The first art galleries in Milan

Starting in the 1920s, alongside the public venues set aside for exhibitions, Milan saw the birth of a number of private galleries that soon became extraordinary centers of research and reflection on the themes of modern art. These places had a fundamental role in the increasingly international orientation of tastes, in the growth of many artists and the evolution of the most important Italian art currents. In the dense and passion-filled universe of these experiences, it is worth reviewing certain cases that made a particular contribution to the lively cultural scene in the city from the 1920s to the 1940s.

The Galleria d’Arte (renamed “Galleria degli Ipogei” due to its makeshift location in a basement at the corner of Via Dante and Via Giulini) held the first exhibition of an Italian Novecento in nuce and the first solo shows by Arturo Martini, De Chirico and Funi (1920). No less important were Galleria Vinciana – still located at Via Maroncelli 13 today – and Galleria Centrale, which presented the Grande Esposizione nazionale futurista, curated by Marinetti himself (1919), in Palazzo Cova at Via Manzoni 1. With the show Arte italiana contemporanea in 1921 Galleria Pesaro became the cradle – not without scandal and outcry – of Italian modernism. Here, on the ground floor of Palazzo Poldi Pezzoli, the orientation shifted from symbolism to the more mature period of the heterogeneous Novecento.

In the 1930s Galleria de’ Il Milione, founded by the Ghiringhelli brothers together with Edoardo Persico, played a substantial role in the spread of abstraction in Italy, and of the latest trends – from the Informale to Neo-Cubism, passing through the Fauves also thanks to the original critical and publishing activity promoted by the Bollettino del Milione and Quadrante. After the first location facing the Pinacoteca di Brera, the gallery had different facilities, all the way to the present one at Via Maroncelli 7. We should also mention: Galleria Micheli and Galleria Bardi, respectively at Via Brera 7 and 16, Galleria Milano (1925-36) at Via Croce Rossa 6, Galleria Barbaroux, now at Via Santo Spirito 19, Galleria del Naviglio (Via Manzoni 45, now at Via Pergolesi 22) where the Spatialism of Fontana was first shown, and finally La Bottega di Corrente (1940), later known as Galleria della Spiga and Galleria di Corrente, at Via della Spiga 9, the ideal continuation of the work of the magazine of the same name Corrente (1939-1940), showing works by Treccani, Birolli, Cassinari, Sassu, Guttuso, Morlotti, Vedova and Paganin.

At the Salone dell’Annunciata – first on Via dell’Annunciata, then on Via Fatebenefratelli and finally on Via Manzoni – the events focused on exponents of the historical avant-gardes and young talents of the time. The same approach was taken, starting in 1936, by Ettore Gian Ferrari with his gallery at 8 Via Clerici, which made its debut with the first exhibition of the works of Italian women in the field of Italian figurative arts. Capable of combining communication and aesthetics thorugh publishing, awards and market initiatives, the Gian Ferrari gallery had a second period of activity starting in 1974 thanks to the founder’s daughter Claudia, an art historian and collector who has now donated many works to the Museo del Novecento and Villa Necchi Campiglio.