato Depero's research. In the theatre (in particular in his relationship with the Ballets Russes and their impresario Sergei Diaghilev, who was in Rome at the time) Depero found inspiration for a style that mixed magic-fantastic themes, inspired by oriental folktales and featuring cubo-futurist geometries. Depero was introduced to Russian folk tradition when he was preparing the sets and costumes for "Le Chant du Rossignol", a ballet inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale set to music by Igor Stravinsky, which Diaghilev commissioned to Depero in 1916. Depero wanted to realise his visionary dream of a "new and boundless" theatre, but unfortunately he encountered difficulties in staging it.
Fortunato Depero, “Flora magica, scenografia de Le Chant du Rossignol", 1917 (ricostruzione del 1981
Fortunato Depero, [Magic Flora, set design for Le Chant du Rossignol], 1917 (reconstruction 1981), painted wood and cardboard, Mart
The "mechanistic phase" that characterised Futurist research in the 1920s is documented at Mart by works such as Depero's "La rissa" [The Brawl] (1926), Renato Bertelli's sculpture depicting a dynamic portrait of Mussolini, and by artists such as Fillia (pseudonym of Luigi Colombo), Ernesto Thayaht and Nicola Diulgheroff. The latter are among the proponents of the new Futurist aesthetics that, in those years, followed the French Purists and Russian Suprematists.
The myth of speed, which is inherent in mechanicism, is the new religion of the modern era. This was the origin of Futurist Aeropittura [Aeropainting] (late 1920s - early 1940s), which was theorised in the Manifesto of 1929 and presented at the Galleria Pesaro in Milan in 1931. Aeropittura is represented at Mart by works by Tullio Crali and Enrico Prampolini. The latter represents the infinite dimension of space and achieves polymateric experimentation by revisiting Surrealism’s organic matrix.
Tullio Crali, "Duello aereo", 1929
Tullio Crali, "Duello aereo", 1929, oil on cardboard on board, 49 x 68 cm, Mart
Novecento Italiano, Metaphysics and Abstractionism in the interwar period
Another significant corpus in the Mart's Collections comprises works that are particularly significant for interpreting and understanding 20th century Italian art.
Metaphysical Art is represented by some of Giorgio de Chirico's masterpieces, first and foremost "La matinée angoissante" (1912): a motionless landscape pervaded by a sense of expectation, where light illuminates the façade of a building and casts mysterious shadows in the foreground. This is one of his first "Piazze d’Italia" [Italian squares], inspired by the geometry of Renaissance architecture and reinterpreted in a dreamlike style.
Other works belong to the phase that the artist defined as "the return to the craft": "Autoritratto con la madre" [Self-Portrait with his Mother] (1921), for example, demonstrates a return to Renaissance imagery and the traditional technical skill that earned de Chirico the title of "pictor classicus".
Giorgio de Chirico, “La matinée angoissante”, 1912
Giorgio de Chirico, “La matinée angoissante”, 1912, oil on canvas, Mart, VAF-Stiftung Collection
Carlo Carrà's contribution to the debate between primitivism and classicism in twentieth-century poetics is illustrated by "Le figlie di Loth" [Loth’s Daughters] (1919). In this painting Carrà interprets the biblical subject in an original way: in his own words, he aimed to express "the magical stillness of form", the result of a refined shedding process that leads to the simplicity of the figures and the clarity of the colours.
The Collections also include true icons of the twentieth-century movement, from Achille Funi's “La Sorella” to Mario Tozzi's “Meditazione” [Meditation], from Piero Marrussig's "Autunno" [Autumn] to Mario Sironi's "Il povero pescatore" [The Poor Fisherman].
The principles of harmony and beauty of the classical and Mediterranean tradition inspired the work of the artists of the Novecento Italiano, a trend championed by critic Margherita Sarfatti in the early 1920s. Sironi is one of its leading exponents. His painting style is characterised by a high degree of balance and simplicity and is aimed at communicating the values of his time in a simple and clear manner, particularly in the field of mural painting. The artist focused on the latter especially in the 1930s: a phase documented by the studies and large cartoons for frescoes conserved at Mart.
Mario Sironi, “Condottiero a cavallo”, 1934-35
Mario Sironi, [Condottiere on horseback], 1934-35, mixed media on tracing paper, Mart, Archivio Mario Sironi di Romana Sironi
Other protagonists of the Italian art scene between the two wars include Filippo de Pisis, Ubaldo Oppi, Massimo Campigli and Felice Casorati. The Mart houses masterpieces such as "Beethoven" and "Fanciulla nello studio" [Girl in a Studio], painted in the early 1920s.
