Since December 2006, the architectural complex of Sant'Anna alla Misericordia has been the venue of the Gallery of Modern Art. Before then, from 1910 to its opening, the collection was on display in the Foyer of Politeama Theatre, a monument of great symbolic value, testifying to the days of the Belle Epoque, a distant and exciting season for the city. Today as then, the Museum is located in the historic part of the city, a symbolic area of the social and cultural dynamics of our time. Here, the Palermo's different cultures that contribute to making it a big and genuinely multi-ethnic city meet and coexist.
The Museum entrance is located in Palazzo Bonet, the oldest part of the building and a sort of prototype for aristocratic residential buildings in the 15th century. Next to it, there was an old Franciscan convent. The Catalan merchant Gaspare Bonet started its construction around 1480. In the following century the Jesuits settled there but after a short while the palazzo returned to the Bonet family. In 1618 it was sold to the Franciscans who decided to enlarge it to make it their convent.
During the 1700s the building was damaged by two earthquakes and underwent further alterations and enlargement works in order to build new dormitories for the friars.
However, transformations had not finished yet. During the 19th century, the severe financial crisis of the Franciscan community led to the alteration of some parts of the building into houses for rent. And following the creation of the Regie Scuole Normali and the abolition of the religious orders in 1866, the building was radically changed, once and for all.
In 1996, the Municipality of Palermo started a ‘workshop of knowledge’, which allowed the 15th Palazzo to be rediscovered. Then, thanks to long and demanding restoration work, all the rooms were recovered. This extraordinary site was returned to the city with its charming internal courtyards and magnificent cloister surrounded by a colonnade connecting the building to the baroque church to Sant’Anna.
In a place so filled with history and charm, all the rooms have been equipped with the latest technology to make them suitable to host permanent collections, temporary exhibitions, and museum services and activities. There are more than 1,300 square metres of exhibition spaces, and rooms for educational activities, conference halls, a library, historical archive, bookshop and cafeteria/restaurant.
The Municipality of Palermo, and its special office for the Old City Centre, has supported the restoration work under the direction of Tonino Martelli and Roberto Termini, while Alessandra Raso, Stefano Testa and Matteo Raso of the Cliostraat company provided expertise on the museographic set-up.