ikono invites directors, head of departments, or curators of internationally renowned artistic institutions to exhibit a curated selection of artworks from their permanent collections.

MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome

One could literally say “two museums in one”, which is the case for this month’s Museum of the World: MACRO, the museum of contemporary art in Rome has two imposing locations.

When two idle industrial complexes, a brewery and a slaughterhouse, were given to the city, both sites were restored and adapted to host a leading cultural center dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art in Rome.

Very different in character, MACRO in Via Nizza was designed by the French architect Odile Decq, who connected the different spaces with a dynamic series of staircases, passages, galleries and elevators. The original structure is maintained but complemented with architectural elements that enable its new function. This includes the striking auditorium placed in the center of the foyer, a beautiful wooden structure varnished in red, and a glass entrance inserted between the two buildings. This entrance creates a central point from where the visitor is directed to the various venues: Two exhibition spaces, one of which is the largest in Europe, two project rooms, one video tunnel, four artist studios, a library, a mediatheque, a cinema, and two artist residencies are complemented by a cafeteria, restaurant and museum shop to provide an all round cultural offer. Each architectural element has been adapted to host specific artistic interventions, including the large roof terrace and the walls of the adjoining buildings, which are occasionally used for projections or large murals.

The second location, MACRO Testaccio, was obtained during the restoration of the old slaughterhouse in the Testaccio district, a trendy neighborhood now famous for the large number of cultural events aimed mainly at young audiences.

The pavilions of this complex are a perfect example of industrial architecture in transition from classicism to modernity at the end of the 19th century. The restoration has not erased the traces of the site’s original use, and in the large courtyard the tracks and a system of metal hooks used for the transportation of meat still remain, as do the fences which were used to confine the cattle.  The various pavilions have been restored into large exhibition spaces dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art, which facilitate intense research activity into artistic practices. Completing this site, is a center of cultural production founded in 2010, offering over 5000 square meters of functional space including a large exhibition room, various multifunctional venues, a theater, a laboratory, and a director’s and recording studio.

With its two locations, MACRO is a catalyst for contemporary culture in the capital.

The Capitoline Museums, Rome

The Musei Capitolini date back to 1471, when Pope Sixtus IV donated to the people of Rome a group of bronze statues that until then had been kept at the Lateran. These statues constituted its original core collection. Various popes subsequently expanded the collection with works taken from excavations around Rome; some were moved from the Vatican, some, such as the Albani collection, were bought specifically for the museum. Around the middle of the eighteenth century, Pope Benedict XIV created a picture gallery. A considerable quantity of archaeological material was also added at the end of the nineteenth century when Rome became the capital of Italy and new excavations were carried out whilst two completely new districts were created for the expanding city.

The Museums’ collections are displayed in the two of the three buildings that together enclose the Piazza del Campidoglio: Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, the third being the Palazzo Senatorio. These two buildings are linked by an underground tunnel, which contains the Galleria Lapidaria and leads to the ancient Tabularium, whose monumental arches overlook the Forum.

The Palazzo Nuovo houses the collections of ancient sculpture made by the great noble families of the past. Their charming arrangement has remained substantially unchanged since the eighteenth century. They include the famous collections of busts of Roman philosophers and emperors, the statue of Capitoline Gaul, the Capitoline Venus, and the imposing statue of Marforio that dominates the courtyard.

The Conservators’ Apartment contains the original architectural nucleus of the building, decorated with splendid frescoes portraying the history of Rome. The ancient Capitoline bronzes on display here add to the noble atmosphere: the Capitoline She-wolf, Spinario and the Capitoline Brutus.

On the first floor of the palace, a huge glass room, recently built, contains the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which once stood in the Piazza del Campidoglio, and the imposing remains of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter. A section is also dedicated to the most ancient part of the Campidoglio’s history, from its first inhabitation until the construction of the sacred building, displaying the results of recent excavations. The halls that overlook the room contain works from the Horti of the Esquiline; the hall which connects the room to the apartments of the Palazzo dei Conservatori contains the Castellani collection, testimony to nineteenth century collecting practices.

On the second floor, the Capitoline Picture Gallery contains many important works, arranged in chronological order from late mediaeval times to the eighteenth century. The collection includes paintings by Caravaggio (Good Luck and St. John the Baptist), a massive canvas by Guercino (Burial of Saint Petronilla) and numerous paintings by Guido Reni and Pietro da Cortona.

