Rivoli Castle Contemporary Art Museum, Turin, Italy

The Museum of Contemporary Art of the Castello di Rivoli is an Italian museum dedicated to contemporary art. It is located in the Savoy residence of the castle of Rivoli, in Rivoli, in the province of Turin.

The museum’s activity was inaugurated on 18 December 1984 with the Ouverture exhibition, curated by the then director Rudi Fuchs. The exhibition included works created by exponents of conceptual art, minimalism, Land Art, poor art and transavantgarde, and was conceived as the ideal model for a permanent collection to be established however only later, starting from the nineties.

Thanks to its strategic position near the Via Gallica, the hill of Rivoli has been inhabited by humans at least since Roman times. A fortified building, the “Castrum Riuollum,” is first mentioned in 1159. The earliest illustration, dating to 1609, shows a central tower surrounded by constructions of varying sizes, while along the foothills a garden softens the complex’s military appearance. The property of the Bishops of Turin, the Castello became part of the Savoy dominion in 1247 and remained so until 1883, the year in which it was sold to the City of Rivoli. In 1350 it was selected as the setting for the marriage of Bianca of Savoy to Galeazzo Visconti. When Emanuele Filiberto chose Turin as the new capital of the Duchy, he settled in Rivoli with his court; his heir, Carlo Emanuele, was born at the Castello on January 12, 1559, under the care and guidance of Nostradamus, who had been invited to follow the pregnancy of the Duchess Margherita of Valois.

The new duke, Carlo Emanuele I, entrusted the Castellamonte architects Francesco Paciotto and Domenico Ponsello – father and son – to transform the medieval manor into a leisure residence, as illustrated on the two boards of the Theatrum Sabaudiae (Savoy Theatre), a celebration through images of the city, the fortresses, the residences and all the beauties of the Duchy. Here we see for the first time the Manica Lunga, a building designed to house the picture gallery of Carlo Emanuele I, joined to the castle by four tall towers, and the church dedicated to San Carlo Borromeo, which was never actually built. The work was completed in 1670. By this time the Castello had already hosted important events, such as the birthday celebrations of Christine of France, the second Madama Reale, held on February 10, 1645. The only hall that has survived from that period, after the French troops of Marshall Catinat burned down and destroyed most of the building in 1690 and 1693, is the room of Amedeo VIII on the second floor.

Seeing the building burn from Turin, the young duke Vittorio Amedeo II promised himself that he would rebuild and make even more beautiful the residence that has always been so connected to the history of his family and which he greatly loved. In fact, it was from Rivoli that he announced his rise to the throne in 1730. After twenty years of war, it was time for Rivoli to be reborn, and the architects of Louis XIV’s lavish palace at Versailles were consulted. The earliest projects were by Michelangelo Garove, who designed the Stradone del Re, today Corso Francia, a spectacular road that leads to the new palace. The building was enlarged and the damaged towers were demolished; those at the front were replaced by a system of double staircases, in the style of Leonardo da Vinci, which still lead from the ground floor to the top floor, without entering the rooms.

It was with Filippo Juvarra, who arrived in Turin in 1715, that the great palace project would begin to take shape, leading on from the work of Garove, who had died in the meantime. The palace would become a new symbol of Vittorio Amedeo II’s absolute power – he had also been crowned King of Sicily. This was to be a place that could rival other royal residences across Europe – though the dream remained unfinished. It can be appreciated in its entirety only thanks to a magnificent wooden model by Ugliengo, and the paintings of the most important view painters of the age.

Juvarra’s lavish, spectacular building – without the Manica Lunga, which he intended to demolish – was to comprise an imposing central corpus surrounded by two identical wings, crowned by balustrades and statues in full Juvarra style. Inside, refined apartments were decorated by painters from across Italy, with precious furnishings that have unfortunately been lost. In the end, the elegant atrium and the imposing ballroom on the first floor were never built, due to excessive construction costs in 1734, as well as the tragic events tied to the imprisonment here of Vittorio Amedeo II in 1731. Today, we see the point where the work came to a halt in the impressive open-air entrance, where the base still awaits its columns, which remained in the quarries of the Valle di Susa. The staircase is only a few steps of unfinished brickwork.

