In over a century of history, the Gallery of Modern Art has gone through a long evolution towards increasing its collections by acquiring new pieces and, most of all, gaining credit as one of the most modern and vital cultural institutions in Palermo. The Museum, named after Empedocle Restivo as a tribute to the man who promoted its foundation at the beginning of the last century, opened in the foyer of Politeama Theatre on May 24, 1910. It immediately set as its main goal that of offering people the opportunity to enjoy the heritage of the exciting period of the Belle Epoque when cultural life was in ferment owing to the new projects that were being outlined for the city.
Its history has been written year after year, by always looking at the future, and since 2006 it has continued in its new venue at the architectural complex of Sant’Anna, which has been furnished to provide the most advanced services to the public and comply with the requirements of a 21st century Museum.
In its renovated spaces, with a new scientific display-plan, more than two hundred works of art, including both paintings and sculptures, distributed in fourteen thematic and monographic sections, illustrate the evolution of Italian figurative arts in the period between the 19th and the 20th centuries. They bear witness to the role that painters and sculptors of national renown played in Modernist Palermo.
Among the numerous masterpieces, it suffices to mention the large-scale paintings by Giuseppe Sciuti, the landscapes by Francesco Lojacono, the naturalist works by Antonio Leto, the art nouveau taste of the paintings by Ettore De Maria Bergler, and the beaming and glowing touch of the canvases by Giovanni Boldini. The intense season of the Novecento Italiano movement in the 20th century is presented through the works of artists like Massimo Campigli, Felice Casorati, Mario Sironi, Renato Guttuso, and Franz von Stuck, who succeeded in putting the atmosphere and distinctive signs of a genuinely European capital on canvas.
The overall project of the Museum scientific display-plan has been worked-out under the direction of Lidia Savoja and Antonio Gerbino and it has been curated by a group of scholars lead by Fernando Mazzocca and including Gioacchino Barbera, Luisa Martorelli, Antonella Purpura and Carlo Sisi. Corrado Anselmi has drawn up the set-up plan and Leonardo Adragna the lighting project.