The Palazzo Caffarelli-Clementino holds the numismatic collection, known as the Medagliere Capitolino. On display are many rare coins, medals, gems and jewels, as well as an area dedicated to temporary exhibitions.


ikono is proud to present you the masterpieces of the Musei Capitolini, which have been selected by director Claudio Parisi Presicce and include the Capitoline Venus, a Roman copy after Praxiteles, as well as the Spinario from the 1st century B.C., the Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.), and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Bust of Medusa (1644-1648). For further information on the museum and its fascinating collection please visit the Musei Capitolini’s website.

Polo Museale Veneziano

This June, in occasion of the opening of the Venice Biennale, ikono focuses on four of the major and most charming Venetian Museums: the National Archaeological Museum, the Accademia Galleries, the Oriental Art Museum and the Ca’ d’Oro Gallery.

Together with the Palazzo Grimani Gallery, the four museums belong to the Polo Museale Veneziano, an organic complex of buildings and collections of enormous artistic and historical value, definitely one of the most important in Europe.

The National Archaeological Museum of Venice was founded in the 16th century and thanks to the vision of two patrician Venetian collectors, Domenico and Giovanni Grimani, offers to its visitors a particularly valuable collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. The director Michela Sediari curated a special selection of art pieces that best represent this amazing collection.

The Accademia Galleries are located in the prestigious building of the Scuola Grande of Santa Maria della Carità. The church of Santa Maria and the monastery of the Canonici Lateranensi, built by Andrea Palladio in 1561, are also part of the Accademia. The largest collection of Venetian art paintings from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century is on display at the museum. Masterpieces by Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, Carpaccio, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Bellotto, Guardi, together with artworks donated by prestigious collectors like Molin and Cantarini, and an amazing set of drawings, which include studies from Leonardo da Vinci and his circle, complete the incredibly valuable collection. This month, ikono presents a selection of artworks curated by Matteo Cerian, the director of the complex.

The Oriental Art Museum faces the Grand Canal and is located in the ancient palace owned by the Pesaro family and designed by Baldassare Longhena. The Museum showcases one of the most important collections of Japanese art of the Edo period. Prince Henry II of Borbone bought the collection during his travel to Asia, between 1887 and 1889. More than 30.000 objects, among which swords and daggers, Japanese armours, delicate enamel objects and precious porcelains, can be found in the stupendous museum’s sections. The collection is known in Europe as being one of the most important for Japanese art from the Edo period (1600-1868), but it also includes masterpieces from other parts of Asia, especially China and Indonesia. Fiorella Spadavecchia, director of the museum, selected splendid artworks and manufactures, which best represent the variety of objects and can be admired at the Oriental Art Museum.

The Ca’ d’Oro Gallery is located in one of the most beautiful late-gothic buildings in Venice and hosts Baron Giorgio Franchetti’s impressive art collection. Around 1916, the Baron bestowed the grand palace to the City of Venice to use it as a public art museum. The palace, also the representative home of the rich merchant Marino Contarini, and built between 1421 and 1440, was subjected to many transformations throughout the years. In 1927, the Gallery was opened and received many art pieces from other museums like the Accademia Galleries and the Archeological Museum, but also from the Italian State Property. The most important art pieces are Flemish tapestries, sculptures, Venetian, Tuscan and Flemish paintings, wooden furniture, Renaissance sculptures and bronzes, coins, medals and the sorrowful image of the Saint Sebastian by Andrea Mantegna. The current installation was firstly made between the 70s and 80s and, since 1992, there is also a new space dedicated to Venetian ceramics situated in the neighbouring building of Palazzo Duodo. The courtyard is truly beautiful, with floor mosaics in opus sectile made by Giorgio Franchetti himself and inspired by Paleochristian churches. The artist’s ashes are buried under a red porfido column. Claudia Cremonini, the director of the gallery, presents a mix of sculptures and paintings, drawing attention to the diversity and richness of the Ca’ D’Oro collection.

For the next two months, ikono will shine a spotlight on the best artworks showcased in the museums of the Polo Museale Veneziano, inviting everyone to take a closer look at its stunning buildings and collections.


Please visit the museums’ websites for further information:

National Archaeological Museum

Accademia Galleries

Oriental Art Museum

Ca’ D’Oro Gallery

Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna

Being accomodated within a gem of the European Baroque architecture, the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna owns a unique collection of Austrian and European art from medieval times until today. Masterpieces from the Late Gothic Michael Pacher (around 1435 – 1498) to romanticists such as Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), from Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s (1736-1783) grotesque Character Heads (after 1770) to the light-flooded landscapes of Claude Monet (1840-1926) are presented within the impressive architecture of the Belvedere’s palaces, the Upper and Lower Belvedere. Built in the early 18th century by Johann Lucas Hildebrandt, one of the most significant Baroque architects, and surrounded by a representative garden, the palaces have been serving as the summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), in due course an important general and influential patron for the arts.