In 1793, work began again at Rivoli, but the Golden Age had passed. The Castello was inherited by the second child of Vittorio Amedeo III, Vittorio Emanuele Duke of Aosta, and his wife Maria Teresa of Austria-Este, and work resumed with a new architect, Carlo Randoni, who wished to pick up where Juvarra had left off. Dating to this period is the apartment on the second floor, with its totally renewed look inspired by the English style, in line with new ideas brought to Piedmont by certain enlightened aristocrats, who fostered contacts with artisans arriving in Rivoli. Also dating to this period is the staircase, of which practically nothing remains; its steps, along the wall of the inner atrium, were demolished during restoration between 1979 and 1984.

During the Napoleonic period, the Castello was closed, as were the majority of other residences. Many of its furnishings were no longer present, though some were taken to Turin. The emperor decided to give the complex to Marshal Ney, Prince of Moscow and head commander of the Legion of Honor. The restoration work was resumed by Randoni, but by then the Castello di Rivoli had lost its importance. To cover costs, it was fractioned off and rented by the Municipality. The decision to connect the Castello with the Manica Lunga dates to those years.

After five centuries, in 1883, for the price of 100,000 lire, the Castello passed from the Savoy family to the City of Rivoli, and was then rented to the army; the soldiers, who until 1909 occupied the building, devastated and damaged it. In 1909 and 1911 the castle’s ancient splendor made a brief comeback, thanks to two exhibitions, but more looting and military occupation followed during World War II, now by German soldiers. War bombings left deep wounds, which were tentatively repaired in 1948, with the first emergency work carried out by the Genio Civile.

In 1961, with the Centenary of the Unification of Italy, the Castello di Rivoli, which up to then had been a silent and awkward presence for many years, was allotted a significant amount of funding – 1 billion 120 million lire – though this was not enough to salvage the entire construction. Nearly 300 evacuees were living in the Manica Lunga, along with various small businesses: a sawmill in the courtyard, a food shop, a mechanic’s shop, and a stable.

Initial work took apart the structures in the atrium built during the military occupation, and the terracotta decoration on Juvarra’s unfinished work was finally brought to light and cleaned. In 1969, a proposal was made to open a casino in the building, as had already taken place for two months in 1945, but nothing ever came of the idea. There was new hope for Rivoli, however. Funding began to arrive and the architect Andrea Bruno, whose name is tied to the complex’s rebirth, provided the first projects. Almost all the exterior doors and windows had disappeared, stucco work and paintings had been damaged through rain and dampness, tapestries were destroyed, woodwork had rotted. The first collapses took place in 1978, with the large vault crumbling to pieces in the grand hall on the second floor. After numerous warnings, the Piedmont Region, decided to intervene, and the complex was entrusted on an extended loan of 29 years, so as to give the Castello a public and cultural purpose. Coming to the aid of Rivoli was Marquis Panza di Biumo, an important contemporary art collector, in search of a venue where he could install a part of his collection.

In August 1979, restoration work on the Castello alone began, and would last until 1984, when it opened its doors as the Museum of Contemporary Art. This work took into account its entire past, respecting its architecture, but with modern additions like the elevator, the suspended staircase, the platform on the late 1700s vault, and the panoramic area on the third floor. From 1984 to 1986, Andrea Bruno began working on the Manica Lunga, but unfortunately a lack of funds closed down the site, which reopened only in 1996. It was in February 2000 that the building, first born to host Carlo Emanuele I’s picture gallery, refound its age-old splendor. The structure was maintained with the inclusion of the vault’s overturned hull-shaped steel cover and the steel and glass stairs joining the 17th-century structure. The large windows light up the rooms of the cafeteria, which has also become a treasure trove of works from the collection, and of other Museum services. Even the contemporaneity of the small parallel section that hosts the one-Michelin star restaurant Combal.Zero dialogues with the past, as do all elements of the Castello di Rivoli.