Finally, the sculptors include Arturo Martini and Marino Marini. Martini is featured with a number of works: from prehistoric-style terracottas such as "Il poeta Cechov" [Portrait of Chekhov] (1921-22) and "Busto di fanciulla ebrea" [Bust of a Jewish Girl] (1922), to the rare primitivist plaster cast entitled "La moglie del poeta" [The Poet's Wife] (1922), and the large bronze statue of "Donna al sole" [Woman in the Sun] (1930), an accomplished expression of 20th-century aesthetics.
In the 1930s in Italy, the Abstractionist era unfolded between Como and Milan, thanks to the exhibition activity of the Milanese gallery Il Milione, where Giuseppe Ghiringhelli exhibited works by leading international abstract artists – from Arp to Gris, Klee, Kandinsky, and Albers. The birth of the new aesthetics was also celebrated by another Rovereto artist in the Mart's collections: Carlo Belli. In 1935 Belli published "Kn", where "K" indicates the intertwining of form with colour and "n" the indeterminate number of their infinite combinations. The Museum conserves some important evidence of this season of intense experimentation, including sculptures by Fausto Melotti, paintings by Bruno Munari, Mauro Reggiani, Manlio Rho, Mario Radice and a significant corpus of "Variazioni" [Variations] and photograms by Luigi Veronesi.
Fausto Melotti, “Scultura n. 23”, 1935
Fausto Melotti, [Sculpture no. 23], 1935, plaster, Mart, Provincia autonoma di Trento - Soprintendenza per i beni culturali
Informal and Figurative Art after World War II
In the years after World War II, abstractionism and realism played off against each other. But both trends shared a tension towards a radical renewal of artistic language.
The Museum's Collections include two artists who featured prominently in this clash: Renato Guttuso, who was strongly motivated by the social themes of the class struggle and advocated for a return to figurative art, and Emilio Vedova, who sought a possible convergence of Futurism and Expressionism through strongly coloured abstraction.
In Gastone Novelli's work, too, painting abandoned definite forms and became a vehicle for the artist's acts and movements. The work is the result of a hand-to-hand confrontation with the canvas, on which the painter projects his own vitality and the immediacy of his feelings.
Emilio Vedova, “Ciclo 62-B.B.9”, 1962
Emilio Vedova, “Ciclo 62-B.B.9", 1962, mixed media on canvas, Mart, Long-term deposit
The 1950s and 1960s are also represented by Fontana and Burri, pioneers of the radical linguistic revolution in Italian painting and protagonists of two of its greatest developments: the poetics of space and the poetics of matter, respectively.
Lucio Fontana's "Concetti spaziali" [Spatial Concepts] queries space as a real dimension, which we glimpse beyond the cuts and gashes in the canvas, and also as a cosmic, transcendent dimension.
Lucio Fontana, “Concetto spaziale. Attese”, 1959
Lucio Fontana, [Spatial concept. Waiting], 1959, water-based paint on canvas, Mart, Private collection deposit
Alberto Burri adopts day-to-day materials –jute sacks, iron, plastic sheets – which reach all their independent expressive potential in the work. Salvatore Scarpitta draws inspiration from Burri's pioneering research into extra-artistic materials, incorporating real objects into the canvas, such as the straps used to tie down loads on trucks.
Alberto Burri, “Bianco Plastica BL1”, 1964
Alberto Burri, "Bianco Plastica BL1", 1964, plastic, acrylic, combustion and cellotex, Mart, Domenico Talamoni Collection
The exploration of the expressive possibilities of materials can also be found in some of the artistic trends that followed, such as Arte Povera. Critic Germano Celant coined this term at the end of the 1960s to explain the attempt to reformulate the language of art through non-traditional materials, often of natural origin. The works of Jannis Kounellis, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Gilberto Zorio and Mario Merz fall under this category, while the research of Giovanni Anselmo and Alighiero Boetti has a clearer conceptual origin.
Giovanni Anselmo, “Entrare nell'opera”, 1971
Giovanni Anselmo, [Entering the work], 1971, self-timer photograph reproduced on canvas, Mart, Private collection
The works of these artists are generally large in size, in some cases imposing, and interact with the space of the Museum, conveying an intense expressive power. Pistoletto's "Orchestra di stracci" [Orchestra of Rags] deploys groups of hissing kettles on the ground within circles of multicoloured rags, while Merz's double igloo juxtaposes light and dark, full and empty, natural and artificial.