To pay tribute to the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere as one of the most important Museums of the World, ikono dedicates two productions to a milestone of the Belvedere’s collection: As main representative of the Viennese Modern Age, Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) had an inimitable influence on the art of the Austrian fin de siècle. The Belvedere owns the major part of Klimt’s Oeuvre, which doubtlessly finds its highlights in his most famous paintings, Kiss and Judith, to be presented by ikono during the upcoming weeks.

Please find below the Belvedere’s detailed introduction into Klimt’s masterpieces:


Gustav Klimt: Judith (1901)

The title Judith for this portrait of a young, seductive beauty – adorned with golden jewellery, her breast half exposed – has nothing in common with the traditional image of the heroine from the Old Testament. In the 19th century the image of Judith as the chaste woman, serving her people, was transformed into a man-eating, self-gratifying, and emancipated symbolic figure. Gustav Klimt is clearly adhering to this interpretation and showing that he is familiar with the current discussion about the new role of woman and the relationship between the sexes. It therefore comes as no surprise that even contemporary critics called this painting ‘Salome’ as well, and that the head of Holofernes is like the face of a saint. In this context, the gold background adds a touch of confusion, as in both Gothic painting and in Ancient Egyptian civilization this was regarded as the epitome of the divine. Here Klimt seems to be paying tribute to a new religion – to Eros. This can be read from the encoded decoration, which can be interpreted in different ways. The apples, for example, suspended from the background trees that look like five fingers, recall the traditional symbol of temptation, and the abstract scales call to mind the snake in paradise.

Yet ultimately it is the painting, dissolved into small brushstrokes, seen in combination with the beguiling gleam of the gold that conveys the seductive sensuality of the woman. This would still be the case even without all the decoration and its potential symbolism.


Gustav Klimt: Kiss (1908)

The Kiss, probably the most popular work by Gustav Klimt, was first exhibited in 1908 at the Kunstschau art exhibition on the site of today’s Konzerthaus in Vienna. The Ministry bought it from there for the sum of 25,000 Kronen, and thus secured for the state one of the icons of Viennese Jugendstil and indeed of European modern art.

It undoubtedly represents the culmination of the phase known as the ‘Golden Epoch’. In this decade, the artist created a puzzling, ornamental encoded programme that revolved around the mystery of existence, love and fulfilment through art. Klimt gained initial inspiration for this in 1903 on a journey to Ravenna to see the Byzantine mosaics. In addition, the painting contains a myriad of motifs from various cultural epochs, above all from Ancient Egyptian mythology. Most recent research has, however, revealed that it is not enough to read the ornaments in the picture just as symbols rooted in tradition aiming to convey a timelessly valid message. They reveal more, such as references to Klimt’s love for Emilie Flöge and the artist’s exploration of the sculptor Auguste Rodin’s art.

The couple is on a base formed by a narrow strip of a flowery meadow set against an abyss suffused with golden dust. The woman in a magnificent floral dress is being tenderly embraced by the man, whose body is entirely concealed by a golden robe. In blissful rapture she turns her head towards the viewer; their hands touch with sensual tenderness.

The gold of the background is primarily interpreted as an ancient symbol of the divine or the sun, that becomes united with the flowery meadow, symbol of the earth. The rectangles on the robe are synonymous with the male principle; the oval-shaped flowers with the female. On the other hand, comparison with the Stoclet Frieze (pron: Stoclettfries) of the same time, could suggest that the glittering gold background represents a metaphysically exalted idea of Lake Attersee and the narrow meadow the lake shore. Based on this location, the couple must be Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge.

One source of confusion is the kneeling pose of the woman and the fact that her face turns away from the kiss. Does this show a love that was never fulfilled and never expressly declared between the couple? Or does this show the ambivalence between submission and rejection between the sexes? Love as the cosmic law for the life-giving union between man and woman or the document of a love that perhaps experienced its most wondrous time at Lake Attersee?

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

This month’s featured Museum of the World is the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Quatar, a unique collection of manuscripts, metalwork, ceramics, jewellery, woodwork, textiles and glass preserved in the Emirate’s capital. The wide selection of rare objects is displayed in a fascinating building designed by the Chinese American architect I. M. Pei in 2008, whose inspiration derived from ancient Muslim construction principles.

ikono’s curatorial team is excited to present you three productions highlighting the best pieces of the museum’s permanent collection, and offering you a glimpse into one of the world’s most exhaustive patrimonies of Islamic art from Spain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India, and Central Asia, dating from the 7th to the 19th century.