The Museum

The Modern and Contemporary Art Project – CRT
In 1991 the CRT Foundation was established which in 2001 gave birth to the Modern and Contemporary Art Project – CRT, thanks to which important funds are allocated for the acquisition of works intended to increase the permanent collections of the GAM- Civic Gallery of modern and contemporary art of Turin and the Museum of Contemporary Art of the castle of Rivoli. The Castello di Rivoli, formerly the home of the Savoy delight, for thirty years it has been the most important contemporary art museum in Italy. The collaboration between the artistic direction and the greatest artists of today means that the exhibited works are designed precisely for the various rooms of the Museum. Thus two important groups of historical works of Arte Povera and Italian Transavanguardia become part of the museum’s collection.

Since 2001 the Civic Gallery and the museum have collaborated with each other with a view to complementarity. While GAM focuses its collection on works spanning the two decades of the 1950s and 1960s, the museum has a collection of works ranging from the late 1960s to the 2000s.

Permanent collection
The permanent collection includes, for example, two works by 1997 by Maurizio Cattelan: the controversial and provocative twentieth century, which evokes frustrated tension with respect to potential (also in reference to the senselessness of the wars of the nineteenth century, which debilitate man by distancing him from own evolution), emblematically represented by a horse, a symbol of strength, embalmed and hung, and the disturbing Charlie don’t surf. The theme of the emotions aroused by the war recurs in the collections, as well as in Rebecca Horn’s work “Cutting Through the Past”, and others.

The works of the numerous national and international artists present (such as Emilio Vedova, Giulio Paolini, Thomas Hirschhorn, Dennis Oppenheim, Helmut Newton, Sadie Benning, Stan Vanderbeek, Fluxus, James Lee Byars, Pia Stadtbäumer, Massimo Bartolini, Nam June Paik, Yvonne Rainer, Wolfgang Tillmans, and many others), are inserted in the rooms in a sort of dialogue with the architecture of the historic rooms of the Castle.

Cerruti collection
Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea is the world’s first contemporary art museum to incorporate an encyclopaedic collection of the art of the past.

In July 2017, our Museum signed an important agreement with the Francesco Federico Cerruti Foundation for the Art to safeguard, research, enhance, and display the extraordinary, yet virtually unknown, Cerruti Collection.

For the first time, it is possible for the public to discover the priceless legacy of Francesco Federico Cerruti (Genoa, 1922 – Turin, 2015), a secretive and reserved entrepreneur and passionate collector who passed away in 2015 at the age of 93.

From the 1950s until his death in 2015, Francesco Federico Cerruti collected some 300 works of sculpture and painting, ranging from the Middle Ages to today, plus approximately 200 rare and ancient books with exquisite book bindings, and over 300 furnishings including carpets and desks by renowned cabinet makers. Cerruti assembled a primarily European collection – very strong in Italian art – that provides a journey into the history of art, from furniture to historic art, from the Renaissance to today. It is a private collection of immense quality, like very few in Europe and the world, including extraordinary work ranging from Bernardo Daddi, Pontormo and Ribera to Renoir, Modigliani, Kandinsky, Giacometti, Picasso, Klee, Severini, Boccioni, Balla, and Magritte, as well as Bacon, Burri, Fontana, Warhol, De Dominicis and Paolini.

Manica Lunga
The Manica Lunga was built for Duke Carlo Emanuele I in the first half of the 17th century by the Castellamonte architects, Amedeo and his son Carlo. This long, narrow building, at that time connected to the Castle, was used to house the Duke’s collection of pictures.

Like all the buildings in the complex, the Manica Lunga was damaged by the French troops of General Catinat in 1693. In the architect Filippo Juvarra’s new plans for the complex, made in the early eighteenth century, it was to be destroyed and replaced by a symmetrical building with a great entrance hall and a ballroom on the first floor. However, due to excessive construction costs, the plan was not carried out, and the Manica Lunga was used as service space. In 1883, when the Savoy family sold the Castle to the city, it was used as a barracks. After World War II, it became a residence for evacuees. These utilisations led to modifications of the structure, with the building of new spaces for hygienic services, as one can see in photographs that document the degradation and dereliction of the building.