Mario Merz, “Chiaro oscuro / oscuro chiaro”, 1983
Mario Merz, "Chiaro oscuro / oscuro chiaro", 1983, neon, bundles of sticks, metal structures, glass, clay, clamps and concrete, Mart
The 1980s and 1990s
The 1980s are represented in the Collections by the work of the Transavanguardia painters Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, Francesco Clemente, Mimmo Paladino and Nicola De Maria. They are leading examples of the return to painting and figuration that characterises this historical period, in contrast to the conceptual and minimalist currents of the previous years. Their paintings reintroduce the joy of colour, the relish in chromatic mixtures, the pleasure of telling stories through images.
Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, “Composizione”, 1980
Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, [Composition], 1980, oil on canvas, Mart, Alessandro Grassi bequest.
In parallel with the Italian experiences, the Museum's collecting activities extended beyond the Alps, with the acquisitions of Joseph Beuys' "Grassello" [Plaster] (1979-80) (evidence of a performance by the German artist between Düsseldorf and Pescara) as well as works by Anselm Kiefer, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Viennese Actionists Hermann Nitsch and Arnulf Rainer.
Anselm Kiefer, “Ich halte alle Indien in meiner Hand”, 1995
Anselm Kiefer, "Ich halte alle Indien in meiner Hand", 1995, mixed media on tracing paper applied to board, Mart
American art of recent decades is also prominently featured in the Collections, with works by Donald Baechler, Ross Bleckner, Peter Halley, Jenny Holzer, Robert Longo, David Salle and Julian Schnabel, to name but a few of the protagonists of the American art scene.
The Mart's new acquisitions reflect an international, multicultural landscape with expanding geographical borders. Since the 1990s, with the fall of the Soviet bloc and the explosion of globalisation, a language babel has emerged, with a plethora of new identities. Diasporas, freedom of expression and movement, migration, intergenerational conflict and identity are among the emerging themes of these years.
One example is the work of Ilya Iosifovich Kabakov, who even after moving to the United States of America continued to investigate Soviet society and the theme of utopia.
The condition of women in different cultures is at the centre of some of the works by Marina Abramović, Vanessa Beecroft and Shirin Neshat, who are featured in Mart's collections with some large format photographs. One example is the shot from the series "Balkan Erotic Epic", inspired by Abramović's studies of Balkan popular culture about eroticism and fertility rites.
Marina Abramović, “Balkan Erotic Epic: Woman”, 2005
Marina Abramović, “Balkan Erotic Epic: Woman”, 2005, chromogenic press, Mart
Sometimes the Museum engages in a direct dialogue with the artists of our time, producing works designed specifically for Mart's spaces. An example is the installation created in 2006 by Douglas Gordon for the interior gallery that runs around the Museum's courtyard. The British artist wrote or engraved words and phrases from books, newspapers, song lyrics or graffiti on the white walls, punctuated by the light coming through the windows. Without a logical context, they are free to create an evocative dialogue with the public, underlining the polysemy of language and its potential ambiguity. As Gordon stated: "I always liked the idea that words, which are supposed to be concrete, when spoken by a different person at a different time can have a completely different meaning".
Douglas Gordon, “Prettymucheverywordwritten, spoken, heard, overheard from 1989…”, 2006
Douglas Gordon, "Prettymucheverywordwritten, spoken, heard, overheard from 1989...", 2006, installation of wall texts in different typefaces and colours, Mart
Richard Long's "Trento Ellipse" is another example of a work made especially for the Mart. In 2000, the British artist performed one of his 'walks' in Trentino: experiences that reflect his intention "to make a new art which was also a new way of walking: walking as art". On the slopes of Mount Adamello, Long spent eight days walking and arranging stones in a circle or in other simple shapes as a mark of his transit. On the occasion of the exhibition at Palazzo delle Albere in Trento, where Mart was based at the time, the artist created this large ellipse with Trentino porphyry stone: a work that expresses the harmonious relationship with nature established during the walk. His work does not represent the landscape, but rather tells the story of its experience, sublimating it in archetypal forms such as those produced by man since prehistoric times.
Richard Long, “Trento Ellipse”, 2000
Richard Long, "Trento Ellipse", 2000, porphyry, Mart