The restoration of the Manica Lunga started in 1986 and finished in 2000 with the opening of the exhibition space on the third floor. Thus the building’s original vocation was reclaimed. Andrea Bruno, the architect at the center of the restoration, placed staircases and an elevator on the exterior of the building, realized in transparent materials that allow the 147 meter-long, 6 meter-wide structure to remain visible. The metal roof, a completely new addition, is characterized by repetitive ribs, forming a central cap for the entire length of the building. Natural light has been greatly increased thanks to the large windows and the elimination of the attics and the structures realized in more recent times and not pertaining to the Castellamonte period.

Standing atop the moraine-formed amphitheatre overlooking Rivoli and Avigliana, the distinctive Castello di Rivoli is one of the most important symbols of the Savoy dynasty. It is an integral part of a architectural design that from the late 16th century led to the realization of the so-called “Corona di Delizie” (Crown of Delights) – symbols and celebrations of absolute power. The complex comprises two structures from different periods: the Castello with its 18th-century appearance, and the Manica Lunga opposite, built in the 17th century and planned as the paintings gallery of Duke Charles Emmanuel I. The two buildings are separated by an atrium, an open-air space dominated by the unfinished walls of the Castello and of the Manica Lunga. At the center are the columns and pillars of Fillipo Juvarra’s imposing architectural project. The two buildings have been restored, stressing their different natures.

The atrium preserves the status of the works made during the Juvarrian period at the moment of their interruption. The restoration architect, Andrea Bruno, although aware of the original architectural plan thanks to a painting made by Marco Ricci and Massimo Teodoro Michela in the 18th century, decided not to complete it. On the north side of the Castle, the robust pillars conceived by Juvarra dominate, while on the porphyry pavement, the marble and stone slabs mark the positions of the uprights and the directions of the spans that were never realized. The imposing Castle wall has supports for unfinished decorations, niches intended for statues and large openings that evoke the great spaces projected by the Sicilian architect. In the higher part is a striking panorama made of crystal and steel, a contemporary insertion by Bruno. On the other side is the Manica Lunga, designed by the Castellamonte brothers, which Juvarra intended to destroy in order to house a new wing of the same dimensions as the existing one. It has been at the center of the restoration campaign since 1986, as can be seen from a date inscribed on the wall. Today, Bruno’s large windows fill the hole left by the interrupted demolition.

The first renovation works of the Castello di Rivoli were made by the young Turinese architect Andrea Bruno to mark the centenary of the Unification of Italy in 1961. Unfortunately, at that time the budget was only sufficient to repair structural damage. Some years later, in 1967, Bruno proceeded to demolish the decaying parts of the atrium built in the early 20th century. By 1978, the building was in terrible condition: water infiltration had damaged the walls, ceilings, frescos, and stuccos, causing the first collapses. This led the Region of Piedmont to pledge to take care of the building for 30 years, restoring it and opening it to the public. The works started in 1979 and ended with the Museum’s inauguration on 18 December 1984. Bruno decided to keep the surviving historical traces, giving importance to all the moments in the Castle’s life, starting from the Juvarra building site, passing through Carlo Randoni’s work in the late 18th century, up until the interventions made by the military in the 20th century. Bruno avoided falsifications and completions, respecting the original architecture, which became a true image of the history of the building and the vicissitudes of the structure. He preserved the internal and external decorations, stuccos and paintings damaged by the ravages of time and the carelessness of men.

To give visitors a sense of the Savoy residence, Bruno restored two rooms, one on the first floor made during the Juvarra’s period, and the second in the Duke of Aosta’s apartment. He enhanced the unfinished atrium, installed the panorama that juts out from the great brick wall of the Castle, and conceived the great suspended staircase, as well as the walkway over the great vault of room 18, putting the past and the present in dialogue. Some rooms have no decorations, while several are richly ornamented with details that recall the splendours of the dynasty and important moments in Rivoli’s history. Some time later, works started on the Manica Lunga, which was to become once again a space for exhibitions. Here, the staircases and the lift are external, and they have been made in steel and glass to allow visitors to observe the whole unfinished structure. Bruno used modern materials for the new structures, becoming a pioneer of reversibility, and again stressing the relationship between present and past. In Rivoli, the historic building and contemporary forms interact together, while the frescoes dialogue with the work of today’s artists.